Can America afford to age in place?

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Joe Zlomek/Freeimages

While many people, including myself, would prefer to age in place, for financially strapped communities throughout America, the trend is straining limited resources.

An article about my mother’s home state of Tennessee and its struggle to care for a rapidly growing older population is a scenario taking place in many states. Many state, county and city budgets are already overwhelmed with issues ranging from high unemployment to the opioid epidemic. I read one article that said older people calling 911 due to falls at home was straining EMS budgets. While the federal government contributes money to elder care each year via the Older Americans Act, it’s simply not enough to address the needs of a growing elder population.

In Tennessee, thousands of older people are on waiting lists for government assistance programs. The organizations do the best they can, but those cited in the article said more resources are needed, and officials are going to have to address the issue soon.

Transportation was listed as a major issue. While some older people may be physically healthy and not need in-home assistance, they may no longer be able to drive and need transportation options to maintain their quality of life and independence. This of course was an issue for my parents. Thankfully, they did have a county-funded shuttle service that they used for years. (Most county officials were against the idea of the shuttle, however. Its funding is always on the verge of being cut.)

Meal delivery was another major need. The meal delivery service also serves as a status check on the older person, so it has a dual purpose. For those in rural areas, this can be a lifeline.

In Tennessee, supporting someone staying in their home costs $3,000-$15,000 annually, while putting a person in a facility costs over $50,000 annually. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see what is the financially efficient solution. Unfortunately, the federal  government has not been proactive in addressing the issue. Tennessee reports some success at the state level, working with community organizations.

Has your community addressed aging in place issues? I’d love to hear about programs that are working in your area.

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