In yesterday’s article, I talked a little about the fact that within twenty (20) years, at least in the Sacramento, California region, the number of seniors will be higher than the number of children — for the first time. Meanwhile, at least for now, government funding for senior resources and services is headed for a very steep decline.
The issue is complicated by the fact that we are not simply talking about a population getting older. Folks often talk about 60 being the new 40, or whatever — I can tell you, it is not 🙂 — and that seniors today are healthier than previous generations. That may be true, but it is not all roses.
Across the US, and it is true in California and the Sacramento region as well, over 41% of seniors 65 years of age or older have at least one form of the following disabilities, according to the US Census (thanks to the Area 4 Agency on Aging for compiling):
- Sensory Disability: blind, deaf or severe hearing or vision impairment: >14%
- Physical Disability: condition that substantially limits walking, carrying, lifting, reaching: >28%
- Mental Disability: difficulty learning, remembering or concentrating: ~11%
- Self-Care Disability: difficulty dressing, bathing, moving around inside the home: > 9%
- Difficulty Leaving the Home Disability: difficulty going outside the home alone to shop or go to doctor: >19%
The existence of any of these disabilities makes aging in place, at home, at least more difficult, if not more dangerous. The ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) or Instrumental ADLs is critical. Without those abilities, living at home requires family caregiving, at a minimum. The greater the number of issues, the more likely that professional home care is needed, as well as other services. If those services (medical, fiduciary, mental health, …) are not available from the government and community programs, they will have to be provided by private businesses — for those elders with financial resources.
In addition to today’s reality is the knowledge that the situation is not going to improve. In 2010, just in the area served by the Area 4 Agency on Aging in California, there were 55,000 seniors with severe disabilities (inability to perform three (3) or more ADLs or IADLs). In less than ten (10) years, that number will increase by 40% and the number of seniors with at least moderate disabilities will exceed 100,000.
This is the reality facing our society. How will we respond? How should we respond? What are our choices? Your thoughts?
Best wishes, Bert