Post by Kate Antheil Boyd, VP of Content, Caring.com
Today in the U.S., there are 1.7 million nursing home beds — and about 76 million baby boomers. Even if boomers wanted to age in nursing homes (they don’t), there wouldn’t be enough room.
Then consider this generation’s growing life expectancy. First-wave boomers are 67 years old today and will likely reach age 82 to 85 (men and women, respectively).
We need more options.
Senior Living Redefined
Boomers dread nursing homes, it’s true. But senior living communities are another story. People are attracted to independent living, assisted living, and continuing care retirement communities because they’re ready to give up shoveling snow, cleaning gutters, and changing light bulbs. They want amenities: fine dining, social activities, interesting outings. They’re also eager for nearby help — assistance with health issues or activities of daily living — as their needs develop. If this appeals to you, start planning; it’s best to move in when you’re healthy and mobile enough to make friends and enjoy all the offerings.
Staying Home as Long as Possible
If senior living doesn’t interest you, new are trends emerging for those who want to stay home.
In years past, making a home more accessible to seniors meant adding a lot of clunky, ugly stuff. Universal design is changing all that. Instead of thinking about what some residents can’t do, universal design emphasizes simplicity and beauty for everyone.
Hallways and doors, for example: Yes, a wider hallway means a wheelchair can pass through. But the wider hallway is also helpful to the harried mom pushing a stroller. A push button pocket door means someone in a wheelchair won’t have to struggle with opening and closing the door; it’s also really handy if both your arms are full of groceries.
If you plan to stay in your home for years to come, look into the universal design options available for bathrooms, kitchens, and elsewhere. You’ll make your home more senior-friendly — and more beautiful.
Gadgets, Gizmos, and Services
You’d be amazed to learn of all the inventors out there, hard at work on new gadgets and gizmos to help you age in place. For example:
* Adaptable clothing that’s easy to get on and off, even if you have arthritis
* Remote controls with simpler buttons
* Medication reminders
* Home telephones with amplification systems
* Printers that don’t need a computer to print your e-mail
* Home-monitoring sensors that track every time you open a cabinet door, walk into a room, open a medicine bottle, or even sit on the toilet — and that report to your loved ones if your daily habits go awry
* Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) that let you call for help with the push of a button
* Canes and bifocals that are as much fashion statements as functional tools
* Meal services that bring you a weekly batch of *fresh*, delicious, nutritious prepared meals
The list could go on; the point is, great gadgets are here and more are coming. If you can imagine a way to more easily go about your daily business, Google it and see what’s been invented. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Just because you’re home alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. In more and more cities across the U.S., seniors are forming co-ops to coordinate aging-related services. For example, in the Beacon Hill Village of Boston, members enjoy discounts; organized outings; transportation; exercise classes; and a network of approved handymen, dog walkers, housekeepers, and home care providers.
In-Home Care Help
Home care services are another area of rapid growth. Many agencies move beyond medical care to offer companions who help with daily activities ranging from driving you to doctor appointments to helping with grocery shopping, preparing meals, and light housekeeping. Personal care assistants are another option — they typically have more training and can help with daily activities that require physical contact, like brushing teeth or shaving. If you’re in pretty good health but need occasional help, it’s an option worth considering.
We’re in for an interesting ride as this giant generation moves through the next chapter. Keep an eye out for new ideas to make aging easier for all.
Kate Antheil Boyd is VP of Content for Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones. To learn more about what makes a great assisted living community see: Top Assisted Living Trends; What You Can Expect From a Great Assisted Living Community.