The Silver Tsunami and what it means for Assistive Living, LTC and Home Health. Goals, Trends, Quality of Life
Over the next 3 decades, the number of people over 65 will double, from 40 million to over 80 million. And those over 85 years old will be the largest segment of this growing senior cohort.
The result of the aging Baby Boomer generation combined with advances in medicine that are allowing people to live longer lives, is slated to impact everything from healthcare to the housing market. This rolling influx of seniors, known as the “Silver Tsunami”, may be seen as a boon for some industries, but equally raises the alarm for others.
More people with multiple chronic conditions like diabetes, and heart disease, or asthma and gastrointestinal disorders, mean more doctor visits, more medications, and higher levels of required care. Add to these chronic conditions the increased levels of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that accumulate with age, and it is apparent that the nation is going to be in a complex and demanding period where heavy resources are needed to meet the health needs of our aging population. The generations following the Boomer generation have fewer people, affecting availability of both family care and professionals providing care.
Managing high levels of need with fewer individuals available to provide care is already changing how we do things. We’ve gotten better at disease management in certain conditions such as diabetes, and high blood pressure. And by leveraging the use of new technologies such as monitoring devices and tracking apps, and adding telemedicine visits into follow up care, patients may live with more independence whether they are at home or in a care community. By placing emphasis on prevention through healthy lifestyles we can mitigate some of the multi chronic disease problem since so much of it is driven by healthier behaviors. This will help to meet some of the challenges presented by an aging population. Reduce care demands by reducing disease and allow people to live more healthily not just longer.
There is a lot of funding and research going into things like Alzheimer’s treatments and prevention, new adaptive technologies that support seniors, and new medications and vaccinations that may one day eliminate entire diseases. These are good things. But as 40 million more people are aging into Medicare, hopefully aging well, we will still see pivots in how society works to meet their needs and desires. 1
Think downsizing. As this wave of seniors retires, and contemplates downsizing, the market expects an increased demand for senior living community, multi-generational housing (apartments and condos), and assisted living communities. Research shows this generation prefers urban living with access to travel and community-based activities such as parks and libraries, cultural attractions and shopping and dining options. They also prefer communities with lots of amenities! 2
As technologies advance from on body wearables to in home sensors and connected devices that can do things like collect data on weight, walking gait to detect certain orthopedic problems, and medication adherence, or even order groceries when the refrigerator determines it is low on a staple, we will be able to assist seniors in their daily living needs. Whether they choose to and are able to age at home or choose a community. However, there are many ways these coming advances in smart homes will still fail to meet the needs of individuals with more limiting health concerns. “They can’t replicate the kind of oversight that a nursing facility offers,” says writer Ruth Reader in Fast Company. She goes on to say that for aging in place to be a viable solution in the U.S., nursing care at home needs to be affordable and accessible and that’s just not the case currently. 3
We will continue to see more options come online as the Boomer generation ages over the next 3 decades. Innovation such as robots providing care (an initiative being tested out in Japan), and more integrated facilities such as nursing homes or senior facilities built out with assistive technologies incorporated right from the design phase will continue to provide solutions to living well as we age. Another trend prediction is for “home as a service” or said another way an “ageless home” according to Joseph Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab. Meaning the innovations coming along will be wanted by everyone. 3
As we enter this age of “age”, we will certainly see breakthroughs in health care solutions and treatments, and advancements in assistive technologies. But the number of aging seniors is so utterly significant that it is an all-hands-on deck situation. We will need the support of all care givers, all educators, all planners, and all senior living communities to manage the coming wave of care. When you or a loved one finds yourself in need of something a little more sophisticated than a Roomba and a smart refrigerator, please reach out to us. We have decades of experience finding the right care for seniors.
- Rx The Quiet Revolution, What the ‘Silver Tsunami’ Means for U.S. Health Care: An Interview with Thomas Gill of the Yale Center on Aging https://rxfilm.org/problems/silver-tsunami-united-states-healthcare-thomas-gill-yale-center-on-aging-interview/
- Leon, Joe. THE SILVER TSUNAMI AND CRE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. 10/17 2021 https://voitco.com/the-silver-tsunami-and-cre/
- Reader, Ruth. ‘The silver tsunami is coming’: Inside the quest to help seniors age at home 4/29/21 'The silver tsunami is coming': Inside the quest to help seniors age a (fastcompany.com)
- Geber, Sarah Zeff . The New Silver Tsunami, 11/2020 The New Silver Tsunami (forbes.com)