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Home Sweet Home: Helping Clients Navigate Where to Live for a Lifetime

mutli-generation family greeting on front porch

Executive Summary

The age boom in America is causing seismic shifts in what we think of as “old age.” There is no better example of the exponential increase in longevity than to look at the numbers of the population over age 85—the fastest growing age group in our society. This demographic cohort numbering 122,000 in 1900 grew 34 times its size to 4.3 million in just 100 years. By 2030, those age 85+ are expected to more than double, growing to 8.7 million people and then double again to 19 million between 2030 and 2050 representing 24 percent of the older adult population.1

One of the most fundamental issues facing this silver tsunami of older adults is how to address where and how communities and individual homes will be able to support the needs of an aging society. This includes extending independence and optimal wellness so that lifespan aligns with healthspanand wealthspan.

Our society tends to look at its older adult population as a homogenous group yet we know there is no one-size-fits-all equation when it comes to this aging demographic. Some people in their 50s and 60s can be battling debilitating chronic illness and disability making even the daily functions of eating, dressing and bathing challenging while others who reach the centenarian club of age 100 are reasonably active, cognitively agile and able to manage rather independently. In the context of aging, our chronological age does not always translate to our individual needs of support. And, we know health issues can be episodic, chronic or progressive changing our care needs over time. Whether it is a hip replacement requiring a short stay in assisted living for proper rehabilitation and care support; managing long-term hypertension, arthritis or diabetes; or addressing the degenerative condition of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis; all of these require different levels of assistance at different times.

The positive news is that the choices of where and how to live as we age are also growing exponentially. A new way of looking at retirement communities, assisted living and nursing homes is transforming what was once a place to be avoided at all costs into not just an acceptable choice but a welcome change for many seniors. Technology and the concept of universal design are also disrupting aging stereotypes and allowing us to turn our homes into livable environments for our lifespans. As well, the “livable community” movement is driving adaptation in our communities—whether in urban, suburban or rural areas—and offering insights into why people in Marin County, California; Carver County, Minnesota and Bergen County, New Jersey live on average 10 years longer than people in Quitman County, Mississippi and Union County, Florida or why residents in the Roland Heights neighborhood of Baltimore will live on average to age 84 which is 14 years longer than their neighbors in Clifton Park only 4.5 miles away.2

Home Sweet Home – Helping Clients Navigate Where to Live for a Lifetime is created by First Clearing in collaboration with Sherri Snelling, a noted gerontologist and expert on aging and caregiving, to provide advisors a guide into the myriad of options, considerations and conversations for where and how to live as we grow older.

1Administration on Aging, Statistics on Population Growth U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, D.C.
2Kubendran, S., Soll, L., Irving, P., (2017) Best cities for successful aging. Milken Institute Center for the Future on Aging, Santa Monica, Calif.

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