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The "Silver Tsunami"

Choosing how and where we age

I have become increasingly aware of the disrespectful terminology about aging used by our population at large. Most of it offends me, and hopefully others as well. But this one wins the prize for the most crass! Anyone who remembers the terrible Tsunamis in Thailand or Japan and the devastation they wrought should be taken aback when we are referred to as a natural disaster.

The term was coined in reference to the statistic that the number of people over 65 is expected to increase from 40 million in 2010 to 55 million in 2020. And this is seen as a major problem for this country for a variety of reasons. Mostly because of the resources we will need. The advances in Medicine, both the practice of and the pill form, have improved the quality of our lives and the illnesses to which we are prone. But we also have chronic illnesses. And we worry. We worry about outliving our money, about who we could turn to in need, about a contentious Congress trying to take away or lessen the funding of Medicare. Doctors, forced to see more and more patients as their payments dwindle. We worry if we will be able to receive the best care and the treatments and procedures we require but which may be denied. We worry about a lot of things.

Statistics also tell us that older women outnumber older men and that almost half the population of women over 75 live alone. Fewer men do. But how and where do they live?

As I’ve written about before, there was a time, alive in my memory, when families lived together. From baby and parents, to aunt or uncle and grandma and grandpa, the shared household functioned as a unit. Grandparents felt an integral part of family life. They shared their wisdom and skills. No one needed a baby sitter or a psychiatrist. Help was always available and the family was better for it. Children learned helpfulness and compassion and perhaps, as they entered adulthood, experienced less fear about their own aging process.

Although there are multi generational families living together today, it’s the exception rather than the rule. Most children do not want aging parents living with them and parents do not want to live with their children—all things being equal.

Today, we elders who are living longer and wishing to be independent as long as possible have choices to make. Can we continue to age in place? Or would we be happier in a community that is devoted to elder needs and care?

I am devoting myself to learning how to age in place as the technology that will help me to do that becomes more advanced and available, adapting my living space and environment accordingly. As my arthritis makes me aware, I ain’t getting any younger and it’s time to commit myself to being safe and secure in my own home for-ever or as long as possible. I will be writing about what I’m doing in future columns.

Stay tuned.

I leave you with this:

“Where the elderly are not honored there is no future for the young.”

Pope Francis.

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