Why America Should Embrace Aging
Most of us don’t want to grow old. We’d rather put it off. In a recent article by the Associated Press-NORC Center, it said that Americans 40 and older would rather not think about getting older at all.
We enjoy our lives and celebrate our birthdays with blinders on. Who cares if another candle adds to the growing bright flame atop the cake? Each year that we move passed 45 and draw closer to 50, we cringe inside. Birthdays become a day to ignore and to hurry past.
If there’s one thing I learned from my parents, old age will catch up with you no matter how much anti-wrinkle cream one uses. “It’ll be here before you know it, so you better enjoy life.” The wisdom comes from my smart mother.
Since most of us know getting older will come one day, why do we pretend it won’t? Is it our admiration for youthfulness? Or do we dread the inevitable that old age leads to death and dying?
Whatever your feeling about the topic right now, one day each of us will be forced to face it like a man or in my case, like a woman. But for how long do you give yourself the pleasure of disregarding the topic altogether? Most wait until we’re broke and need help.
Two other studies come to mind when thinking about the aging challenges. One is the Long-Term Care Over an Uncertain Future, and the other is America Talks: Protecting Our Families’ Financial Futures.
The first one found that roughly 7 out of 10 people turning age 65 will need long-term care during their lifetimes (3 years.) While the other found, people underestimate their future need. Not just a little either. A whopping 63% of Americans say they will NOT need long-term care at all. Do they believe they’ll never get old? Maybe they should take a look at their grandparents.
Why do I care whether people accept growing older or not? I don’t really. Some of my close friends would rather get shot than learn to accept it. It’s a common dilemma many faces. But when snubbing the truth turns into blind ignorance, especially when planning for future needs, I do care, a lot. Because individuals will find a hard life waiting for them if they don’t plan. I see it all too often. They land in Medicaid nursing homes. And it’s tragic.
Recently, I helped steer an important report on the topic of aging. We called it America Has a Major Misconception on Aging. We interviewed 44 thought leaders in senior care. The four questions we asked:
Why is there a drastic difference in people’s perception vs reality of future aging care?
What are the consequences for not being prepared?
How would you close the discrepancy gap?
What advice do you have for consumers about their future care needs?
The replies and suggestions are golden and consumers would benefit by paying close attention and following their advice.
“People equate aging and long term care with death and defeat.”
“Care has been driven by crisis management versus proactive and preventative care.”
“If you are prepared, you can choose the care you receive. If you are unprepared, care is chosen for you.”
“The entire family can be wiped out financially, emotionally, and otherwise. That’s a high price to pay for keeping your head in the sand.”
“Most people don’t have enough money to pay for long-term care out-of-pocket, but have too much money to qualify for Medicaid.”
“Most people falsely believe Medicare will cover the costs of long term care services they will need.”
“Long term care needs to get more mainstream media attention, and not just the risks, but the consequences of aging.”
“Have consistent talks with your family about your long term care plan and maintain the ongoing dialogue.”
“Include long term care as part of your retirement planning. Begin saving and preparing for those needs.”
Getting the general public to face their future need for care is the biggest struggle most elder care professionals run up against. And the struggle intensifies each year since the number of people turning 65 broadens. I could bury my head and ignore this grave issue. But since most people do that, I’m choosing the opposite. I asked 44 senior care authorities to help me find solutions.
They complied. Read what they predict and what they suggest to deliver us from the anguish of aging.
Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and healthcare market. She advocates older adults and family caregivers. Read her work at AssistedLivingFacilities.org and SeniorCare.com. Find her on LinkedIn and contact her at Carol@SeniorCare.com.