Aging in place hits the demographic bubble

Although the trend toward keeping our parents and loved ones living in their homes is a growing and welcome one, it is hitting a few roadblocks in communities across the country.

An article in the Wall Street Journal explored the trend last fall noting that the support for many seniors continuing to live at home is often other elderly neighbours. Factor in an aging population and its not hard to see the issue.

Neighbourly assistance, however well-intentioned, can be sporadic and with already strained local agencies and nonprofit organizations struggling to keep pace with demand, the situation is becoming worse.

“It’s a huge issue—it couldn’t be bigger,” said Lenard Kaye, director of the University of Maine Center on Aging. “Ninety-nine percent of older adults say they want to stay right where they are until they’ve taken their last breath, but that doesn’t mean they are continuing to remain safe and remain well.”

Donna Wagner, dean of the New Mexico State University College of Health and Social Services and a researcher on aging says that some of the issue has to do with the demographic shift toward an aging population. While the aging-in-place ideal is a worthy one, she is a bit skeptical about the reality given that demand is outpacing supply. “This philosophy of remaining independent with the help of community-based services has been a little oversold,” said Ms. Wagner. “Lots of people have a hard time doing it.”

In my practice, I see the issue played out with well-meaning seniors not wanting to be a burden on their adult children living miles away.

When parents age, the slow decline in abilities can be hard to gauge. On a visit home, take a look around and see if their home is being properly maintained and, for that matter, if they are in good health. If either are an issue, set up the proper services for them, be it cleaning services or meal services.

It may be a national issue but the solutions always start at home.

To read the complete Wall Street Journal article, click here.