Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Detroit

The Senior Tsunami

By a show of hands, how many of you are getting older? Look around the places you visit, eat or vacation – we’re all aging! A recent study showed that women first think about aging at 29, but men don’t until age 58. Women start to perceive themselves as old when they don't feel trendy or fashionable, while the majority of men are much more career oriented and don't feel old until they've reached retirement age.

The elderly population - those aged 65 years or older - in the United States is expected to double from approximately 35 million today to more than 70 million by 2030. For a person 45 years old, that will impact his or her parents, that person, and that person’s children who may have to offer some assistance. Every American will be impacted by this coming situation.

The world has always had older people, but an approaching situation like this is akin to the housing market collapse or even the banks not having enough money. The Romans lived to be 33 years of age. By 1900, 19 centuries later, life expectancy had only extended 12 years. In the 20th Century it increased 33 years. Life expectancy rose rapidly in the twentieth century due to improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine. And in 1995, for the first time, more people died of chronic disease than of acute disease. Future predictions suggest fewer people entering hospitals and those that do will spend less time there. It’s like the perfect storm. The earthquake has hit, and the wave is headed for the coast. It’s the “Senior Tsunami”.

What impact is that having on all of us? It is estimated that 25% of the U.S. population today spends 20 hours a week caring for their parents, and over the next decade that will rise to 60%.  Currently, about 10% of the people caring for their parents are also providing financial assistance for their parent’s care, while supporting adult children. That’s why they are affectionately called the “sandwich generation”.

To prevent a catastrophe from happening, or to avoid the “Senior Tsunami”, every family should have a plan of action. The first step is to anticipate and know the signs and symptoms of common disabilities that accompany aging, including:

The second step is to become better educated through workshops to know about available options:

Finally, the third step is to create a plan for acute problems and chronic problems that are likely to occur. The key is for the entire family to understand the aging process and know when it is time to intervene on the parents or grandparents behalf. If people anticipate, educate and plan they will be able to enjoy each phase of life.

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