The annual Governor’s Centenarians Brunch is certainly a reason to celebrate. Reaching one’s 100th birthday is an impressive milestone, and these men and women are valuable sources of living history. We should heed their advice and listen to their stories now, because they don’t call them the Greatest Generation for nothing.
The growing number of seniors in Rhode Island is also a positive indicator of the population’s overall health. The 2010 Census revealed that Rhode Island is home to more than 210,000 people age 60 and older – or 19 percent of the population. With 25,000 of those individuals age 85 and older, Rhode Island has more seniors on a per capita basis over the age of 85 than any other state in the nation.
We must be doing something right.
According to the Administration on Aging, that something is likely our approach to caring for seniors. Nationwide, and here in Rhode Island, there has been an increasing emphasis on aging in place. Aging in place advocates aim to strengthen community supports. Keeping seniors engaged – something that Johnston does exceptionally well with its active Senior Center – has quantitative benefits. Hence this year’s Older Americans Month theme of “Never too old to play.” If seniors are active and social, they are far more likely to be healthy and to age in place successfully.
In order to allow seniors to age independently longer, we must also promote preventative medical care (a crucial component of health care reform) and equip homes with the universal design principles that keep seniors safe at home.
“That’s one of our major goals, is to keep seniors within the community,” said Gene Brown from the regional Administration on Aging office.
So whether you’re getting older, or concerned about an aging parent, the key to aging in place is planning. According to research by AARP, nearly 90 percent of seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age. We should respect those wishes, and the best way to do that is to put supports in place now. Don’t wait for an emergency to address these issues, no matter how difficult they are to discuss. No one wants to admit they are getting older and may need help, but it’s far better to prepare for the worst now.
Meet with an elder law attorney to make sure you or your parents’ assets are protected. Should you need to relocate to a nursing home or assisted living facility, there will be a five-year look back on your assets, so making necessary home improvements and setting aside funds for upcoming projects should happen sooner rather than later. On the medical front, consolidate your medical information with an electronic health record, and look into participating in a medical home system of care, where all of an individual’s doctors come together to deliver a coordinated approach to care. Walk through your home and consider what obstacles you could face down the line. Lever door handles, rocker light switches with backlights, walk-in showers, removable showerheads and ramps are all small improvements that could make a big difference when your mobility is impacted by age.
Long-term care planning results in reduced health care costs for everyone – you and the state – not to mention a greatly improved quality of life. So if you’re angling for an invite to the Centenarians Brunch, make sure you’re taking care of yourself and making smart choices.
Sometimes it takes more than an apple a day.