Aging in place is a local issue and important for everyone. Including you. Here’s why.
The idea of aging in place is very near and dear to me. I’ve spent years thinking about, advocating for, educating about and evangelizing the idea of people taking responsibility for their own quality of life as they grow older. I haven’t done it for money, but because I believe that the more people that take that responsibility seriously – that educate themselves and build plans – the better off our country and our global society will be.
I start that way because growing older is a touchy subject; not just in our country, either. Let’s face it; we don’t like to talk about losing our level of ability, our health or anything else that is tied to the stigma of “old”.
In the same way that anything important in your life is worth working for, so is aging in place … or however you decide you are going to spend your later years of life.
Where did you attend college? Was that a personal decision? What about your career? You bet it was. Religious faith? Check. Who you are friends with? You bet. The home you raised your children in? Of course.
You see my point. As people, we pay attention … personal attention … to the things that matter to us.
Except, what our lives will be like when we’re growing older.
I know that last line was overgeneralized. The truth is, though, we’re in the shape we’re in now because there was not enough movement on the issue of the Boomers aging when we as a country knew the impact it would have on our people and communities. Not by the government, communities, agencies…. not even from individuals as the information trickled down to us.
What do you mean it’s a local issue?
If you say you’re going to age in place, then you’re choosing to be this home in this neighborhood in this city as long as you can get the services or assistance you need. That’s geographically specific.
Unfortunately, in some rural areas, that means you should move out of your home the first time something with your situation changes. You see, if you fall, can no longer drive or need in-home care, you won’t likely be able to get much assistance in many of these areas; there is very little to none.
In other areas, there is some assistance available, such as in-home care, transportation, home help, home maintenance, etc. That system might work for a while longer. But, it is most likely going to change in a lot of places when we start getting closer to the peak of the curve; when those over 65 make up 20+% of the population. (Depending on where you live, of course).
The number of people in that age group will not be able to be well-supported by many communities, given the current systems, methods and institutions of care.
That’s a harsh thought; I know. I’m not trying to bring anyone down, but I feel it merits us all thinking about this more.
So, if I currently live in a community that has little to no services, or one that has not proactively created new (better, more robust, farther reaching, more effective) programs and services, better integration of private-pay services and products from local businesses into the local network of care … I’m up the proverbial creek.
And, I’m right where millions of people are/will be as this part of our human history unfolds.
You’ve heard “buy local” … I say “invest yourself locally”
This is where it becomes relevant to you as a small business owner.
The honest truth is we’re at a point on the curve where it is too late for a lot of people to have it any better than they already have. It is sad to think about, but realistic. Many people have what they have now and it will not be any better for them than it is now. Any major changes that are made from here on out will most likely benefit the ones coming up behind them.
But, those that are already there and dealing with the reality of their situation are only a percentage of what is coming.
We … as communities …have got to figure out how the growing older population is going to affect us and what can be done to best meet their needs and minimize the local impact. No only is the quality of life of millions of people going to be affected, but it will also have ramifications for years in communities across the nation. This is very, very serious.
I have talked to a lot of business owners and consumers over the years. One thing I hear over and over is wishing the Federal government would do something about it. Guess what? Even if they did throw a ton of money at the problem (which they most likely won’t in the near term), it still wouldn’t fix it, since the way our system is setup, spending that money would have to be planned at a local level.
Why is aging in place important for you?
I’ve believed for some time now that small businesses will make or break this whole situation we’re facing head on in America; aging in place is one aspect of the problem. And, that the best way for a local business owner to effectively change their community is to take their place as a trusted expert, peer and connector.
That means business people like yourself have got to get involved. Learn more about what having 20+% of your population being over 65 really means in terms of your community. Start asking questions about what is being done, by whom and when. Educate yourselves, then educate the people around you … your peers and your community. Then, roll up your sleeves.
And, if for some reason you think this might not affect you (or everyone), my final thought is this:
Whatever is done now, is probably what the next generations are going to have to look forward to.
We should make it good.