Challenge: Aging Population + Longevity

The National Aging in Place Council, at its 2015 Annual Meeting, spent a lot of time on a number of issues that our society, as a whole, and elders in particular are facing. The meeting report is well worth reading, and I am sure if you contact them you can get a copy.

The thrust of the meeting is summarized in the meeting report’s subtitle, “Replacing ‘Denial’ with ‘Planning a Better Later Life'”. The catalyst for this focus is very well summarized in the words of one of the participants:

Why re-direct the aging in place discussion at this time?  Perhaps it took until now to get a handle on the impact of the combination of boomers crossing the 65 year line and longevity, two forces that converged.  “The discussion cannot be about aging alone,” said Kathryn Lawler, Manager, Aging & Health Resource Division, Atlanta Regional Commission, said in her keynote address.  “It is about aging and longevity and these two things coming together at once.  And we have never dealt with longevity before.  If you just had many people getting older, but not living longer, it would not be such a problem.  Or if you had people living longer but not so many of them it would not be such a problem.  But when you have longevity for the many, it changes just about everything.”

That is a pretty powerful synopsis. Aging is not a new phenomenon, although longevity continues to increase. But that would be less of an issue – for society, if not for individuals – if there were not so many of us in the Baby Boomer group.

Complicating that picture even more is the nature of the Baby Boomer population. Georgia Tech presented a very good comparison of two very different generations – mine (Baby Boomer) and the one that preceded:

Georgia Tech Generational Comparison

One of the professors at Georgia Tech, Ruth Kanfer, Professor of Psychology, made a very cogent point about helping Baby Boomers handle the issues of aging:

‘For overcoming the denial of aging, one has to look at aging as a process rather than as a final stage of life.  Those who see a future tend to live longer and happier.’  Kanfer suggests the process [my emphasis] for boomers is identifying attainable goals and planning to utilize their resources to reach those goals.

This is one of the points I have tried to stress in many of my postings. Aging is a process that goes on, whether we are paying attention or not. If we have our own process for dealing with that process, we are going to be one heck of a lot happier.

There are some suggestions in the meeting report worth discussing. I will get to those in my next post.

Best wishes. Bert

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