By Hannah Reimann
According to the Institute on Aging, the number of seniors across the country will grow by more than 40 million, doubling between 2015 and 2050 and the population older than 85 will come close to tripling. By 2030, more than 28 states will witness a fifth of their populations being older than 65.
The fastest growing age group of elders is 85+. In 2010 the number had grown to 5.5 million from 100,000 in 1900. By 2050, the number of people age 85+ will reach 19 million, 5% of the total population. Of the older adults living outside nursing homes in 2010, nearly one-third lived alone.
There are many more staggering statistics and all point to the same concern: As a society we need to implement solutions before the conditions catch up with all of us and cripple families financially. The workforce to help seniors needs to be refashioned.
Last year, WestView News published several articles about caregiving and the concept of Senior Share housing. In the West Village we are also witnessing a housing crisis. Single people, couples and families who have lived here for years are often forced out of their homes due to rent hikes, just like neighborhood businesses that have closed. Matching people of any age under 65 who need housing with seniors who need care could create win-win situations with proper screening.
More and more Village single seniors are trapped in rent-controlled apartments that they cannot afford to leave. They have no desire to move out even if they desperately need care. They love the Village and cannot imagine living anywhere else. There are also wealthy and middle-income empty-nester elders who have larger places. In some cases, their adult children move back in to care for them. In others, their adult children live far away and cannot become live-in caregivers for them.
Successful home share programs like that of The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, Elderhelp in San Diego, California, and numerous other organizations and businesses have track records of helping seniors to find younger roommates in organized and legitimate ways. Visiting Angels, a national home care service, offers professional services for those at home. When a higher level of care is needed, a home-share companion’s responsibilities are usually supplemented with someone who can bathe, assist in dressing and other personal care.
There are horror stories about seniors who have lost property, been misled by corrupt eldercare lawyers, those who have enlisted the help of younger people, subjecting them to inadequate conditions including non-working toilets and mouse-infested apartments that haven’t been renovated in decades. Some companions and home health aides exploit their patients by stealing from them and taking advantage of them. Some elders abuse their relatives or live-in help. In spite of these problems, progress must be made for everyone as the population of seniors grows. The sooner we set up multiple structures that help and protect people, the more stable our futures will be.
WestView would like to appeal to its readers, again, in an effort to start a small outreach program for those in need of care and those in need of housing to create a local Senior Share housing project, learning from successful models we know about.
If needed, we will make the effort to partner with a known organization to legitimize the application and enrollment process and to save time.
We could start by pairing one qualified applicant with a senior who needs part-time help and companionship. WestView will hold two meetings, on separate days, one for seniors and one for companions, to discuss ideas with those interested.
Thank you to all the people who wrote to firstname.lastname@example.org and who have expressed interest in a home sharing program. We will be in touch with you, again. This email address remains active for potential companions, host elders and any family members or friends who would like to participate or inquire.