Senior Citizen Population in U.S. to Double in 20 Years

Senior Citizen Population in U.S. to Double in 20 Years: Boomers Fuel Growth; Nation Multi-Colored

Census Bureau releases two reports about older people in the United States; Pew Research finds nation also becoming multi-colored.


May 6, 2014 – The nation’s 65-and-older population is projected to reach 83.7 million in the year 2050, almost double in size from the 2012 level of 43.1 million, according to two reports released today from the U.S. Census Bureau. A large part of this growth is due to the aging of baby boomers (individuals born in the United States between mid-1946 and mid-1964), who began turning 65 in 2011 and are now driving growth at the older ages of the population.

The first new report, An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States, looks at the demographic changes to the 65-and-older population that will comprise 21 percent of the U.S. population in 2050 and the impact that these changes will have on the composition of the total population.

A second report, The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060, focuses on the shifting size and structure of the baby boom population. These briefs use data from the 2012 national projections of the U.S. population.

“The United States is projected to age significantly over this period, with 20 percent of its population age 65 and over by 2030,” said Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch.

“Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape.”

Census Bureau statistics have already shown growth in health care-related industries. In 2011, the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns statistics showed the health care and social assistance sector as one of the largest in the U.S. with about 819,000 establishments.

This sector includes home and health care services, community care facilities for the older population, and continuing care retirement communities, which all showed an increase of 20 percent or more in their number of employees between 2007 and 2011. New 2012 County Business Patterns statistics will be available by the end of May.

In addition, the Census Bureau’s recent release of population estimates showed The Villages, Fla. – home to a large retirement community – was the nation’s fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013.

Older Population Growing More Diverse

Although the older population is not as racially and ethnically diverse as the younger population, it is projected to experience a substantial increase in diversity over the next four decades.

•   The 65-and-older population is projected to be 39.1 percent minority in 2050, up from 20.7 percent in 2012

•   The 85-and-older population is projected to be 29.7 percent minority in 2050, up from 16.3 percent in 2012

Other findings include:

In 2012, there were 22 people 65 and older for every 100 working-age people in the U.S. By comparison, in 2030, there will be 35 people 65 and older for every 100 working-age people. This means there will be approximately three working-age people for every person 65 and older.

•   After 2030, the number of people 65 and older for every 100 working-age people in the U.S continues to increase slightly to 36 by 2050.

•   The proportion of the total population 65 and older is projected to increase in all developed countries between 2012 and 2030.Although the United States is projected to age over this period, it will remain one of the younger developed countries with only 20 percent of its population 65 and over in 2030.

Baby Boomers

The majority of the growth in the 65-and-older population is projected to occur between 2012 and 2030 as the baby boomers enter the older age group.

•   When the first of the baby boomers turned 65 in 2011, there were just under 77 million people in the baby boom ages.

•   The baby boom population is projected to drop to 60 million by 2030 and to only 2.4 million by 2060.

•   By 2060, the youngest baby boomers will be 96 years old.

•   In 2012, baby boomers comprised 24.3 percent of the U.S. population.

•   As baby boomers age, their share of the population is projected to decrease to 16.7 percent in 2030 and 3.9 percent in 2050.

Although the baby boom population will decline in the coming decades through mortality, trends in fertility, mortality, and international migration will sustain the proportion of the population in the older ages within the U.S.

Declines in births will lead to slower growth at the youngest ages, while decreases in mortality rates result in longer life expectancies and increases in the number of people living longer, resulting in growth of the 65-and-older population.

About the 2012 National Population Projections

The Population Projections Program produces projections of the U.S. resident population by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin for July 1, 2012, to July 1, 2060. The 2012 national projections are based on the 2010 Census and official estimates for July 1, 2011.

The projections were produced using a cohort-component method and are based on assumptions about future births, deaths and net international migration. These reports include projected data for 2013 to 2060, with the Census Bureau’s official population estimates used for 2012. When both estimates and projections are available, as is the case for 2012, estimates are the preferred data.


When is it time to take car keys from elderly drivers?

When is it time to take car keys from elderly drivers?

Ray Kolpacki has spent a lifetime taking care of his home, his family and a girl named Sally he met at a Detroit bowling alley nearly six decades ago.

Suggest to the 80-year-old that it might be time to hang up the car keys for good, and well, it’s not going to go over well.

“It’s a death sentence,” said the former GM worker whose Westland neighborhood is street after street after street of homes.

Without his 1998 Buick, the Kolpackis will be cut off from Kroger, their doctors, church, and her Friday morning hair appointments.

Related: Options for seniors who don’t drive: ‘Mobility is fundamental to happiness’

“You know what I’d do if I couldn’t drive?” he barks from inside his home, with a nod to a living room recliner. “I’d go sit down right there in that chair and die.”

With America’s 65-and-over population set to double by 2050, senior advocates, car companies and government agencies are working on new strategies to keep folks driving longer and safely so they remain independent and avoid the depression and loneliness that can develop after the keys are taken away.

The increased risks and potential solutions will be examined at the four-day 2014 North American Conference on Elderly Mobility starting Sunday at the downtown Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

The Kolpackis are among seniors in metro Detroit, the eldest of whom — according to research — may be at increased risk when they get behind the wheel. When calculated by miles traveled, the risk of dying in an accident increases noticeably at 70 to 74 years old, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute.

In 2012, 4,079 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes — possibly an indication of the frailty of an aged driver or passenger as much as a change in driving skill. At crash speeds of just over 31 m.p.h., a 50-year-old female has about a 10% risk of a serious injury in a frontal crash, but an 80-year-old female has about a 40% risk, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Crash statistics show senior drivers are also more involved in certain types of accidents, mostly involving left-hand turns that cross traffic.

Older Americans are not disproportionately represented among crashes overall, according to the National Safety Council and NHTSA.

They’re less likely to be involved in drunken driving accidents or in crashes involving bad weather, for example. But some experts argue the numbers don’t paint a full picture because senior drivers, especially those who don’t rack up work miles, drive so much less than others. And they’re less likely to drive in inclement weather or after dark.

Videos: At 80, Westland driver says there’s no need to turn over the keys | ITN Metro Detroit gives rides to the elderly

The problem may be a layering of aging problems, not the least of which is the slower mental processing of an older adult, said Cathy Lysack, occupational therapist and researcher at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology.

Consider the mental processes involved with a left turn, a particularly dangerous maneuver for older adults, according to the research.

A driver must receive and interpret visual stimuli from a stop sign or traffic signal, scan the visual field, determine what’s relevant, dismiss what’s not …

… assess direction and speed of multiple objects moving in different directions, operate a turn signal and steering wheel, apply precisely the proper pressure to brake and gas …

… Continue checking mirrors.

“And what if something major or unexpected happens?” Lysack said. “That’s when there’s not much of a buffer left. That’s where that younger driver might be able to react a tiny bit faster to avoid the accident, but the older adult has the accident in the exact same circumstances.”

65 and older to double by 2050

The concern will only grow.

The nation’s 65-and-older population is projected to reach 83.7 million in 2050, almost double from the 2012 level of 43.1 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In southeast Michigan, where mass transportation is fragmented at best and practically non-existent in other places, seniors understandably hang onto the keys for as long as possible, Lysack at Wayne State said.

And like other seniors, the Kolpackis compensate.

Macular degeneration means he doesn’t drive in bad weather or after dark.

And other drivers seem to be so impatient these days, he said. So they’ve begun to avoid expressways and rush hour, too.

“Life is getting to a standstill,” said Celine (Sally) Kolpacki.

‘I’ll have no life’

People often ask to speak to Dr. Alan Dengiz — privately — in the hallway.

As a professor and geriatrician at the University of Michigan, Dengiz often knows what’s coming. Can’t he just take away Mom’s keys? they want to know. Doesn’t he think Dad needs to park the car for good?

But losing a driver’s license means isolation and a loss of dignity — things that other research shows leads to depression and health problems.

So Dengiz isn’t going to rush such a decision.

Among the tests he gives is a “trail making test,” in which a patient must connect letters and numbers in alternating ascending order: 1-A-2-B-3-C and so on. The speed at which the patient connects the points offers clues to how well he or she can think and react on the roadway.

More often than not, he said, the senior agrees to limit driving to familiar places with low speed limits or to daylight hours — a compromise that satisfies all for the time being, he said.

But although Dengiz and other doctors don’t have the authority to take away drivers licenses, they do — like family members or law enforcement — have the ability to alert the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office that a driver needs to be retested.

Sometimes, it’s simply no longer safe to be behind the wheel, he said.

“I’ve had people just stand up and walk out of the office and say, ‘You’re crazy and I’m going to continue to drive.’ I’ve had others say, ‘I don’t understand why you’re doing this to me; I’ll have no life,’ ” Dengiz said.

Dave Brown has seen it, too.

He runs the driving school at Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak, where older drivers often can regain driving skills following a stroke, for example. The program is geared for those wanting to “become a safer driver or resume independent driving.”

When that doesn’t happen, the news can be devastating, Brown said.

“Sometimes they say, ‘I might as well kill myself.’ ”

And that leaves doctors, the community and loved ones facing tough decisions.

“It’s complicated. No one wants anyone to get hurt in an accident that was preventable,” Lysack said. “On the other hand, it’s very disabling … Loneliness and depression is really, really bad for your health.”


A Wake-Up Fall

A Wake-Up Fall


 If you decide to be proactive in preventing falls, you may need to accept certain changes to your self-image. Some seniors fear that putting up handrails on their stairs, or walking with a cane, might make them “look old”.    But, in fact, a senior who uses a cane is the smart one, choosing to stay independent and healthy.  When Mary slipped on a porch step and twisted her ankle, she faced this choice point.  After a lifetime of doing aerobics and dancing, she was startled to realize how easy it is to fall, and how long it takes to recover.  During the six weeks she was hobbling around and nursing a swollen, tender ankle, she took steps to keep it from  happening again.  Mary now refers to that incident as a “wake-up fall”.

Here are some of the changes she made, based on expert guidelines for preventing falls. The stairs were #1.  The porch steps, that are exposed to weather, were particularly dangerous, so Mary hired a contractor with experience building and installing handrails.  The railing looked great, and was made more secure by a strip of nonskid tape along the top in case of rain or snow.  Because bathtubs and showers are frequent places for falls, Mary bought a nonslip bathtub mat to keep her feet from sliding. She also placed secure grab handles on the shower walls, for a place to hold onto while showering.  Modifying her environment addressed these two most common sites of  “slip and fall” accidents.

When an elder’s balance is impaired, he may be at risk even when walking on a flat surface.  Besides the benefits of balance exercises (as in my last blog entry), many seniors find that a change of footwear is in order.  Slip-on shoes may be convenient, but they don’t provide stability or ankle support.  For seniors with balance problems, canes or walkers can help.  Both are available from medical equipment stores or pharmacies.  Walking with a cane or walker may seem simple, but using it wrong can feel awkward or lead to back pain. A physical therapist can help you find the best way to walk with a support.  In fact, a physical therapist is a great resource for all the steps of preventing falls, from providing feedback on home modifications to developing a custom exercise routine. You can find a physical therapist through a phone book, an internet search, or by asking your doctor’s office.

Avoiding falls is one of the top ways for seniors to remain independent.  Think about the hazards in your environment, and consider ways to avoid them.  Children of seniors can help their parents by speaking up about potential dangers they see and helping to fix them.  Falls are, at the least, painful and embarrassing; they can also be life-threatening and debilitating.  If it seems like  a lot of trouble to change your home around or start a balance exercise routine, think how much trouble a hip fracture would be.


Designs help owners age in place

Designs help owners age in place


INDIANA, Pa. (AP) — “Aging in place” and “universal design” are phrases Curtis Lentz uses to describe an expanding segment of his business — a growing demand for design services, products and remodeling touches developed for people who want to grow older in their homes rather than make the transition to an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Aging in place is a hot niche in the home remodeling industry, and Lentz, owner of Lentz Kitchen & Bath, in Indiana, has watched the demand for special aging-related products and services grow steadily, especially in the past decade.

His business has developed a specialization in serving those needs, and a new showroom being built at the company’s headquarters at 556 Water St. will focus on universal design and aging in place merchandise for the bath and kitchen.

The demand is due in part to an aging population.

Connie Merriman, one of the company’s interior designers, estimates 90 percent of Lentz Kitchen & Bath remodeling projects now include aging in place or universal design touches.

“We’re incorporating a lot of those elements into most projects we do,” she said. “People are starting to approach us and ask about these products.”

Merriman completed training offered by the National Association of Home Builders and is a certified aging in place specialist. She conducts seminars to make seniors and their families aware of even simple things they can do to make home environments safer and more accommodating for residents with mobility limitations.

Universal design and aging in place features are also important and helpful for another segment of the population — those people recovering from surgery or a serious injury or illness.

Lentz said that often when people are well enough to be discharged from a hospital, their doctor will tell family members the patient “cannot go home unless .” What follows the word “unless” is a list of required special features the home must have so the patient can be both mobile and safe.

Helpful remodeling projects may start with a step-free entrance to the home. But there are many other products and touches available to help homeowners with mobility limitations.

Grab bars on bathroom walls and in showers and handrails in hallways can make moving about safer.

Replacing twist/turn doorknobs with lever-style handles — that can even be operated with pressure from the lower arm — can make opening doors easier.

Lower door thresholds and wider doorways may be needed if the resident has to use a wheelchair.

Toilets that are taller, even by a couple inches, are gaining popularity among those with mobility issues and walk-in tubs are making it easier for some people to bathe, Lentz said. Because walk-in tubs take longer to fill with water, heat lamps are making a resurgence in popularity to keep the bather warm while the tub fills.

Helpful changes to a kitchen include lower countertops that are easier to reach from a wheelchair, lower wall ovens, microwave ovens placed under the counter and kitchen cabinets with pull-out shelves and a higher toe space at the floor so wheelchairs can roll in closer.

And Merriman said installing a water faucet above the stove eliminates having to carry heavy water-filled pots from the sink to the stove.

“The whole accessibility and aging in place process requires planning to do it right,” Lentz said, and he recommends getting a certified aging in place specialist involved early in the remodeling planning.

The Lentz interior designers can visit homes and do a needs assessment and then make recommendations on products or renovations to make a home more suitable for someone who can’t move around as well as they once did.

At Lezzer Lumber Company, White Township, Sarah Byers, a bath designer, said some of her customers are seniors who now find it difficult to step over the side of a conventional bath tub and want to remodel their bath with a walk-in shower. Byers said a popular item at Lezzer is a sectional shower unit, complete with grab bar, seat and a hand-held shower head ready for a contractor to assemble and install.

Brycelin Costello said that in her eight years as a kitchen designer at Lezzer she has seen a growing demand for kitchen cabinets designed and built to be more accommodating to residents with limited mobility.

The most popular features of those cabinets, she said, are lower countertops and more clearance at the floor that allows the feet of a homeowner, while in a wheelchair, to roll under the cabinets.


‘Wet room’ bath renovation allows couple to age in place and in style

‘Wet room’ bath renovation allows couple to age in place and in style


Nearly 40 years ago, while staying at an old house in Sweden, Mary Shaw and Roy Weil got their first glimpse of what their new bathroom would be like.

“The whole room was waterproof,” Ms. Shaw said. “They provided a squeegee to clean up.”

What is unique about this Squirrel Hill master bath is that the entire 10- by-8-foot space is a “wet room,” with a waterproof membrane in the floor and lower walls. That means no barriers, no shower curtains or sliding glass doors and no worries about wayward water.

Squirrel Hill bath renovations delight couple

Mary Shaw and Roy Weil converted their bathroom to a wet room to accommodate them as they grow older. (Video by Robin Rombach; 4/12/2014)

To take a shower, you simply walk or roll a wheelchair up to the central wall unit that controls temperature, shower head, body sprays and a hand-held shower wand. A 5-foot turning diameter and flip-up teak seats mounted on the walls make for easy handicapped accessibility.

The slab-like sink and floating vanity are installed at heights to easily accommodate someone standing or sitting. Best of all, everything from the grab bars to the mirror are both ADA-compliant and beautifully midcentury modern, like the rest of the house.

“We wanted to make it accessible without even a hint of institutional,” Ms. Shaw said. “This is the house we will live in forever.”

The spouses, who are over 65, were named winners in the small residential category (under $50,000) of the 2013-14 Renovation Inspiration Contest, which is sponsored by Dollar Bank and judged by staff members of the Post-Gazette, Design Center and Construction Junction.

Contractor Tony Tommarello and his son, Tyler, also renovated the couple’s kitchen and living room and installed a shaftless elevator and small therapy pool in an addition. But it was the master bathroom that was entered in the contest. Combining form and function, it also boasts LED lighting, a heated towel rack, nonslip porcelain tile “planks,” stylish trim that doubles as a grab bar and cool 1950s cup holders that disappear into the mirror.

Even the floating glass partition is unique; Ms. Shaw and Mr. Weil saw its decorative “shattered” edge in Emerald Art Glass’ showroom. Attaching it firmly to the wall so that water could easily flow beneath it was one of many challenges on the project, Tony Tommarello said.

“It was the uniqueness of it that was interesting,” he said. “We had never done a wet room before.”

But before the contractor could tackle such issues, he had to remove the period pink bathroom. He estimated he removed 31/2 tons of concrete, metal lath and fixtures that included a square bathtub set on the diagonal. Most of the pink porcelain went to Construction Junction, a nonprofit retailer of surplus and salvaged building materials. The only items saved from the 1955 bathroom were an awning window and the original Hall-Mack Concealed Lavatory rotating toothbrush/cup holders, which were installed in the new mirror.

One of the trickiest parts of the wet room was getting the slope of the radiant-heated floor right, Mr. Tommarello said. Too steep and it’s difficult for users to navigate; too shallow and water pools near the two trench drains under the shower control and vanity. The contractor is proud that the slope is barely noticeable. He and his son also widened the bathroom doorway to 35 inches and installed a sliding pocket door.

Ms. Shaw, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, pointed proudly to the sandstone sink and Vangura quartzcounter top. She and her husband, a civil and software engineer for Michael Baker Corp., selected avocado for an accent wall “to pick up a greenish fleck in the vanity top,” she wrote in their contest entry.

They could not say exactly how long the bathroom took because it was part of a yearlong renovation that was mostly finished before they moved in. The couple were living “in a steep house on a steep street” in nearby Oakland when they found this two-bedroom, three-bath house. At 2,600 square feet, it was larger than their old house but much more adaptable to aging in place.

The most dramatic change was a shaftless elevator that runs from the basement to the main floor. When the unit is in the basement, the only sign of it on the main floor is the lifting column on the wall and a seam in the hallway floor.

The kitchen renovation is another example of subtle changes that make a big difference. The peninsula was extended by 1 foot and widened to accommodate three stools. The couple also sandblasted the original drawer pulls and cast new matching ones and the light fixture at TechShop in Bakery Square.

By themselves, the improvements the couple have made to this house wouldn’t guarantee that they could continue to live there independently. They enrolled several years ago in Longwood at Home (, a division of Presbyterian SeniorCare that provides at-home services comparable to those at a retirement community.

Ms. Shaw and Mr. Weil are now planning changes to their house’s driveway, front lawn and exterior to make them as beautifully functional as the interior. That means the Tommarellos will be at it again. In their contest entry, the couple thanked their contractor for creating “the bathroom we have been dreaming about for nearly 40 years.”

They just might end up with a house that will serve them another 40.

Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978.


Safety is Key for Aging in Place

Safety is Key for Aging in Place
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Staying safe is critical to good health as people age. That’s why during Older Americans Month, Indiana Area Agencies on Aging are providing opportunities for older adults to learn how they can take control of their safety.

Maureen Walby with LifeStream Services, Yorktown, says they will be providing information on safety and injury prevention so people can stay in their homes as long as possible.

“Frequently, these folks are at risk of losing their independence. We want to make sure that they have every tool in available to them so they can age in place,” Walby says.

Falls are one of the main reasons people end up in the hospital and can be related to dizziness from medications, weakness or objects in the environment, she says, adding that her organization is also helping older Hoosiers learn more about motor vehicle safety, consumer product safety and medication safety.

Elva James, executive director, Area IV Agency on Aging, Lafayette, says safety and health are critical for older adults who want to stay active in their retirement.

“Elders now are more interested in giving back to their community, more interested in being active and having a high quality of life. Continuing to stimulate the mind and continuing to get physical exercise and socialize with others makes a huge difference,” James says.

James adds that family members, friends and neighbors can play a role in keeping older Hoosiers safe.

“Help the person to stay active, invite them out to the community to do things with them, help them to look at their environment to eliminate risks, maybe go with them to the doctor if they’re willing to have them go,” she suggests.

Other events to celebrate Older Americans month in Indiana and promote safety include health screenings and seminars, movie viewings, and fitness fairs. It’s estimated that unintentional injuries in older adults result in at least 6 million medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year.

More information about events this month is available by checking with the Area Agencies on Aging at 1-800-986-3505 or visiting the Indiana Division of Aging website, – See more at:


Technology to help adults age in place just a few years away

Technology to help adults age in place just a few years away


It’s a scene reminiscent of the The Jetsons. A friendly robot wheels around the living room offering helpful advice — including a reminder to go to the bathroom.

But this is no normal living room, and the automaton is no Rosie. This is the Home Lab at iDapt at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute where researchers hope the robot they call Ed might one day become a regular part of home-based care for older adults.

With an aging population, development of technology to help older people should be growing, but in reality it is an area that is relatively underserved.

Part of the problem is the persistent stereotype that older people are reluctant to use technology. The other complication is the disparate needs of this population, an audience with differing cognitive capabilities and physical limitations.

“There still is a stigma with seniors and this idea of them being averse to technology,” says Rosalie Wang, a post doctorate fellow who works in robotics at Toronto Rehab. “The truth is that, like most people, as long as you can show an older person how a piece of technology can be helpful or useful, they are more than willing to accept it as part of their lives and homes.”

If you think about technology for seniors, what comes to mind is likely a personal emergency response device — as seen in the “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” commercials — or special phones, which either have limited functionality or come with large buttons.

But researchers and scientists working on more advanced technology to allow for “aging in place” — that is helping people live independently in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has a number of labs working on various projects to help older adults, but located on the 12th floor of their building on University Ave. is the façade of a home that would fit in just fine in Anytown, Canada. At the Home Lab, robotics, artificial intelligence, sensors and other cutting edge technology is being developed to help older adults live independently longer. The hope is the devices will be in homes in a matter of years, not decades.

“The key thing with the technology in all of our systems is artificial intelligence so the system can learn about the person and automatically adapt,” says Alex Mihailidis, associate professor, University of Toronto and senior scientist, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

“Especially in the case of Alzheimer’s and other cases of dementia, it is not a static disease. The person changes. We’ve seen patients change throughout the course of a day. In the morning, they come in, they seem great, and use the bathroom no problem, and in the afternoon they’re standing in there and they are completely confused.”

To that end, the Home Lab has a prompting system called the Coach, which uses sensors, cameras and monitors placed around the home to give helpful tips or walk a person through many mundane tasks, such as washing hands properly, or going to the bathroom.

And Ed, the helper robot, is the result of one experiment with low-cost robotics. Ed is about shoulder high to the average person and has a monitor for a face — which delivers the Coach prompts — and its locomotion comes from a hacked Roomba, the popular robot vacuum. Ed had successfully worked during a series of experiments with older adults with dementia, walking them through step-by-step instructions on how to make a cup of tea. Mihailidis says the patients took to the robot quite well, and the next step is to deploy a helper robot in a nursing home.

On the ceiling in the Home Lab is a fall detection system, which monitors and tracks a person’s movement. Mihailidis says studies have shown that personal emergency response systems are not that effective, either because the person isn’t wearing it when an emergency arises or perhaps because the wearer is too injured to use it. The Home Lab system, however, detects falls and uses speech-recognition technology to ask the resident if she is hurt and who to call. If there is no response, the system can then call for assistance too. Also in the works is a project that uses tile-based sensors to monitor residents’ vital statistics, including blood pressure.

The Toronto Rehab experiments are admittedly cutting edge, but many are tapping into some of the hotter trends in consumer technology. Home automation and monitoring is a burgeoning area right now, with several do-it-yourself solutions including webcams, smart thermostats such as Nest and high-tech door locks. And Rogers offers a home monitoring service. This is all part of the Internet of things, which is basically all kinds of devices that hook up to the Internet and speak to each other.

As well, one of the hottest trends in fitness is the quantified self, which is the name given to all the cellphone-enabled apps and devices that read pulses or heart rates and give users immediate feedback on vital signs.

These are all consumer trends that can be adapted to help older adults. For instance, fitness monitoring bands that offer athletes fitness data could, with a few modifications, conceivably be used for health care monitoring.

Dr. Samir Sinha, is the director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai and the University Health Network hospitals and he understands the difficulties of creating technology for a diverse aging population who all have varying levels of needs.

“We’ve had all these huge advances over the last number of years, that sometimes people think that technology can be the answer to everything,” he says. “I think one of the challenges is when people don’t actually consider a lot of the complexities that come with being an older adult. Then they sometimes are making technology that doesn’t make any sense.”

As an example, Sinha points out the prevalence of arthritis which renders devices that require self-reporting with a keyboard less than ideal.

Sinha lauds the work at Toronto Rehab, such as the fall sensor, which is can help people in a nonintrusive way. But he also worries about patients who view technology as a threat to their independence.

“For example, I have a lot of patients who need to use walkers and canes, but they refuse to use them. Why?” asks Sinha. “Because it makes me look old.”

Sinha also talks about the need for access to medical personnel and how geography can be a barrier in patients’ ability access to services. That’s why he believes improvements in telemedicine have an important role to play — and there appears to be an appetite for that technology.

Recently, a Statistics Canada phone survey polled nearly 1,850 adults 40 and older in Canada’s four western provinces to assess people’s willingness to use technology to help manage their conditions. The survey found that two-thirds of respondents were interested in using video conferencing and email to interact with a medical specialist, although less than one per cent had used these tools for those purposes in the year before the survey was conducted.

The authors of the study found younger people were more willing to use the new technology, but they weren’t alone. The authors of the report wrote: “There was substantial interest among those aged 75 years and older.”

With Files from Canadian Press.



Aging in Place Tips

Aging In Place Tips

If your future is based on a retirement home that meets the goals of aging safely and comfortably in place – or the future is now, and you’re already in that home – consider the following information from three knowledgeable sources:

AARP. Older homeowners overwhelmingly prefer to age-in-place, which means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level, says AARP. But if you haven’t hit your retirement years yet, it actually makes sense economically to build now with products and services that can accommodate aging in place later.

NAHB. The National Association of Home Builders says if you’re like a majority of Americans over the age of 45, you want to continue living in a familiar environment throughout your life. It says aging in place is the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry as it reacts to meet the increasing demand by seniors and baby boomers for barrier-free, safe living environments.

NCOA. The National Council on Aging reports that falls are the leading cause of serious and/or fatal injuries among people 65 and older. It says one third of people over the age of 65 fall each year; the incidence increases to 50 percent for those over the age of 80. And these falls are costly: NCOA has estimated direct medical cost for falls at almost $20 billion annually.

Despite all this, aging in place precautions don’t seem to be taking hold, oddly, in Southeastern North Carolina, where more than 77,000 residents are older than 50.


Home-Based Services Critical to Solving Aging Crisis

Home-Based Services Critical to Solving Aging Crisis

A growing population of Baby Boomers poses significant challenges to both the nation’s housing market and healthcare industry, however, a recent study suggests home- and community-based services can help quell any crises related to aging in place.

Population shifts among older adults is creating a “growing urgency” within the healthcare and housing fields, says a report from the National Housing Conference (NHC) titled Aging in Every Place: Supportive Service Programs for High and Low Density Communities.

By 2050, the number of adults age 65 and older is expected to double to over 88 million, according to data from the Center for Housing Policy cited in the report.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that over 65% of older adults have multiple chronic illnesses, which limits their ability to complete basic daily tasks like eating or bathing, yet 90% of adults aged 45 and older say they want to stay in their homes “for as long as possible” as they aged, according to survey data from AARP.

Institutional settings like nursing homes, and even assisted living facilities, may not be fit for the task of addressing the housing and healthcare-related challenges that this swelling older demographic poses—unlike home- and community-based programs that can help older adults age in place, NHC suggests.

“Many older adults move into nursing homes if they begin to have difficulty completing basic tasks on their own, like bathing or eating,” stated Research Associate and co-author Janet Viveiros. “Home- and community-based supportive services can help frail older adults care for themselves in their own homes and achieve better health outcomes than if they moved to a nursing home or assisted living facility.”

Effective home- and community-based service programs, NHC says, are ones that offer a wide array of services that specifically deal with community features such as proximity to medical facilities, access to public transportation and utilization of nearby community centers.

Supportive services are also believed to facilitate housing stability and overall well-being for aging homeowners and renters alike.

“The number of older adults will bring increasing demands for on-site supportive services at affordable housing developments as well as integrated in the community, and this report shows that models exist to accommodate these needs in every type of community,” said Senior Research Associate Maya Brennan, who also co-authored the report.



When buying or remodeling a home at any age, aging-in-place features are worth considering

When buying or remodeling a home at any age, aging-in-place features are worth considering


At 72 and 65, Tom and Susie McSweeny love to ballroom dance. “Tom does a mean samba,” Susie says.

Still, Tom has arthritis. So, despite their active lifestyle, when the McSweenys built their Edgewater, Md., house in 2013, they asked their architect to incorporate “aging-in-place” features – including an elevator, wide doorways to accommodate a wheelchair and a flat, no-step entryway – into the design.

“You have to be realistic,” says Susie, who has a background in nursing. You don’t know what health issues you may develop as you get older, but “you try to plan for it so that you can enjoy your later years.”

The McSweenys said they wanted to prepare their home now so that those accessibility features would be ready and waiting.

Aging-in-place design choices are gaining a higher profile as baby boomers become a larger and larger segment of the population. According to AARP, the majority of older Americans want to stay in their homes permanently and live independently. This demographic change translates into demand for residential designs that anticipate changes in health, vision or mobility, and ensures that homes stay safe, comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

Related to aging in place is “universal design,” which emphasizes accessibility for all, with no sacrifice in style. Components may be as simple as abundant lighting, lever-style door handles, well-located storage, chair-height toilets, slip-resistant flooring and open plans with plenty of circulation space. The most visible result of aging-in-place design is living space that simply “feels roomier and more open,” says Russ Glickman, whose Maryland company, Glickman Design/Build, specializes in accessible multi-generational and universal design homes.

The McSweenys asked Annapolis, Md., architect Cathy Purple Cherry to design a safe, satisfying and stylish new home on a small, waterfront lot. The three-story 4,750-square-foot house, constructed by Apter Remodeling/Craftsman of Annapolis, Md., captures expansive Chesapeake Bay views from every level.

An elevator alongside the staircase makes the entire house accessible. The elevator cost $30,000 to buy and install. But “if you are going to invest in a custom home for aging in place,” says Cherry, “limiting access by wheelchair into and around the house doesn’t make any sense.” Either an elevator or a first floor that can be adapted for one-story living is a must, she says.

The McSweenys’ ground-floor elevator door is just inside the no-step entry to a two-car garage. The McSweenys appreciate the garage, which shields them from the elements when they come and go. The garage and elevator combo already is a real convenience for toting in groceries and for bringing in their arthritic dog after walks.

The ground floor features a family room/guest quarters. It also has a full bathroom and a large storage room that is drywalled, painted and ready to be repurposed as a room for a caregiver if the need arises.

On the first floor, Cherry included not only the main living spaces – living room, dining room, kitchen and deck – but also the laundry and study. Thus, fewer steps are required to carry out daily living activities. The kitchen is inviting and stylish, while loaded with accessibility features.

Cherry incorporated four feet of circulation space around the central island for easy access to food prep areas, the eating bar between the kitchen and living room, and all appliances. The appliances include two ovens – one under the range and the other stacked in easy reach between a lower pot drawer and an upper, wall-mounted microwave. In the adjacent laundry room, the washer and dryer also perch atop storage pedestals to alleviate the need for bending and reaching.

Kitchen storage is plentiful; the McSweenys worked with their cabinetmaker, NVS Kitchen & Bath in Manassas, Va., to plan cabinet placement and pull-out inserts for ease of use. D-shaped door and drawer handles offer a comfortable grip. Kitchen trash bins occupy cabinets in two locations, to cut down on walking. Electrical outlets are conveniently located. Sealed wood flooring and complimentary wood countertops contrast with the white cabinets for aesthetics and offer visual cues to edges and surfaces.

Cherry placed a sizable pantry close to the kitchen and elevator. A motion sensor light illuminates the space even when arms are loaded with groceries.

Halls and doorways throughout the house are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Windows are big and plentiful to soak in light as well as views. Ambient and task lighting ensure good visibility.

A master bedroom and bathroom suite on the top floor offers spaciousness, comfort and ease of use. The bedroom is big and bright, with room for a second bed by the window if ever needed. The master bathroom includes a large shower with bench seating, hand-held spray and blocking to support grab bars that might be installed; a free-standing bathtub with ample room for entry; a chair-height toilet (like all the commodes in the house) with surrounding space for grab bars and wheelchair transfer; twin sinks that could accommodate under-counter legroom; and abundant, easy-to-reach storage. The walk-in master closet is large enough for easy circulation and for a central bench. Pocket doors at the bathroom and closet conserve space while offering wide entry.

One aspect of aging-in-place design is low-maintenance – to minimize the effort and expense of home upkeep. The McSweenys selected durable, easy-to-clean carpeting for the master bedroom and basement, and easy-care, non-slip matte-finish hardwood floors for the rest of the house. Fiber-cement siding, vinyl trim and composite decking form a largely maintenance-free exterior. Tom says the McSweenys opted for clad aluminum windows that are treated to filter out almost all ultraviolet light and to resist soil buildup on the outside. Even the plantings around the house were chosen with ease of care in mind.

“There’s very little lawn,” Tom adds.

The McSweenys invested in a large generator to ensure that they would retain power for medical equipment and other uses in case of bad storms. They have two energy-efficient furnaces – one for the top floor and one for the rest of the house – to facilitate zoning. The house is wired for remote access so that the homeowners can use their phone to control heat, lights and the security alarm from wherever they are.

At Cherry’s insistence, says Tom, connections between all the first-floor living spaces are “wide open.” Circulation areas between rooms are large, and big cutouts in interior walls link spaces even more fully. The result is flexibility, enabling the McSweenys to entertain small or large groups. “It maximizes the ability to expand,” Cherry says.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the openness, though, has to do with why most homeowners choose aging-in-place design in the first place. “Older homeowners have finished rearing their children, and now they want to equip their homes to be together,” Cherry says. “With connectivity of spaces, they can be doing different things but still have verbal and visual contact.”

Though aging-in-place design involves anticipating needs, Glickman says, “some people are aging but are in somewhat denial about what that may mean.” They simply may not plan ahead, or they may resist doing so because they think aging-in-place accommodations will look ugly or institutional.

Glickman, who is designated by the National Association of Home Builders as a certified aging-in-place specialist, encourages his remodeling and new home clients to include some accessibility features anyway. Despite homeowners’ fears, most of these features are “invisible” because they blend into the design of the home.

Not only that, but it costs far less to include most aging-in-place components during a construction project than to go back and add them later. Installing supportive blocking for grab bars while the bathroom walls are open, for instance, adds almost nothing to construction costs; adding them later means cutting into the wall.

Another example is prepping for future installation of a residential elevator. With an elevator, people who have trouble negotiating stairs can continue living safely in their multi-story homes. Glickman says it may cost $3,000 extra to stack first-, second- and third-floor closets and rough in an elevator shaft in that space, including a basement-floor cutout for elevator equipment and an extension of electrical and phone lines to the elevator area. But this advance work can save $150,000 or more by eliminating the need for major remodeling later to carve out elevator space.

Architect Bob Wilkoff, owner of Archaeon Architects in Cabin John, Md., is also a universal design and aging-in-place expert. He says incorporating basic aging-in-place features into new home design can have “very little cost effect.” Depending on what’s included, he says, aging in place may add 5 to 10 percent to the project cost. “It’s almost more a matter of space allocation than of equipment cost,” he says. “It’s just logical planning.”

Wilkoff incorporates basic, must-have accessibility features into his home designs, such as blocking for grab bars; corridors and doorways that are wide enough for wheelchairs; and, if possible, inclusion of a first-floor master bedroom (or room that could become one) to enable homeowners to live on one floor now or later. Glickman routinely includes selected barrier-free features in his designs, too, such as larger bathrooms with roomy, curbless showers; kitchen cabinet inserts that pull stored items into easy reach; and sidewalks that rise up gentle grades to no-step entrances – essentially “invisible” ramps.

Wilkoff has clients ranging in age from their early 40s to mid-60s who are requesting aging-in-place features. Even the younger, 40-something homeowners know that, with these design elements, they will have bright, airy homes that are flexible and adaptable.

“There’s no negative effect” to good aging-in-place planning or universal design, Wilkoff says. After putting money into an extensive remodel or custom home, “you won’t ever have to leave – and moving is expensive,” he says.

Some home improvements made to accommodate a resident can be deducted from federal taxes as medical expenses; these may include widening doorways and halls, adding railings and grab bars, and lowering or modifying kitchen cabinets.

Depending on where you live, you may qualify for a tax credit for accessibility components that are incorporated into your remodeled or new home.