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Aging in place – what goes around comes around -- maybe

Aging in place – the latest trend. Rant on.  People want to age in place – just ask them, as AARP did in 2018.  Of course, in the not-cited part of that survey, only 59% expected to be able to do so. Little did they know that a pandemic was coming, that visiting with aging family would become a nightmare – with people unable to see their relatives for many months.  The death rates from Covid-19 (or with Covid-19) of seniors in nursing homes and assisted living were horrific on the one hand and daunting to prospective move-ins.  So by late 2020, EVERYBODY wants to age in place – an unprecedented trend, says Rock Health – and health innovators have taken note.

Aging in place forever – the concept.  When this blog was launched in 2008, the Wikipedia definition of aging in place was described as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) -- the ability to move from independent living to assisted to skilled nursing. Logging into Wikipedia, it was possible to get into a tug-of-war about the definition.  By 2013,  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got their hands on the definition -- aging in place as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level."  That enabled adding four categories of useful technology, copied from a Market Overview.

Aging in place for a while – the reality.   There are 54 million people aged 65+ in the US.    Of those, 22 million are aged 75+ -- possible candidates to move from their homes, but likely they will try to age in place.  But of these older adults, 6.5 million are aged 85+ -- not surprisingly the approximate move-in age to senior living – 1.4 million reside in nursing homes and approximately 800,000 living in senior living communities (average resident age is 87).   So one-third of the 85+ are not, actually, aging in place.  Many have dementia or are frail and wheelchair bound due to other health issues.

Covid-19 fear has worsened concerns and possibly judgement. Senior living occupancy dropped to just 79.5% in August 2020.  No doubt, some family members brought their relatives home or delayed a planned move-in.  For seniors who are forced to stay in their rooms, prevented from seeing family members due to Covid-19 fears – instead they are faced with another health risk -- loneliness. But are seniors better off in homes that have two stories and stairs, where the adult children have full-time – work-at-home or not – jobs and children in school or at home? Can families handle the responsibility for dementia or wound care, toileting and bathing, and do they have the training to do these tasks? The needs of the oldest are not well-understood, and perhaps not well-considered either by investor audiences of Rock Health -- or families.  Rant off.  


The jury is still out....Who can actually know ?