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Elderly Independent Living In The 21st Century

Based on the 2000 Census it is estimated that by the year 2020 the senior
population - people aged 65 and older -- in the United States will grow to almost
53 million. Moreover, by 2030 the population of people aged 75 and older will be
roughly 30 million, and those aged 85 and older will be approximately 8 million.

People are living longer and the types and levels of care they need are growing
and changing as well. A term that most Baby Boomers will come to appreciate is:
"Aging in Place" (AIP). AIP is the concept that older adults can, transitional living
program for young adults and should remain in the environment of their choice
and receive supportive health services as needed.

AIP is overwhelmingly the preferred choice for elderly independent living. A


survey showed that over 80% of people would prefer to remain in their homes
and receive in-home care as needed. Leaving the home would mean a loss of
comfort, familiarity and many cherished memories. But, most importantly, leaving
the home signals a major loss of control. Control over environment and
independence is directly linked to self-image, dignity and quality of life.

It has been shown that independence increases longevity. All around the country,
services are popping up to provide coordinated services to help seniors keep their
independence, transitional living center and remain in their homes as long as
possible. Just as there is a wide range of needs amongst seniors, there is an ever-
growing number of services designed to meet those needs. Services can range
from shopping and delivery to meal preparation and medication monitoring to
full-time in-home medical care and everything in between.

In addition to day-to-day assistance there are also AIP remodeling and design
services that can help to make a home more senior friendly. There are legal
services that combine an attorney, registered nurse, licensed social worker,
government benefit specialist and support staff together to develop and
implement a life care plan tailored to the client's individual needs.

As with saving for and planning retirement, planning for AIP is something that is
best done before the services are actually needed. AIP planning means
customizing housing and healthcare programs, identifying family, friends and
neighbors as support networks and then supplementing those support networks
with public or private services as needed.
However, it's not too late to take advantage of services offered if you didn't start
planning for AIP when you planned for retirement. There are many services,
public, transitional living program and private, non-profit and for-profit, available
to make AIP possible for seniors of all income levels. Medicare and Medicaid
provide for certain home-health services. There are numerous organizations
across the country that have come up with innovative models for providing a full
spectrum of services to seniors, allowing them to maintain full-active lifestyles
and engage in community activities.
Make Independent Living Fuller With Intergenerational
Bonding Opportunities
In the past, adolescents and their elders shared hobbies and vocations, crossed
paths, and meaningfully interacted in communities that upheld intergenerational
values. Rifts in technological comprehension, shifts in community demographics
and family structure, and even urbanization have led to the isolation of
populations separated by age. Though intergenerational contact has been on the
decline in the last few decades, new programs throughout the US, within and
beyond independent living facilities, have sought to reintegrate youth and elders
into common spaces. Research tells of the mutual benefits of bringing these
populations together to improve the quality of life for both while challenging the
negative effects, transitional living programs for young women and stereotypes
of ageism. These programs go far beyond simply volunteering a handful of hours
per week at independent living centers to include creative uses of technology,
mutually advantageous cohabitation opportunities, and urban renewal projects. It
is important for retirees engaging in independent living to forge bonds outside of
their home community.

Interconnectivity with Technology

Intergenerational programs have become increasingly creative with the use of


technology such as Skype. Younger generations are now able to connect and
communicate with seniors to learn new languages. This online platform gives
language learners a novel opportunity to speak with experienced seniors, who are
often more prone to feelings of isolation. Elsewhere, teens and the elderly are
being convened in digital learning environments to share and preserve oral
histories. Collaboratively produced and recorded in myriad digital and analog
formats, these stories become modes of meaningful connection between the
generation of LOL and yesteryear. Such programs are even facilitated by major
universities such as Pennsylvania State's Center for Digital Storytelling. Finally, in
regions where local dialects were once prevalent, language-learning programs in
which elders are put in the role of teacher emphasize language preservation and
continuance among youth.

Person-to-Person Interaction

Recently independent living facilities have also offered to opportunity for college-
age student to dorm in their quarters with little to no expenses when they spend
a portion of their time interacting with their senior counterparts. Outside of this
model, new art programs have integrated high school students with retirees in
public art programs to create murals, independent living program and mosaics.
The art of creation and of settling on common artistic themes becomes a point of
confluence and a channel for communicating shared beliefs while bringing
together diverse aesthetic tastes. Urban gardening projects offer a similar mode
of bonding in which an extended project, such as growing crops, can lead to
opportunities for physical activity as well as extended dialog among participants.
In both cases, having a finished product can lead to feelings of productivity while
creating educative environments in non-traditional and more informal settings.
Cooking classes are excellent arenas for learning and connectivity giving those
advanced in age a chance to share particular family recipes or specific cultural
foods. Adolescent participants not only absorb this knowledge, but can also help
in the safe preparation of meals. The process of making and sharing a meal leads
to storytelling, social intimacy, and feelings of self-worth.