Recently we published an academic research project. Its purpose: To explore the predictors of well-being throughout the life course and advance care planning among older adults who identify with the term elder orphan (aging along with limited support) in the United States.
Over 500 members from the Elder Orphan Facebook Group participated in the mixed methods study. Members of the elder orphan group are more educated than most (71 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 32 percent of the general population), are 98 percent female and joined the group to discuss issues facing aging alone. Read the study at https://www.seniorcare.com/featured/aging-alone-study/.
Other discoveries of little surprise included the number of participants who prefer aging at home (49 percent) over any other place. The second most in demand was living in a tiny house community (29%) with like-minded neighbors.
According to AARP, 90 percent of older adults nationwide want to remain living in their homes for as long as possible, yet U.S. Census data suggest that many homes may not be designed to accommodate the needs of aging homeowners. What’s needed are modifications that help with accessibility concerns like walk-in tubs, single-level homes, bathrooms connected with the bedroom, and stepped entries.
Falling is another issue for those who age in place. We found 28 percent of the participants have fallen in the last six months. Older adults take bad tumbles and slips because illnesses and physical conditions can lessen strength and balance. Plus, the side effects of some medicines can upset balance. Medicines for depression, sleep problems and high blood pressure often cause falls.
These are the reasons technology companies now focus a lot of attention on the senior market. Just this week, the acquisition of GreatCall by Best Buy is a significant indicator of the growing role for tech in the longevity market.
The Amazon Alexa and Echo help seniors control the lights and the thermostat in homes. And many even ask Alexa to remind them to take medications. Useful technologies like these give seniors a great deal of independence and peace of mind.
The average cost of a nursing home averages $95,000 a year, while assisted-living and in-home care tops $45,000 annually, according to a 2017 Genworth Financial report.
These exorbitant costs are driving innovation in technology.
Technology offers tools to live independently, but also the connectedness with faraway family and friends. Older adults want to be autonomous, irrespective of age and technology is the answer for that.
If it’s your goal to remain in the home and be safe, independent and connected, have patience for more solutions to evolve. The good news, technology will become easier and more fun to use.
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Carol Marak, aging advocate, Seniorcare.com. She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.