I spent some of my elementary and junior high school years in portable classrooms while the state scrambled to build enough schools to educate the Baby Boom Generation. Now a tidal wave of aging Boomers has reached our shores, the Silver Tsunami, and the state is once again scrambling to try to deal with us.
One of those ways is the new WA Cares Fund, a first-in-the-nation public insurance program aimed at helping aging seniors pay for long term care. How well the program will work remains to be seen, and it will undoubtedly be revised, postponed or litigated. But no matter the outcome, at least it acknowledges the problem and takes a step, faltering though it may be, toward addressing it.
One of the WA Cares Fund goals is to encourage and help people to stay in their homes for as long as possible. The fund is projected to save $3.9 billion (with a B) in state Medicaid costs by 2052.
Aging in place — the idea that seniors can and should stay in their homes for as long as possible, even dying there — now seems to be the most popular option for elder care. Its popularity is based on a number of suppositions: It’s the least expensive option, seniors are most comfortable in familiar surroundings, it gives family members a chance to chip in and help, it’s the least disruptive, some seniors throw a fit if they have to move, and who wants to move anyway?
There are lots of resources available to those who want to live out their years in their homes.
Senior centers provide community, education, health care, counseling, and meals.
Churches provide community, spiritual support, and services.
Food banks and Meals on Wheels are there with food and meals for those in need.
In addition to Meals on Wheels, Homage Senior Care of Snohomish County provides exceptional services for seniors and those with disabilities.
Grocery stores now provide food delivery, often at no extra cost. Just go online and set up an account. Don’t know how to do that? Ask your senior center for computer help.
Transportation services such as Uber and Lyft provide convenient transportation (provided you have help from a teenager to set up your cell phone).
Affinity groups such as walking organizations, quilting groups and book clubs keep tabs on and look after their members.
Condo associations, believe it or not. HOAs are now predominantly made up of seniors, and they can provide services and resources for their residents.
Fire departments and EMS devote a large percentage of their time and resources to the aging populations. Our local South County Fire will even inspect your home and advise on fall protection, for free.
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For those of us who grew up watching the Jetsons, we don’t have flying cars yet, but we do have robots. There are robots now that vacuum your floor. The technology is very good and getting better. Amazon has just introduced Astro, a household robot. While Astro may not walk the dog, or cook your dinner like Rosey, it will follow you around, playing TV shows, displaying information, making video calls, keeping tabs on you, and reminding you to eat your vegetables. Oh, brave new world that has such wonders in it!
Aging is place is a good option for most of us.
Or is it? Maybe it’s not the most cost effective after all. Maybe it’s the most expensive option. Maybe it doesn’t bring families together; rather it exposes fault lines that rip them apart. Maybe it subjects seniors to exploitation and abuse.
Part 2 of this series discusses the pitfalls of aging in place and why caution is required. Part 3 looks at the other housing and care options available, The Senior Housing Continuum of Care.
— By Ralph Sanders