Thursday, January 11, 2007

Senior Concerns: Things we Need to Think About

According to the web site ("50 Plus Everything") longevity calculator, I'm expected to live to age 98. I doubt that, and the idea brings concerns about quality of life at such an advanced age (case in point: my 95-year-old mother, but that's another story). Anyway, the idea of such a long life made two articles in the January 2007 AARP Bulletin catch my attention.

"Forced from an apartment to a double room--is this fair housing?" by Barbara Basler tells about Sally Herriot, a retired math teacher, whose California retirement community is trying to move her from her apartment to a "hospital-like room in its assisted living section." Sally, "an active 88-year-old who often goes to the opera and subscribes to Economist magagine," admits to hiring private help with a few unspecified tasks, but strongly objects to moving from a comfortable one-bedroom apartment to a small double room (both are pictured, and the difference is obvious). She has filed a law suit to stop the move.

Could this be me in fourteen years or so? If I move into my new high rise two-bedroom retirement community apartment in two or three years, as planned, can I be forced into the community's assisted living section before I need major help?

According to Herriot's lawyer, federal law lets people hire the aides they need to live independently without fear of eviction. "Hiring help is not a signal that a resident is ready for assisted living or a nursing home."

In Sally Herriot's case, the community can gain about $500,000 in new fees by placing someone else in her apartment. Is this fair? How often does this happen? I need to find out more about lifetime care communities before I move into one. Who makes these difficult decisions?

In "Who Will Care for You?" Robert N. Butler, M.D., president of the International Longevity Center--USA, discusses another scary problem. "By 2030 the United States will need between 5.7 million and 6.6 million caregivers." In 20 years, one-fifth of all Americans will be over 65. With hard work, low pay, no health care benefits, unpleasant working conditions, and little chance for advancement, who wants caregiving jobs?

In the unlikely case that I'm still alive in 2030, and probably earlier, I may need major help. I'm not worried yet, but we definitely need to think about upgrading those important caregiving jobs. Most of us are likely to need help some day. Who will care for us?

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