Americas Appalling Reality: We don’t care about our older adults

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Link to article in Sun Sailor

By CEO, Deb Taylor

On February 16th, 2018, MinnPost writer Susan Perry wrote a very compelling article entitled “Americas appalling reality: we don’t care about our children.” As the CEO of Senior Community Services, a nonprofit exclusively serving older adults, I’d like to suggest another appalling reality, we don’t care about our older adults.

A 2015 study done by the Institute of Health Research revealed that 9.2 percent of all older adults experience food insecurity, meaning 9.2 percent of all older adults in America do not know where their next meal is coming from.

The National Center for Elder Abuse shares on their website that approximately 1 in 10 older adults have experienced elder abuse in some form with 60 percent of elder abuse being done by the hands of a family member.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year. To paint a picture of what this looks like, every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Falls result in more than 2.8 million injures treated in emergency departments annually, including 800,000 hospitalizations and more than 27,000 deaths. Falls can still cause injury even if the fall itself did not cause any physical harm. When an older adult lives in fear of falling often times they will limit their activity level and even limit their social engagements, which can cause feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression.

Having meaningful social engagement is a critical component of healthy aging. A few years ago Brigham Young University researchers conducted a study on the impact of loneliness and found that social isolation increases your risk of death by nearly 30 percent making loneliness a potentially greater health risk than obesity or smoking.

Depression is also a serious health issue among older adults. Over two million older adults suffer from some form of depression with individuals aged 65 and older accounting for 20 percent of all suicide deaths despite making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Do Americans really care about our older adults?

If we cared about our older adults, why do over 3 million older adults not know where their next meal is coming from?

If we cared about our older adults, why are so many older adults abused by the people they’re supposed to be able to trust the most?

If we cared about our older adults, why are we not taking greater action to educate people about falls and how to prevent them?

If we cared about older adults, why are there a greater percentage of older adults taking their lives than the entire older adult population in America?

It’s time we start seeing the older adults in our communities. It’s time we start valuing the older adults in our communities. It’s time we start looking beyond ourselves and helping the older adults in our communities.

Deb Taylor is the CEO of Senior Community Services and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that helps older adults and caregivers navigate aging to maintain independence and quality of life. We provide a wide array of programs — www.seniorcommunity.org