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Simple Ways to Relieve Insomnia Without Prescription Medication

Our thanks to Gabriel Patel for this contribution to our blog. 

Sleep disorders are surprisingly common. In fact, Science Daily says about one in four Americans struggles with insomnia every year. It’s normal for things like work stress, major life transitions, and emotionally upsetting events to trigger brief episodes of insomnia. Even something as simple as an old mattress or a noisy new neighbor can cause sudden sleep problems.

Fortunately, 75% of people with acute insomnia will recover without developing persistent or chronic sleep issues. The best part? You don’t need to reach for addictive sleep medications to resolve your battle with sleeplessness. Here are some simple but effective ways to improve your sleep naturally.

Invest in a New Bed

Old mattresses are a common cause of sleeplessness and are sometimes the culprit behind health issues like sleep apnea and allergies. If you’re finding it hard to get comfortable at night or you’re waking up stiff in the morning, a new mattress can make a world of difference in your sleep quality.

Finding the right mattress is a must, so read some online reviews before purchasing a bed to ensure your new investment will be a good fit for your sleep style and body type. For example, mattresses made by Tuft & Needle tend to provide better support for petite and medium-sized sleepers but can cause too much sinkage for people over 250 pounds. Whether you sleep on your side, back, or stomach is also important to keep in mind during your mattress search.

Stick to a Consistent Sleep Schedule

If you go to bed at different times every night, you may be fighting against your body’s natural internal clock. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule every single day—yes, even on weekends! This will help condition your body and brain to start winding down at the same time every night. You should also find it much easier to wake up on those early weekday mornings if you avoid sleeping in on the weekends.

If you need your weekend sleep-ins to catch up on missed sleep during the week, try to go to bed earlier. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night! While this might mean going to bed much earlier than you’re used to, it’s vital to happy and healthy daytime functioning. If you have trouble getting on track, you can use your phone to remind you.

Engage in a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Going to bed right after writing emails to clients or dealing with family stress will leave your mind reeling for hours after your head hits the pillow. Separate your daytime stressors from your bedtime with a relaxing routine.

Start your routine at the same time each evening. Engage in activities that you find calming, such as gentle yoga, meditation, reading, or listening to a podcast. It can also help to begin your routine by writing a to-do list for the following day, so you can get any lingering obligations or responsibilities out of your head for the night. Recent research reported by CTV News found that people who wrote a thorough to-do list before bed fell asleep faster than those who did not!

Avoid Stimulation Before Bed

It’s important to keep stimulating activities far away from your relaxing bedtime routine. Electronic devices, for example, emit a stimulating light wavelength that can interfere with your sleep-triggering hormones, so staring at them can be counterproductive. High-intensity exercise and heavy meals right before bed can also keep you awake.

If you need a snack, reach for sleep-promoting foods like yogurt or tart cherry juice. Most importantly, avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bed. And while alcohol is not a stimulant, it can also interfere with your sleep quality and lead to waking in the night.

Suffering through an episode of insomnia can be very frustrating. While it may be tempting to reach for a quick fix in the form of medication, adopting healthy sleep habits will serve you much better in the long run. If nothing you try is helping, consider making an appointment with your doctor to get to the root of the problem.

Age-Related Stressors and How They Affect Your Quality of Life

Our thanks to Kent Elliot for this contribution to our blog. 

Stress can affect us at any age, but seniors are often triggered by different types of stressors than kids, teens, and adults of other ages. For instance, the American Institute of Stress (AIS) explains that some of the most common stressors among seniors include the loss of a loved one, changes in personal relationships, and physical impairments affecting the five senses. For some older adults, the lack of structure in their daily lives can become problematic as well.

While some strategies for senior stress management may include a combination of meditation, yoga, exercise, healthy eating, and controlled breathing, other treatments include antidepressants and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. Since recommended treatments vary widely by situation, it’s important to speak with a doctor about your symptoms and the different types of solutions that may be available to you.

Read on to learn more about the stressors that most seniors face, as well as the steps you can take to get the emotional support you need when managing any ongoing worries and fears.

Common Stressors Affecting Seniors

For many seniors, difficult life situations can result in feeling stressed, fearful, or emotionally unwell—especially if they begin to notice changes in the ability to walk, talk, hear or see. Many seniors also experience stress after the development of an age-related health condition or mobility impairment, as this may lead to the fear of losing the ability to live independently, age in place, or drive a vehicle.

Changes to finances or socioeconomic status—especially after retirement—may also cause seniors to worry about their financial standing more than ever before. Depending on their financial situation and current state of health, seniors may even worry that they cannot afford to support themselves as they age. However, working with a financial advisor and setting a budget may help to ease some of those worries.

Moreover, the loss of loved ones or any change in their personal relationships is another common stressor among seniors. For many older adults, the fear of losing a child, spouse, pet, or another loved one is more worrisome than the thought of their own death. However, speaking with a trained mental health professional can help seniors to control their fears and develop a plan for the future.

How to Get the Emotional Support You Need

Anxiety disorders in seniors may occur as a result of extreme stress, trauma, bereavement, neurodegenerative disorders, or other medical conditions. As such, it’s important to identify your stressors and know when to seek professional help for chronic stress, anxiety and/or depression.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 19 percent of adults age 60 and older take an antidepressant medication for relieving symptoms of stress, depression, and/or anxiety. While some seniors may be able to control their stress without the use of antidepressants, it’s important to meet with a doctor to discuss your symptoms as soon as you begin to worry about your emotional health and well-being.

If the cost of seeking professional help for your emotional health is holding you back, however, keep in mind that Medicare Part B includes coverage for counseling with specialists such as psychiatrists and clinical social workers, as well as other mental health services. Plus, Medicare Part B provides you with one free depression screening each year. To schedule your free screening, contact your primary caregiver.

Relief from Age-Related Stress is Possible

Stress affects us at all walks of life, but our ability to cope with stress becomes even more difficult as we age. As such, it’s important to seek immediate treatment for stress to reduce your risk of heart disease and other stress-related medical conditions such as high blood pressure. By seeking treatment for your stress, anxiety, and/or depression, you will improve your quality of life and prepare yourself for any other obstacles that may come your way.

Assisted Living or Aging in Place? How to Choose

Our thanks to Caroline James of elderaction.org, for this contribution to our blog.

 

Where to live when you’re elderly is the type of decision you want to make before life forces you to do so. If you don’t, you may discover you have fewer options than you’d hoped. Seniors who have a disability are sometimes unable to return home, and without time to spare, they have no choice but to move into whichever care facility has space.

Unfortunately, it’s also exactly the type of decision you want to avoid. No one likes thinking about losing their independence or developing an age-related disability. However, you can’t ignore the fact that two in three seniors will need long-term care as they age.

So, how do you choose where to live and receive care when you’re older? These are the three most important factors to consider.

Location

Some communities are more suited to aging in place than others. For instance, seniors who live near medical facilities, caregiving agencies, public transit, and other important amenities have an easier time aging at home than rural seniors.

Care Needs

Seniors who need a lot of daily support benefits from assisted living, where they don’t have to worry about coordinating and budgeting for in-home care. On the other hand, seniors in good health can retain full independence by aging in place. So, consider your health today and how it may change in the future; if you have chronic health conditions or mobility problems now, you’re more likely to need full-time care later on.

Cost

Assisted living averages $48,000 a year — and that cost is steadily rising. While expensive, assisted living may cost less than you’d spend aging at home. At $22 an hour, the average cost of part-time care is lower than assisted living, but seniors who need round-the-clock care can save money by moving to assisted living.

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility

Assisted living communities offer a supportive living environment where seniors can get help with day-to-day activities, such as taking medications, preparing meals, and managing personal care. Many assisted living facilities offer perks like fitness centers, gardens, and spas.

Since every assisted living community has its own personality, you’ll want to tour several in the San Francisco area before making a decision. Keep in mind that different communities offer different levels of independence. While some have communal facilities and cater specifically to seniors needing in-home care, others offer apartments and studios for seniors who are still self-sufficient but want some basic assistance with housekeeping and healthcare. Prices also range widely in San Francisco, with assisted living costs ranging from $1,695 to $11,270 a month. Factor your budget and your needs to narrow your search for the right assisted living facility.

How to Age in Place

If you’re in good health, you may be thinking of aging in place. However, are you sure your home is the right one to age in? While most seniors prefer to age in place, many don’t live in a home suited to senior living. They might not pose an obstacle now, but staircases, narrow doorways, and dimly lit spaces become a safety hazard in your 80s.

Some seniors opt to remodel their current home while others choose to buy a new house better suited to aging in place. When making your decision, consider not only the cost but also convenience. The cost savings offered by downsizing may be modest, but moving to a newer home means fewer repairs to worry about during retirement. You’ll also be able to settle in within weeks instead of waiting months for a remodel to finish.

Whatever you choose, don’t wait to think about where you’ll live when you’re older. If you decide to move to assisted living, you’ll need time to prepare your budget and find the perfect facility for your golden years. And if you decide that you want to age in place, starting now means you have many years to enjoy your ideal home.

 

How to Find the Best Shoes for Older Adults

Our thanks to Clarissa Rivera of Taos Footwear, for this contribution to our blog.

Finding the right shoes for older adults can be tricky, but doing so can help older adults maintain an active lifestyle which will contribute to better health and a better quality of life.

Whether you decide on a pair of supportive sneakers or comfortable sandals, your best bet is to find a pair that matches your needs and helps you stay active. The wrong shoes, on the other hand, can be uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous, so it’s crucial to find the right pair for the right activity.

Below are a few essential things to remember and look out for when shoe shopping.

 

Feet change

Feet change in shape and size as we get older, which means we can’t wear the same shoes that we wore in our twenties – no matter how much we spent on them, or how much wear they appear to have left in them.

It’s quite normal for your feet to get wider or more swollen as you age. However, we recommend talking to your doctor about any changes you notice, to make sure they are not related to an undiagnosed medical condition.

Get rid of your old shoes

Shoes lose their support and cushioning over time, so replace them when you see wear on the sole, upper, or inside. If your shoes are pinching your toes, then that is a sign of a poor fit, so you should get rid of them to avoid further problems.

Older adults who have less feeling in their feet are in a much more vulnerable position, as they might not feel the pain associated with a poor fit. So, we would suggest changing your shoes every year or 18 months – depending on how much wear they get – just to be on the safe side.

What to wear indoors…

Yes, staying in counts as an activity, so it’s important to prepare your feet for staying indoors too. Walking around barefoot or in just a pair of socks isn’t ideal. Shoes or sturdy slippers should always be worn around the house, as they will not only protect your feet, but they will also help with mobility.

However, slip-on slipper styles and flip flops should be avoided in older age, as it’s extremely easy to step out of them and trip. Flip flops can also cause damage to the toes and toenails, so they should be left to the younger generation.

Choosing the right shoes for the right activity  

The first step to choosing new shoes as an older adult is to be clear about what you want them for. Walking shoes are very different to running shoes, and running shoes are very different to dress shoes, so make sure you tell the salesperson and whoever is helping you what they will be used for.

The second step is to ensure that they are comfortable before you leave the store. If you are looking for walking shoes, go for a walk around the store. The same goes for running shoes. They can be worn in gradually once you get home, but they should fit somewhat comfortably when you first try them on. Here are just a few more things to look out for when shopping…

 

Make sure you are happy with the length, width, and capacity of the shoe, as well as its shape. The salesperson should be able to trace the outline of both of your feet while you are standing; the outline can then be used against the shoes in the store to find the right pair.

 

One foot could be bigger than the other, so always choose a size that fits the larger foot. The smaller foot can then have an insole placed inside the shoe for the perfect fit.

 

The fabric of the shoe is extremely important, too. We recommend choosing a shoe with an upper section made of either soft leather or heavy fabric.

 

The back of the shoe shouldn’t be neglected in your search either, as it should stabilize the ankle and the heel. If possible, the heel should be compressible, low, and broad.

 

The sole is also one of the most important things to consider, as a thick, solid sole is crucial to mobility. Those with Parkinson’s often find that smooth soles help them move more easily. Non-skid soles, found in most sneakers and sports shoes, provide good traction. Silvert’s sells a range of adaptive footwear that could greatly benefit older adults. Shoes with extra depth to help with orthotics, shoes that are adjustable for older adults who suffer with foot swelling, and shoes with anti-slip soles are just a few examples.

 

Pay attention to how the shoe fastens.

Someone who cannot tie their laces may be more comfortable using VELCRO, or a buckle that can be adjusted by hand, foot, or cane. New Balance makes shoes with hook-and-loop closure, as a helpful alternative to laces. Some models are Medicare-approved as diabetic shoes too.

 

Socks are just as important.

Be sure to team your new shoes with a good pair of socks. Choose sweat-wicking socks that are anatomically-shaped, as they can reduce your risk of developing blisters. Your local sports or running store should have a good selection of appropriate socks.

 

As you can see, choosing shoes for older adults might require a little bit of extra thought, but the results of finding the best shoe are more than worth it.

 

Finding Success as an Older Entrepreneur

Our thanks to Rae Steinbach, from fueledcollective.com, for this contribution to our blog.

Whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk, much of the 2000s has been dominated by younger entrepreneurs who have changed our personal and business lives in a number of ways. From the rise of social media to the increasing popularity of remote work and coworking spaces, entrepreneurs have had a marked impact on society.  But contrary to how our current youth-oriented culture may seem, one can begin to build a great company at any age.

Unsurprisingly, one of the most common causes of new business failure is a lack of relevant skills and experience. Older entrepreneurs, as you’ll see, are often in a better position than ever to take a chance on the idea they’ve been dreaming about and watch it grow into a successful business.

 

Why Older People Make Successful Entrepreneurs

Seemingly everyone has a million-dollar idea that could change the world, but very few of us are able to navigate the business world and make it a reality. People who have spent more time working and gaining experience are generally able to hold a more realistic view of their goals, expectations, and needs.

Younger entrepreneurs also face difficulties in attempting to build a business while dealing with the financial and personal responsibilities that come with being in your 20s or 30s. Starting later in life means having more time, money, and resources to devote to your business.

 

Creating a Business

No matter how old you are, leaving an existing job for the unknown is a major risk that requires serious consideration. Half of all businesses fail within five years, so it’s crucial to be realistic and impartial when thinking about the costs and benefits of starting your own company.

When you do decide to branch out, you’ll also have to judge how much of your personal money to spend on the project. Unlike those in their 20s and 30s, older entrepreneurs generally don’t have as much time to replenish savings and retirement funds if the venture doesn’t turn out the way they hoped.

If your startup targets millennials or younger demographics, you may benefit from hiring some employees who can provide valuable insight into that market. Understanding how to capitalize on your strengths and find people to support your weakness is crucial to managing any business.

Starting a company is a massive undertaking for anyone, and that’s especially true for older entrepreneurs. That said, the experience and knowledge that come from decades in a business environment often prove even more valuable in a startup context. These strategies will help you build your company from the ground up and put you in a position to reach your goals.

 

 

The Business of Aging reports on how older adults are “Hacking Longevity”

Hacking Longevity is the first study to examine how three generations of adults over the age of 50 – Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Silent Generation – are thinking about and planning for longer lives. Until now, the idea of increased longevity has been mostly conceptual and aspirational. Through a rigorous research process, Hacking Longevity examination, provides insights on how brands and organizations can better serve consumers of the longevity economy. The study was conducted in the Fall of 2017 and Winter of 2018 and led by Lori Bitter at The Business of Aging.

The study debuted at AARP’s Living 100 event in Washington DC in April. This timeline illustrates key inflection points in people’s lives as they age, as revealed in the data. To learn more about Hacking Longevity, join us in June at The Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit where we will provide a briefing for attendees.

Hacking Longevity was conducted in partnership with Collaborata, and underwritten by AARP, Wells Fargo Advisors, GreatCall, and Proctor and Gamble Ventures.

Excited to talk about The Business of Aging’s new research at AARP on April 12th!

The Business of Aging’s new research, Hacking Longevity, will premier at AARP’s Living 100 event in Washington D.C. on April 12th. The event will feature an “experience” of key data points of attitudes and changes displayed along a timeline at the Newseum in Washington DC.

The research is sponsored by AARP, GreatCall, Wells Fargo Advisors and Proctor & Gamble on the new Collaborata research platform.

The agenda for the AARP’s Living 100 Event can be found here.

Watch our social media – Facebook/TheBusinessofAging and Twitter – @LoriBitter and @TheBusinessofAging for live updates!

Transition & Transformation: Navigating Your Third Act

Join us for interviews with thought leaders on aging and business. Join us on Tuesday March 27, 2018 at the Nikko Hotel in San Francisco California for a full morning dedicated to your life and career, featuring a team of expert guides, authors, and coaches to help you find what’s next. Think of it as a three and a half hour investment in you. Over the next 4 episodes, we’ll talk with Keynote speaker, author of the new book, “Jolt,” Mark Miller, we’ll discuss reinventing your career at midlife with John Tarnoff, of Boomer Reinvention. We’ll be speaking with Sandra Hughes, Sandra Hughes Consulting, about shifting from the BIG job to Your Own Business, and finally, we’ll hear from Rich Eisenberg, managing editor of Next Avenue about The Art of Making it in the Gig Economy. Join me today in welcoming to the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit Podcast, produced by the Business of Aging for What’s Next, Managing Editor of Next Avenue, Where Grown Ups Keep Growing, and host of the Your Next Avenue Podcast, Richard Eisenberg.

The Intergenerational Imperative: Why We’ve Never Needed Each Other More

Written for and published in ICAA Journal  by Lori K. Bitter, MS

Intergenerational. It’s the hot new buzzword in aging though it’s been around for years. It’s also steaming hot at a time when ageism is rampant and headlines report workplace warfare between Boomers and Millennials. To be sure, the unrest is real. Boomers lost jobs during the Great Recession and have struggled to earn again at the same rate. Millennials stayed in their parents’ homes, not earning enough to launch into an independent adult life. Throw family caregiving for loved ones into the mix and a clear pattern of interdependency begins to be clear.

SEISMIC SHIFTS
How did we get here? The current picture starts with increases in longevity. Since 1900 we’ve added 30 additional years of life. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the number of Americans living into their 90s will quadruple between 2010 and 2050,4 while the United Nations projects a 351% increase in the global population of adults 85+ over that same period. Unfortunately, the expectations of roles and life stages are rooted in the 1960s. Contrary to common thought, those 30 additional years aren’t simply tacked onto the end of life. Rather, they are distributed throughout the adult life stages, creating seismic shifts that our culture has yet to catch up with.

“By ‘understanding the real root of what is happening across the generational spectrum,’ we can create approaches that recognize interdependencies plus value and benefit all generations”

Young adulthood, midlife and old age are all being transformed by the addition of these years. Yet the changes continue to be written off as generational stereotypes. Understanding the real root of what is happening across the generational spectrum allows us to recognize it and work with it for the benefit of all generations

We are culturally stuck in the life stage paradigm of the last century. We followed a fairly consistent and predictable life script: 1. Go to School
2. Find a Job 3. Get Married  4. Have Children  5. Work Hard 6. Retire.

A few lucky people had some years of leisure before they died. This model has gone the way of the rotary phone, but the universal mindset has not made the change. Or, as author and gerontologist Barbara Waxman says in The Middlescence Manifesto, “We have a cultural lag. People have a lot of needless dissonance between perception and the reality of how our lives are unfolding.”

Markers of change
Life is messier. The predictable script is gone. Yet there is a discomfort with the idea of not living up to the old ideal. Consider some of these markers of change:

  • Young adults
    Taking longer to enter and finish education
    Waiting longer to marry
    Waiting longer to have children
  • “Middlescents”
    Changing career direction
    Retraining/educating
    Starting businesses
    Taking sabbaticals
  • Older adults
    Working to age 70 and beyond
    Remarrying
    Continuing education

Adulthood at every stage has seen shifts. Rather than using ageist stereotypes to put one generation down to elevate another, or feeling uncomfortable for not fitting an old-school life map, we can embrace this opportunity to create an intergenerational approach that recognizes our inherent interdependencies and values every generation for their contributions.

CHANGING PARADIGMS
Let’s examine some areas in which the shifting maps of adulthood contribute to significant intergenerational issues.

Housing
Housing is one of the industries most impacted by these life stage changes. In the US, more than 50% of Boomers have less than USD$100k saved for retirement, though many view their homes as a significant retirement asset. Most will need to sell the large family home and convert that equity to retirement income. But the demand for these homes may be very small. (This will force many Boomers to look to financial tools such as reverse mortgages.)

Millennials are not purchasing their own homes at the same rates of previous generations. They report the size of their student loans as the major issue in not being able to save for a down payment or qualify for a mortgage. With student-loan debt topping USD$1.4 trillion (and growing), research by Citizens Bank found that 60% of college graduates ages 35 and younger expect to be paying these loans into their 40s. Concern also transcends generational divides. Research conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that 2.8 million borrowers are 60 years or older, parents and grandparents of Millennial students.

The rental market
The dream of home ownership isn’t just an issue for younger generations. In 2016, home ownership in the US reached an historic low. While Millennials are part of the issue, surging Boomer interest in renting can’t be discounted.

A 2015 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University found that families and married couples ages 45–64 accounted for roughly twice the share of renter growth as households under age 35. In urban areas with highly competitive rental markets, it is younger renters who are losing to older renters with greater ability to pay, creating increased need for affordable rental housing.

To manage the cost of living in their homes or high rents, Boomers increasingly choose to live with a roommate. Just like Millennials, Boomers also live with roommates for social reasons. Companies, like Silvernest.com, are emerging to help older adults find roommates and provide a range of services to ensure the success of the match. Some of these matches end up being from multiple generations.

Multigenerational living
Alternatively, there is a growing trend of Boomers remaining in the larger family home and housing multiple generations under the same roof. In 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19% of the US population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, according to Pew Research Center. For the first time, young adults have replaced elders as the second adult generation in the household.

Three-generation households—grandparents, parents and grandchildren—include more than 27 million people, while about a million people live in households with more than three generations. Another 3.2 million Americans live in grandparent/grandchild homes. Developers have begun to recognize the needs of these households and have created models to accommodate multiple generations. Companies have evolved to create accessory dwellings—nicknamed “granny garages”—to place on properties with existing homes to house family members. And nonprofits, like Fairhill Partners in Cleveland, Ohio, have developed apartments for grandparents raising grandchildren.

The rise in multigenerational living is one reason why fewer Americans live alone now than they did in 1990.

Caregiving
Increased longevity means more generations are now involved in providing care to older loved ones. In the US, the average age of family caregivers is trending younger at 49 years old. Caregiving has also become much more of a family affair. Generation X and the Millennial Generation are stepping into caregiving roles—47% of caregivers are 18–49 years of age. Part of this shift is due to their availability to provide care due to unemployment or underemployment.

The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP report that 20% of caregivers are over age 65. There are also 1.4 million (and this estimate is low) children ages 8–18 who take care of a parent, grandparent or other elder, according to the American Association of Caregiving Youth. These hidden caregivers miss school, have little normal social life, and no support network as they navigate caring for the adults in their lives.

A looming crisis?
Cultural shifts have also led to changes in family structures and stability. Divorced and remarried at “unprecedented levels” in their younger years, Boomers have largely been responsible for the doubling of divorce rates in the 50-and-older age group since 1990. Their families are also typically smaller (fewer than two children). So what will caregiver support look like in the future?

In 2010, the ratio of available caregivers to people requiring care was 7:1. This number will continue to fall, to 4:1, as America’s Boomers push over the 80-year-old threshold in 2030. Between 2030 and 2040, the 80+ population will increase 44% while the number of caregivers increases by only 10%. The ratio completely bottoms out to less than 3:1 in 2040, when the Boomers are in old, old age. (In fact, caregiver support ratios will tumble in many countries worldwide.) Additionally, the higher percentage of unmarried Boomers and Boomers without children will require new kinds of support systems not dependent on family caregivers.

Technology is emerging to address some aspects of care. There is still a growing gap, however, in the number of jobs that will be created as a result of aging, and the number of people available to fill those roles.

Aging workforce
Who will work in aging? At some point in the 1980s, vocational education began to disappear from high schools, and the expectation grew that the majority of graduates would go to college. The tide is turning. But it’s not turning fast enough to create the healthcare and technology workforce required for the aging Boomers.

Emerging models aim to address the need for this workforce, with a focus on bridging the generational divide. Connect The Ages is a social enterprise on a mission to connect 5 million students to careers in aging by 2025. The time is certainly right to bridge the potential of Millennials and Generation Z to the aging population.

“Most students aren’t aware jobs in aging even exist, let alone future-proof, interdisciplinary jobs with room for advancement,” says 28-year-old Connect The Ages Founder and AARP Innovation Fellow Amanda Cavaleri. “We want to help educators introduce careers in aging to students by first bridging generational divides. Through our grassroots campaigns, students experience the often unknown positive side of aging and have opportunities to explore this impactful, purposeful work.”

Connect The Ages has released interviews with dozens of Millennials in aging, including architects, entrepreneurs, healthcare workers, lawyers, policymakers and technologists. Complementing the interviews is a national grassroots outreach and intergenerational storytelling and mentorship campaign. Many of the Millennials who work in aging report finding the field entirely by chance. This is not a sustainable way to meet the industry’s needs. Connect the Ages wants to create an active strategy to engage more young people in the field.

THE IMPERATIVE
We are just scratching the surface of understanding the interconnectedness of the generations and the need to work together toward solving the issues ahead of us. The imperative for our organizations, and our industry, is to discover, support and create initiatives that work toward a better-connected intergenerational future that will advance the aging field with young people and benefit everyone. We’ve never needed each other more.

References

1. National Institute on Aging and World Health Organization. (2011). Global Health and Aging. Living Longer, pp. 6–8. NIH Publication no. 11-7737. Retrieved on June 25, 2017, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/research/publication/global-health-and-aging/living-longer.

2. Waxman, B. (2016). The Middlesence Manifesto: Igniting the Passion of Midlife. Kentfield, CA: The Middlescence Factor.

3. Data 360. Life Expectancy Studies, 2016. Available at http://www.data360.org.

4. He, W., & Muenchrath, M. N., US Census Bureau. (2011). American Community Survey Reports, ACS-17, 90+ in the United States: 2006–2008, p. 2. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. Retrieved on June 25, 2017, from https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2011/acs/acs-17.pdf.

5. Collinson, C. (2016). Perspectives on Retirement: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. 17th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers. P. 70. Los Angeles, CA: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Retrieved on June 26, 2017, from https://www.transamericacenter.org/docs/default-source/retirement-survey-of-workers/tcrs2016_sr_perspectives_on_retirement_baby_boomers_genx_millennials.pdf.

6. Federal Reserve Board. (2017, June 7). Consumer Credit – G.19. Accessed June 27, 2017, from https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/current/default.htm.

7. Citizens Financial Group, Inc. (2016, April 4). Press release: Millennial College Graduates with Student Loans Now Spending Nearly One-Fifth of Their Annual Salaries on Student Loan Repayments [Millennial Graduates in Debt study]. Retrieved on June 26, 2017, from http://investor.citizensbank.com/about-us/newsroom/latest-news/2016/2016-04-07-140336028.aspx.

8. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, The Center for Microeconomic Data. (n.d.). Data Bank. 2016 Student Loan Data Update. Number of Student Loan Borrowers by Age Group. Accessed June 28, 2017, from https://www.newyorkfed.org/microeconomics/databank.html.

9. Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University. (2015). The State of the Nation’s Housing 2015. Retrieved on June 26, 2017, from http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/publications/state-nations-housing-2015.

10.Cohn, D., & Passel, J. S. (2016). FactTank News in the Numbers. A record 60.6 million Americans live in multigenerational households. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved on June 27, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/11/a-record-60-6-million-americans-live-in-multigenerational-households.

11. National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Caregiving in the US 2015. Retrieved on June 27, 2017, from http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/ppi/2015/caregiving-in-the-united-states-2015-report-revised.pdf.

12. American Association of Caregiving Youth. (2015). More Facts about Caregiving Youth. Accessed on June 28, 2017, from https://www.aacy.org/index.php/more-facts-about-caregiving-youth.

13. Stepler, R. (2017). FactTank News in the Numbers. Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved on June 28, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/03/09/led-by-baby-boomers-divorce-rates-climb-for-americas-50-population.

14. Redfoot, D., Feinberg, L., & Houser, A. (2013). The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Narrowing Care Gap: A Look at Future Declines in the Availability of Family Caregivers. INSIGHT on the Issues, 85. Washington, DC: AARP Public Policy Institute. Retrieved on June 27, 2017, from http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/ltc/2013/baby-boom-and-the-growing-care-gap-insight-AARP-ppi-ltc.pdf.

15. Centre for Policy on Ageing. (2014). CPA Rapid Review. The care and support of older people–an international perspective. Retrieved on June 28, 2017, from http://www.cpa.org.uk/information/reviews/CPA-Rapid-Review-The-care-and-support-of-older-people-an-international-perspective.pdf.

Design for Aging – Learning from Other Cultures

by Jeffrey P. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., Environmental Gerontologist, and Professor-Parsons School of Design, and Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging

Thinking Cross-Culturally About Aging-in-Place

A different language is a different vision of life.

Federico Fellini, film director & scriptwriter

We are eager to learn from other cultures, but usually not when it comes to making our homes safer or more age-appropriate. Our food preferences are another story. We don’t hesitate to stock our kitchens and cupboards with the ingredients we need for a healthy Chinese stir fry or Turkish couscous.  If only we were as willing to think cross-culturally about aging in place.

We can learn a great deal about home safety from the housing, home-furnishings and design options offered across the world, especially in other nations with rapidly aging populations. Aging in place is a more creative process than it has ever been before.

The beauty of globalization is that it gives us a world of options for designing our homes. To paraphrase Burger King, we can truly “Have it our way,” as we prepare to age in our homes. I learned this lesson well   when Wid Chapman and I were writing Home Design in an Aging World.

Backstory: Home Design in an Aging World

Architect Wid Chapman and I decided to write a book to make cross-cultural comparisons of environments where people age-in-place: everything  from apartments, detached and semi-detached homes, to traditional farmhouses, communes, and high tech dwellings. In 2009, we surveyed homes and home furnishings available to older people in seven of the world’s most rapidly aging nations: Japan, Sweden, China, Brazil, Israel, the United States, and India. By the year 2009, all 7 of these nations were being reshaped by what the Japanese call The Silver Tsunami, and what we describe as The Age Wave.  We decided to do a comparative study of design and architectural responses to global aging.

This led to the publication of  Home Design in an Aging World (NY: Fairchild, 2010).  The book remains one of a handful of cross-cultural comparisons of architecture and design for aging-in-place.

Chapman and I have asked how architecture and design respond to kinship norms. How is aging-in-place shaped by Hindu kinship, which is strongly patriarchal and multigenerational? Or by the sensibilities of Sweden, where fertility is quite low and people typically live in nuclear households?

As environmental gerontologists, we were curious about the impact of age-related norms on aging-in-place. For instance, would aging-in-place be discouraged in Brazil, one of the world’s most youth-oriented societies.  And how about Japan? Unlike Brazil, Japan, is a gerontocracy where elders and old age are honored, and where pride of place in their children’s homes is enjoyed.  What is the impact of the high U.S. divorce rate and small family size on our own architecture and design for aging-in-place?

Chapman and I focused on both Western cultures (USA, Israel, and Brazil); and also on cultures where non-Western architectural norms and traditions are still in play (Japan, China, and India).  What follows are some examples of how constructed environments and local technologies interact with social norms to affect the experience of aging-in-place.

Vernacular Design

Learning from other cultures involves appreciating that there is often a mix of traditional home design – what architects call “vernacular design” – and cutting-edge technologies such as robotics. New technologies, combined with strategic changes in homedesign, are making it easier than ever before to age in place. People on the cusp of retirement can build upon new technologies to create everything from home offices to home care for a variety of chronic illnesses.

What follows is a very brief look at “lessons” drawn from other cultures, ranging from low-tech/high-touch to high-tech/low-touch,  and from ancient to post-modern.

Japan: Living Close To The Floor

There is an old Japanese saying which goes, “May you live and die on tatami.”  This refers to the bamboo mats which cover traditional Japanese homes from wall-to-wall. Home-furnishings in traditional Japanese homes are low-slung or actually on the floor. The futon is perhaps the most familiar example of this approach to home-furnishings. Low, traditional Japanese home furnishings are ofchigaidana-chofu-mori-residence-bigten moved from room to room as needed. This occurs on the tatami mats which cover the floor of a traditional Japanese home.

The floor-based Japanese design aesthetic features low-slung furniture and futons for sleeping that make any home safer. Apart from reducing falls, floor-based lifestyles enhance strength and balance. My sources tell me that even the most contemporary homes in Tokyo or Osaka contain a “Japanese Room” with traditional tatami mats on the floor, and Tokugawa detailing throughout.

Apart from being reverent about its past, Japan is also a world leader in technological innovation.  Japanese homes often contain a mix of products and technologies that hark back centuries, as in the case of traditional tea-sets or futons, and also look ahead to a robotic future. For example, there is a growing number of Japanese households with robotic pets – mostly dogs.

Futurist Timothy Horynak (2006) claims that the interest in robotic house pets reflects Japan’s passion for incorporating the newest of technologies with time-honored canons of Japanese design and home life. Robotics is the product of digital design and innovation. Tatami dates back centuries. That they exist together in some Japanese homes is a reminder that Japanese proudly mix tradition and technology. This may be the new face of aging in place in Japan and elsewhere in the world.

Brazil: Universal Design Begins at the Front Door

Brazilian architect Sandra Perito, from Sao Paulo, has designed Senior Housing that is intended to prevent domestic accidents, especially falls (Rosenfeld and Chapman, 2012). Perito  routinely adds a built-in table on the front porch or entry to a home. Perito makes sure that this Entrée Table is as close to the front door as possible. In apartment buildings for Brazilian Seniors, she does much the same.

The idea behind Perito’s Entrée Table it Seniors a place where they can place packages, bundles, or a purse while searching for their keys. The inspiration came from a elderly woman from Sao Paulo who lost her balance while rummaging through her purse in search of her keys. Perito adds this reminder: her table also functions as a grab-bar for additional balance while locking or unlocking the front door.

Scotland: Why Smaller is Better When it Comes to Refrigerators

On a trip to Scotland many years ago, I visited a number of homes in the Scottish Highlands where people either had very small refrigerators, or no refrigerator at all. Those without refrigerators kept perishable items in their cellars.  The climate in the highlands is such that the home’s basement is always cool enough to put perishables for a day or two.

Philip B. Stafford, author of  Elderburbia: Aging With A Sense of Place in America offers the following advice:  It is best for older people to have small refrigerators.  It has nothing to do with household size, he says.  Very simply, people with small refrigerators must leave home more frequently to do their grocery shopping.  The small refrigerator is an antidote to isolation.

France: Smart Home-Technology 

Beginning in 2013, Paris-based Netatmo has been developing a line of user-friendly Smart Home devices.  By “user-friendl3y,” Netatmo means that their technology provides feedback when and where their user is. For example Netatmo’s home security camera, “…detects and reports in real-time if someone lurks around your home, a car enters your driveway, or your pet is in the yard.”

User-friendly technology provides feedback at home, and also when the user is at work or on vacation.  The user can be far from home and rely on Netatmo’s personal weather station to keep track of  the weather at home. The personal air-quality sensor does the same for levels of air-pollution in and around the house.  The product line also includes a Smart thermostat and a Smart security camera with facial recognition. As more people opt to age-in-place, Netatmo provides the technology for safety and security.

Singapore: Robotic Home-Exercise Coach

In 2015, Singapore company RoboCoach, Inc., introduced  a robotic “exercise coach” at five of Singapore’s Senior Centers. The RoboCoach has a smiling face and appendages  that mimic human movements.  The robot has been developed to teachSeniors  a range of exercises while offering verbal encouragement and support.103266869-robocoach-1910x1000

According to The Guardian, the company predicts that RoboCoach will become a popular fixture in many of Singapore’s Senior Centers and Senior Living Facilities.  The goal is to enable the elderly to lead more independent, fulfilling lives.

“…The android with metal arms and a screen for a face is already leading sessions and will roll out its services to five senior activity centers across the city-state this year.”

Infocomm Development Authority of  Singapore (IDA)

China:  The World’s Earliest Example of Universal Design

BMEHED Elderly Salar man on Kang bed-stove with his granddaughter, Xunhua Salar Autonomous County, Haidong, Qinghai, China

Aging-in-Place, More Global Than Ever

Going forward aging-in-place will mean combining renovation and innovation: changes to the constructed environment of home, and the installation of  technologies which will make living at home safer and easier.  That said, it is as important as ever to respect the role that culture plays in making a home safe to age in place. As technology becomes a more important part of this process we must:

  • Consider how culture shapes the relationship between “private space” and “public space” in and around the home
  • Respect cultural traditions that shape the spaces where people cook, eat, sleep, and toilet. Designers and gerontologists should be mindful of how age, sex, and marital status all shape the form and function of a home
  • Understand the symbolism and social meaning of color in the architecture and design for every culture.

References:

About the Author: For the past 10 years, Dr. Rosenfeld has been researching the interplay of ethnicity, aging, and home design. He is currently looking at home design and community-building by Brooklyn’s “New” ethnic elders from Korean, India, Pakistan, and Guyana. Along with architect Wid Chapman, AIA, he has written Home Design in an Aging World (Bloomsbury, 2010), and UnAssisted Living (Monacelli Press, 2012).

Dr. Rosenfeld is also currently working with the research arm of New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  He is looking at ethnic differences (incidence and prevalence) of serious geriatric falls in the home.  The goal is to better understand how ethnically-themed design contributes to ethnic disparities in home injury. Dr. Rosenfeld has been on the adjunct  faculty at Brookdale Center since May, 2015. He can be contacted through Parsons School of Design at Rosenfej@NewSchool.Edu; 347-249-4014.