Discussion On Perceptions of Aging

"Why is there a drastic difference in people's perceptions of aging versus reality?" This was the question recently put to 44 experts in the field of aging by SeniorCare.com. They compiled these responses to produce the report, American's Misconception On Aging. CARR was one of the contributors, alongside Dr. Bill Thomas, the SCAN Foundation and the American Health Care Association.  Below are some of the key findings and an excerpt from our contribution.  The entire report may be viewed here.

Key Findings included:

  • People are in denial over aging and what comes along with it.
  • The reality of aging is not a powerful enough motivator until it hits close to home.
  • There is not enough discussion on what long term care is.  It's not just "nursing home".

"While the trajectory of aging for any individual is unpredictable, advanced age makes all of us vulnerable and being vulnerable can be quite a scary concept.  But more intimidating than simply reaching advanced ages, is to specifically discuss aging in terms of long-term care.  Needing long-term care signifies a major step towards end of life, something a great many of us would prefer to postpone or ignore altogether.  This understandably creates an aversion to pre-planning for our long-term care needs but we submit that given the current “Greying of America”, this drastic discrepancy between perception and reality could be considered a mere structural lag to be narrowed over time.

Greater Need, Greater Options, Greater Awareness

In previous decades, those 75+ represented less than 4% of the population and to fill the need for long-term care meant largely two things: (1) living out one’s days in a family home or (2) nursing home care.  Fast forward to present day, however, and we find a number of influences that are changing this status quo.  Gains in life expectancy (the 75+ cohort is now 6% of the population), the baby boom bubble, the sandwich generation and significant advances in medicine, technology, policy and, even financial investments, are swiftly bringing us to a point where we now have far more elderly with far more options. 

This is the first time in American history where we, as a nation, are experiencing the realities of long-term care forced upon our everyday lives in such volume.  This momentum and pressure is simultaneously affecting both perceived and real need.  For instance, as the 76.4 million baby boomers watch their parents’ age, experiencing firsthand the ups and downs, they will be compelled to consider their own care and comfort in later life.  As more well-educated women become caregivers and need care themselves, they will most likely take to coordinating their final years as meticulously as they coordinated their families and careers.  And, as senior services and associated marketing campaigns abound, savvy consumers will increasingly understand the need for due diligence in order to ensure their safety and satisfaction." 

We encourage you to take a look at the report and to share it as a tool to start discussions within your network.  (CARR's entire contribution can be found under the Senior Advocates section.)