Aging In America May 2010
I have recently returned from Chicago, where I attended the National Aging in America Conference, presenting a workshop on our Partners In Caring Collaboration. For those who are not familiar with it, Partners In Caring is a partnership of six organizations which serve older adults and people with disabilities in Mercer County, chiefly funded by the Unite Way. Our goal is to help people remain in their own homes by providing services that address key risk factors for losing independence. Services include care coordination, consultations, caregiver support, transportation, meals on wheels, volunteer visitors, home safety evaluation and modification, nursing evaluation and reassurance calls. The program is now in its third year.
The conference is huge, involving 5000 people over nearly a week, and therefore it often takes me a while to process what I have absorbed. We learned that there are currently 38.9 million people in the US age 65+, that by 2020 there will be a projected 55 million and by 2030, 72 million. Bob Butler talked about the “great risk shift” onto the backs of individuals, as seen in retirement plans and healthcare. He also urged that we reclaim the term “elder” as one who, by virtue of experience, is here to teach, mentor and guide with wisdom and experience.
Ken Dychtwald emphasized that we need to begin working toward healthy aging at birth: “healthy children become healthy adults.” He believes we need more primary care doctors and geriatricians, and that all healthcare professionals must become “aging ready.” We need a continuum of care, not care silos, where professionals communicate with each other. We must find ways to cure Alzheimer’s and address frailty. Many older adults are outliving their resources (400% increase in bankruptcy for people over 70), and there are 25 million Boomers who have saved less than $1000.
Sarah Lightfoot Lawrence proposed a new life stage, “reinvention,” to describe the years 50-75, which are full of passion, risk and adventure. People are finding new challenges and greater meaning in encore careers, civic engagement and other opportunities.
The conversations about the anticipated growth in demand for our services and the severe funding cuts that senior services are experiencing were daunting. At the same, it is exciting to be engaged in a field where so much is happening, and interacting with courageous and creative people. I returned to PSRC with several ideas. We will be a pilot site for a new NCOA (National Council on Aging) program to support economic security for at-risk individuals. The “hot topic” was brain and memory health, and we will do more in that area this year. We will continue to seek ways to be welcoming to all older adults. We will work with PHCS to reduce hospital re-admissions. We will also continue to seek innovative ways to increase revenue.
May is Older Americans Month. The theme this year is “Age Strong, Live Long.” I believe that this is something one should practice every day, all year long. The building blocks for memory fitness, as for healthy aging, are physical fitness, engaging in new learning and new experiences, managing stress, nutritious eating and social interactions. PSRC strives to offer these opportunities every day (well, maybe not the healthy eating if you partake of the cookies). Come join us! Start the month by bringing friends to Cotton Club on May 2. Bring non-perishable foods to our food drive to help everyone have a chance to age strong and live long.
Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW