U.S. Can Benefit from Global Approaches to Aging in Place

As the United States government weighs its aging policies in preparation for a wave of baby boomers that will comprise a senior population count never seen before, other countries are seeing success in different models—largely fueled by an aging in place focus. 

The global aging population is expected to explode, and while the U.S. may be seen as “leader” in the senior living industry, may still have a lot to learn from other nations’ aging models, says on social work professor and researcher devoted to aging policy research. 

Each month, 1 million people across the world turn 60, and by 2050, the 60+ population will have more than tripled to about 2 billion, according to the United Nations Population Fund. 

Some countries focus primarily on aging in place at home either independently or among family, with institutional care settings as a “last resort,” according to a recent statement from aging expert M.C. Terry Hokenstad, PhD, social work professor in aging from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

“My goal is to study what other countries are doing and suggest implications for the United States,” says Hokenstad, who calls his research findings “lessons from abroad” for best practices in how to care for the impending silver tsunami. 

In Norway, families receive public support that enables them to care for aging parents in their own homes and keep them out of nursing homes. The government pays adult children to provide care to their aging parents, and the country focuses on adapting houses to the needs of older people through municipal government-financed repairs and renovations. 

Older people living in the Netherlands get a full, government-paid assessment of needs to help them live as independently as possible. They are given a consumer’s choice of how to spend an allotment directed at helping them live independently.

The U.S.’s healthcare system has actually adapted an English care model that features hospice care at the end of life. Great Britain also has some independent living options for seniors that might be appropriate for other nations to consider, according to Hokenstad. 

With so many older people expected to be inhabiting the world, he says, retirement needs to be redefined to include more opportunities for older workers to remain in the workforces on either a part-time or full-time basis. That could happen in the form of flexible retirement plans and more incentives for older entrepreneurs to start businesses either at home or in their communities. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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