connecting with Seniors & their caregivers
What’s Happening in Our Community: We have a new frontier on aging. In Washtenaw County, the fastest growing segment in our community overall are people 75 and older. As a result, the postwar guarantee of a safety net for seniors so they wouldn't be poor and uncared for — will be difficult to keep.
In the U.S., half a million people over 60 usually spend each day alone, with no interaction with others, and nearly half a million more commonly don't see or speak to anyone for five or six days a week. By 2040, life for everyone will be shaped to a great extent by how we respond now to the needs of the elderly. With two decades to go, our community is not prepared to fully and justly support its growing senior population.
An underlying issue, affecting all categories, is caregiving. Professional caregivers burn out quickly. Unpaid caregivers juggle many competing demands. Finally, all of the above challenges interconnect: access to transportation affects access to health care and nutritious food; unsafe housing or absence of an appropriate caregiver decreases the chances of aging in place; and so on.
Why This Matters*: Nearly everyone wants to grow old in their own home, regardless of physical, cognitive, or economic abilities. Recent research on home-based health programs suggests that aging in place can yield potential cost savings at the individual, state, and federal levels. Although the current body of research is limited, these studies demonstrate the benefits of aging in place — benefits that extend beyond cost savings to include social and emotional benefits to both seniors and the broader community.
Over half of seniors in our County live alone (52%). Sadly, some seniors will achieve their goal of aging in place but feel isolated and lonely. Nearly half of seniors (47%) in a recently completed survey report not having someone they could borrow $100 from in an emergency. Health studies show that older, isolated people have much higher rates of mortality from breast cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic diseases. According to researchers, being isolated is just as bad for people as smoking and is worse than being obese.
(*Text from United Way of Washtenaw County report on aging.)
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw
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