Editor’s Note: Below is Steve Canipe’s fourth column in his series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.
- See second column – Are We Really Old? – here.
- See third column – Cars and More Cars – here.
- See fourth column – Getting Educated – here.
By Steve Canipe
One of the issues that we face as we get older is where do we live. According to an AARP survey done several years ago in 2011, 90% of boomers indicated a desire to stay in their own home. I would say from my non-scientific discussions with my boomer friends, this seems about right. If this number is correct, what issues and concerns does it raise, not only for the boomer but for children and society in general?
This week’s Bytes will focus on those issues, particularly as it relates to the family. Most of us may have had an experience as we cared for our own aging parents that will help us make an informed decision for ourselves. I had such an experience with my mother and believe, should I choose, I am better able to plan to stay in an environment that is comfortable and known. I have not decided that staying in place is what I want, but regardless, it is important to have options.
After my dad passed away, Mom elected to stay in the house they had shared for nearly 50 years. All of my life was spent in that house. I’m sure for her it was known and she felt safe there. My mother was not a particularly adventuresome sort regarding where she wanted to live, much preferring to stay in Lincolnton, NC, where we lived, than moving anywhere else. She was born during the last year of World War I and during her lifetime had experienced much – from Depression to WW II to loss of her parents and siblings to the loss of my dad.
The house, built in 1947, was never designed to be age-accessible. Doorways and the bathroom were not easily accessible with a walker let alone a wheelchair. Fortunately it was basically a one-story home so climbing to bedrooms on the second floor was not necessary. Most of us probably live in homes that are not really accessible either. During our 20s, 30s, and even 60s accessibility was not an issue. For the most part as an age demographic, we have been pretty healthy. Our better health and longevity were advantages of living in generally good economic times and having parents who worked hard to provide better health care for us than they had themselves growing up.
But if we have the opportunity to move to a different home now that we are in our 60s or even for the younger boomers turning 50 this year, there needs to be some consideration given to these accessibility issues. This is true for at least 90% of us who plan to stay at home as we age.
For a number of us, this living in our own home may mean a time of near isolation as our life-partner passes away. According to some figures from the Administration on Aging (http://www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/Aging_Statistics/Profile/2011/6.aspx), about 29%, of older adults lived alone in 2010. While we are not in the demographic of over 75, almost half of women that age live alone. According to U.S. Census, of those who have lived to age 100 or older about 33% live alone.
What is even more disturbing are some data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. These data show that 12% need some daily assistance to maintain in their own homes. As children of some of these folks, we often provide that assistance. Are we going to expect our children to do the same for us or are we too independent to ask or expect or even welcome this level of assistance from our children?
A larger issue that we may face is social isolation. Because of our large numbers, we have always been around others who are like us at least in age and shared experiences. Aging and being forced because of health issues to limit our sociability may create all sort of psychological issues for us. The “cabin fever” of staying inside may take a toll. This winter in Boone has certainly caused some enforced staying in!!
Looking around at various “senior only” housing and “over 55” developments, it can be noted that these are designed to allow and encourage that sociability. If our children live away from us in other parts of the country and world, maybe there is a need to look for these age-restricted environments. Many of them have housing options designed to allow us to age in place. Many are tiered arrangements, with full independence which can gradually give way to assisted living and later to full nursing care.
A quick search on the Internet will provide a wealth of information. As a group we have always been involved with information and use it in decision-making. Decisions about our long-term care should be approached the same way we approached most tasks growing up-gather data, analyze data, weigh pros and cons, make a decision…then re-evaluate. Although the oldest of us will be turning 68 this year and the youngest are turning 50, it is not too early to begin this thought process of where will I live as I age.
One website that I found helpful in focusing on the social question is called A Place for Mom (http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/todays-senior-care-options/). There are many others and I am not endorsing this one, but there are a set of five sociability questions that they are suggesting to help in placement of a parent. These same questions, I would opine, we need to answer for ourselves:
- Are you more energetic or more subdued?
- Do you like to get out a lot?
- Do you need a lot of attention?
- Are you more extroverted or introverted?
- How much privacy or solitude do you require?
After research is done and a decision has been reached, remember it can change. Since, if the research is to be believed, 90% want to remain in their homes, what can be done to make them more livable? At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, there were numerous assistive devices that were shown to make life easier and more secure. The Business Financial Post reported this focus (http://business.financialpost.com/2014/01/04/at-ces-this-year-digital-health-gadgets-apps-will-eclipse-3d-tvs/). Many of the new devices were of the wearable nature, but were a long way from the old commercial that showed an older lady with the voice over “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Those devices are still around and still work but now there are so many more.
It has been widely reported in the NY Times and elsewhere that Apple Computer will focus on health devices and applications in the near future. We may have an iHealth Watch or similar monitoring and reporting device. This would take the field to a whole new level and the Android devices would no doubt quickly follow suit.
After having explored various topics and looked at various data, the question I began with is still outstanding – “… as we get older is where do we live?” I hope you get the answer that we can probably still have it our way and do our own thing. We have options and as we prepare for our aging and all the changes that come with it, we can still be in control. This control issue may be the primary reason for the 90% who want to stay at home and be independent. We can have independence differently as long as we plan for it.
Tell me what your current thoughts and plans for where you want to live as you get older; either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or post at the end of the column. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.