This is a time of rapid and dramatic change in the way we approach healthcare in this country. That change brings great opportunity for community-based organizations that are the backbone of the aging and disability networks. If the aging services network adapts successfully to the changes, it can strengthen individual organizations and networks, and continue to provide the services and supports that help the growing number of people served live the lives they want, in the communities they choose.
Maybe you’ve seen the photograph on the Internet of a pack of wolves moving in single file across a snowy landscape. The original caption, I’m supposing, struck our collective nerve. The first three wolves, it read, were the most elderly of the pack, setting the pace for the rest—tender but inaccurate. According to experts, the first wolf in line is probably one of the strongest and best able to cut a path through the deep snow.
Brain health is central to wellness and is about maximizing one’s abilities and pursing meaningful activities that promote a sense of overall cognitive fitness, emotional wellness, social well-being, personal health, and provide a challenge. Brain health is viewed as being 70% lifestyle and 30% genetics, meaning the way we live our lives is more important than our genetics regarding cognitive wellness. Although normative cognitive changes occur in the brain as we age, it is important for people to consider their brain health at any age.
As a professional in the field of aging, you have a lot to think about—budgets, fundraising efforts, clients and their family caregivers and the challenges they face, not to mention the self-care we all must do to avoid burning out. Your work is challenging and rewarding and, at times, overwhelming.
In the United States, our aging population is currently on a trajectory to swell to more than 132 million people age 50-plus by the year 2030. And this population boasts the highest percentage of homeownership, with more than 45% of all homeowners age 55-plus, and over 70% of homeowners age 65-plus owning their homes without a mortgage.
“Successful Aging” coupled with a lack of successful treatments for Alzheimer’s disease is rapidly causing an epidemic.
There is a physical, emotional and financial burden to people inflicted with Alzheimer’s as well as their caregivers. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if there are no changes in the approach over the next 35 years, by year 2050:
Each day, we see the impacts of aging, whether within ourselves or in conversations with family and friends. But when we curl up at the end of the day, and escape into the world of streaming TV and film, the images reflected back at us paint a picture far different from reality.
Anne Tumlinson, who lives just outside Washington, D.C., is a 48-year-old divorced mother of two teenagers. In 2015, she launched the blog Daughterhood because she saw a huge need to connect family caregivers to information that would help them help their parents. As an expert in public policy on health and aging, she was unpleasantly surprised by her caregiving friends’ ignorance of the system, and difficulty navigating it.