Baby Boomers have long been known for revolutionizing American culture so it’s no surprise they are transforming how we retire.
One of their top priorities is “aging in place,” this story in The Huffington Post talks about what needs to change in our society in order for them to do it.
Studies show the vast majority of older people want to age at home or “in place” rather than spend their final days in a senior living facility. But with the growing elder population in this country, allowing an entire generation to age in place “will require a shift in the way our society thinks and services are delivered,” writes Dr. Susan Blumenthal, former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General.
“We need to prepare our communities for the increasingly aging population,” writes Blumenthal but “opposing forces are at work; resources to support older adults are shrinking even as the demands of this population group grow.”
Blumenthal believes all sectors of society must band together and play an active role in helping older adults meet these primary needs:
1) Affordable and accessible housing
2) Convenient transportation
3) Work, education and volunteer opportunities
4) Access to health and support services
5) Participation in civic and cultural activities
6) Intergenerational connections.
But how can we do it?
Building communities that support aging in place will require “working together across the public and private sectors, and engaging experts in urban planning, architecture, health care, transportation, agricultural policies and social services,” writes Blumenthal.
The first goal is to ensure older people can meet their basic needs, “but the concept of aging in place demands much more than survival; it also calls for vibrant, engaging communities that recognize the needs of seniors and their contributions.” Experts believe the last component is key – what is needed is more “intergenerational engagement” in this country.
A growing number of sociologists believe “American society suffers from a dearth of intergenerational interaction. Society has become too segregated by age,” writes Blumenthal. “People travel through life in cohorts based on birth year, from schools to the workforce to retirement homes.” A community segregated by age creates divides, contributes to ageism and deprives “everyone of opportunities for intergenerational learning.”
Blumenthal believes communities can find ways to encourage intergenerational interactions by creating programs where “young people can help seniors age in place while older adults can enrich the lives of the young and share their knowledge and skills.”
“Rather than accepting social isolation for older adults” we need to focus on building “intergenerational communities where everyone benefits from interactions with other age groups,” writes Blumenthal.
Intergenerational living is just one element of creating a new vision for how we deal with the aging in America. “Growing older must also involve an emphasis on healthy aging, not just more years of life with illness.”
Read the story here.