By now, you’ve probably heard the
statistics: 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day,
in less than three years, by the year 2020, there will
be more people over the age of 65 than school age
children. This is the first time in Minnesota history
that seniors will outnumber children.
The senior population is increasing faster
than it ever has and seniors are living longer than
ever before. Here in Minnesota, we are the land of
10,000 lakes. Now, imagine if we added 10,000 more
lakes every single day. We’d have a big issue pretty
quickly, wouldn’t we?
The problem we’re facing with the rapidly
growing senior population is a lack of preparation.
There aren’t enough caregivers. Housing is a major
issue, as is healthcare and the importance of
supporting organizations that provide affordable
resources that support senior independence is being
solution to this issue is simple: provide more
resources for seniors to
age in place. The reality is that it’s cheaper to
provide resources to seniors to help them remain
independent than it is to put them in a nursing home.
A 2012 study of 39 nursing home residents and 39
independently living seniors found that the total cost
to Medicare and Medicaid were $1,591.61 lower per
month for the independently living seniors over a
Part of the lack of readiness to support the
growing senior population is society’s persistent
Ageist perspective. Often time’s seniors are pushed
aside and treated as second rate citizens, having
their value to society consistently undermined simply
because of their age despite their years of experience
and knowledge. In fact, studies have proven that quite
the opposite is true. Nonprofit, Generations
shares that the regular presence of seniors helps
improve the reading scores of children, provide a
positive attitude toward aging, improve communication
and problem-solving skills, and more. The Ageist
perception that society holds has blinded us to the
many beneficial and productive ways seniors give back
to our communities. It has created a lack of empathy
towards the needs of seniors, which has all but
stripped away the true urgency of the matter.
Ageism is one of the largest obstacles in
creating a solution to this fast approaching issue.
Solutions cannot be created for a problem no one
believes exists. The first step we need to take as a
society is to make a shift in our thinking and how we
view those older than ourselves. We need to see the
value in our older citizens and appreciate the wisdom
they have to offer.
Changing the conversation surrounding
seniors may be the first step, but it is no doubt one
of the most difficult. While it’s easy to be
disheartened by the attitude our society holds towards
seniors, there are steps you can take right now to see
real, actionable, and immediate change.
One very actionable step you can take is to contact
your local congressman and inform them about this
important matter. Another, similar step, is to
participate in days of action. LeadingAge Minnesota
will be holding a Day at the Capital on March 30th.
This event is an opportunity for individuals to let
their voice be heard in support of Minnesota seniors
and those who care for them.
Another step, to take matters into your own
hands, is to donate to an organization that provides
these much needed resources to seniors. They say
“money talks”. By making a financial contribution to
an organization, you have the opportunity to make
yours speak for the change you want to see happen.
There are numerous worthy organizations: Senior
Community Services, Meals on Wheels, and local Senior
Centers, just to name a few. Financially supporting
these organizations will help them to grow and expand
their services, so that all Minnesota seniors can have
access to the resources they need.
It’s time we stop talking about what needs to happen
and start taking real steps to make it happen for the
sake of our seniors and our community.
Taylor is CEO of Senior Community Services and its
Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that advocates
for older adults and helps seniors and caregivers
maintain their independence through free or low-cost
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