Wednesday, September 4, 2019
My colleague and dear friend Professor Bauer, sent me the link to a recent op-ed in the New York Times, How Not to Grow Old in America.The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.
Assisted living seems like the solution to everyone’s worries about old age. It’s built on the dream that we can grow old while being self-reliant and live that way until we die. That all you need is a tiny bit of help. That you would never want to be warehoused in a nursing home with round-the-clock caregivers. This is a powerful concept in a country built on independence and self-reliance.
The problem is that for most of us, it’s a lie. And we are all complicit in keeping this dream alive.
The author notes that the ALF industry has a financial incentive to market their product and it's appealing to the kids of those who reside in ALFs. The author writes, "[t]he irony of assisted living is, it’s great if you don’t need too much assistance. If you don’t, the social life, the spalike facilities, the myriad activities and the extensive menus might make assisted living the right choice. But if you have trouble walking or using the bathroom, or have dementia and sometimes wander off, assisting living facilities aren’t the answer, no matter how desperately we wish they were." Further, the author offers data that most of these residents need more care than that provided and argues in favor of regulation, using several actual cases as illustrations to support the call for regulation.
We need to let go of the ideal of being self-sufficient until death. Just as we don’t demand that our toddlers be self-reliant, Americans need to allow the reality of ourselves as dependent in our old age to percolate into our psyches and our nation’s social policies. Unless we face up to the reality of the needs of our aging population, the longevity we as a society have gained is going to be lived out miserably.