Archive for the ‘Baby Boomers’ Category

The Positive Impact of Social Technology for Seniors

SocialSenior

 

As my mom puts it, she “has bad luck with technology.” She may live in Silicon Valley and be married to a software programmer, but Mom has always struggled with anything tech-related.

Mom uses a computer from the early 2000s. She needs help to send emails and format documents. Every time I visit, she has something for me to fix. A year ago, Mom got her first smartphone.

And now? You can’t separate Mom from her phone. She messages her friends more often than I do. She’s now a pro at all things social media.

Social media has completely changed the way Mom keeps in touch with her friends. I’ve witnessed firsthand how big of a change it’s made in her life. And she’s not alone—seniors across the globe are more connected than ever. Here’s why you should encourage your aging loved ones to get into social media.

Reconnecting with old friends

One of the first things Mom did was to look up her friends from high school. She had moved from New Jersey to California and fell out of touch with them decades ago. The day she found them on Facebook, I don’t think I’d ever seen her so excited.

Mom reconnected with her best friend, learned that her high school reunion was coming up and spent hours learning what her friends had been up to over the years. She has reconnected with her hometown in a way she never thought possible.

Keeping in touch with family

My mother loves her sister, but their schedules don’t allow for regular phone calls. Luckily, messaging apps have come to the rescue. Between sharing pictures of their meals, political cartoons and daily cat memes, Mom and her sister are closer than ever. They can share their lives without having to sync their schedules.

Learning about local events

Food trucks in town? A sale at the local antique store? With event notifications coming directly to her phone, Mom knows about everything that’s going on. In fact, she knows more about local happenings than I do!

Mom used to always learn about events a day or two too late. With her phone’s calendar, she no longer worries about what she’s missing. She’s up-to-date on what’s going on now through next month.

Staying on top of neighborhood news

Mom is a member of our local Nextdoor group. She and the neighbors share warnings about rowdy kids, notices about construction, sightings of potential thieves and anything else of interest to the neighborhood. Mom loves to share the crazy stories she finds in the app and always forwards the useful tidbits about traffic or construction. Her neighborhood group has enhanced her connection with her community.

Organizing fun with friends

Mom used to see her church friends just once a week, but not anymore! Thanks to social media, Mom and her friends are constantly going out to dinner or traveling to interesting places together.

I’ve watched my mother’s network of friends expand and deepen like never before. If Mom is ever lonely, she is just a message away from good pals and laughs.

Keeping entertained

Bringing Mom on a long car trip? Chances are, she will be “liking” photos and playing videos on her smartphone. I’ve noticed that my mother no longer complains of being bored—there is too much for her to do online. Social media is perfect for filling the gaps in her day.

Learning about the issues

Mom is big into politics, and social media helps her follow her favorite politicians, social commentators and authors. She keeps up on the issues and learns about current events as they happen rather than waiting for the nightly news recap.

Finding work

For many seniors, retirement can be boring. Sixty-five may be the official retirement age, but that doesn’t mean everyone 65 and over automatically wants to stop working. The Internet can help connect older adults with opportunities that canbe tough to find otherwise.

For the best health and quality of life, seniors need to keep their brains and bodies active. Working (or volunteering) allows seniors to share their knowledge, make some extra income and give back to their community.

After some online searching, Mom joined our town’s education committee to influence how the coming generation is taught. She loves being a voice for change.

Staying active with social media

Before social media, my mother spent most of her time reading at home. She would go out to church once a week, and that was pretty much it.

Now, with her smartphone in hand, Mom is always doing something interesting. I’ll come back home to visit and she won’t be there—Dad will tell me she’s off at one of her meetings.

Mom is making a real difference in her community. She’s involved in her town’s school board, joined a board of directors and is part of the leadership community at her church. Her smartphone and social media helped make that possible.

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Tracy Layden is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Tracy leads the marketing efforts at Alert-1, a personal safety technology and consulting firm dedicated to helping seniors live safely and independently. Tracy holds a degree in mathematics from Scripps College and is an accomplished ballroom dancer and equestrian.

 

 

Why More Baby Boomers are Choosing Life Plan Communities

 

Since they were teens, baby boomers have done things differently. It’s little surprise that they’re revolutionizing retirement, reinventing themselves and changing the senior living industry completely. The senior living communities that are most attractive to this generation aren’t just residential care providers. They’re vibrant villages that offer a range of residential options and new opportunities for creative, educational, and personal exploration.

Many baby boomers are finding that Life Plan Communities, also known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), offer the mix of features and amenities they’re searching for, according to Senior Planning Services, a company that specializes in helping seniors navigate Medicaid-sponsored senior care.

What Are Life Plan Communities?

Life plan communities are designed to offer more than one level of care on a single campus. They range from seniors who want an increased sense of community and connection to those who need more assistance and care. These communities tend to focus on active lifestyles and opportunities for seniors to get involved, be a part of their community, and to give back, both to the Life Plan Community and to the community as a whole.

Why Life Plan Communities?

Project NameStorm, a joint initiative among aging services and senior living industry companies to come up with a new name for CCRCs, recognized several years ago how baby boomers’ commitment to doing things differently has carried over into their retirement years. Boomers are enticed by wine tastings, salsa dancing classes and locally-sourced food prepared by talented chefs.

Participants in Project NameStorm launched the term “Life Plan Community” in place of “Continuing Care Retirement Community” in an effort to better reflect the changing needs of seniors. These communities are designed to allow seniors to embrace this stage of their lives, chances to enjoy new experiences, meet new people, and engage in regular activities that keep them moving, engaged, and learning.

Designed for Younger Seniors

As baby boomers age, more and more will be seriously considering senior living options within the next decade. The goal of Life Plan Communities, however, is to encourage seniors to find a senior living option earlier on.

For many younger seniors, downsizing and moving into a smaller home in a Life Plan Community is an appealing prospect. These communities offer a supportive, interconnected environment while allowing residents to continue to live independently and with the personal freedom they’ve come to expect.

From Passive Care to Active Living

The shift to Life Plan Communities isn’t just about a new name. It also emphasizes a critical shift in senior living offerings from passive care to more active living and advanced planning. This change is well aligned to the active seniors of the baby boomer generation.

The changing desires of the senior care industry’s target customers make it necessary for the industry to adapt in response. Baby boomers complained that Continuing Care Retirement Communities made them think of old people sitting around staring at one another and withering away, perhaps playing the occasional game of shuffleboard to keep things interesting. The name “Life Plan Communities,” however, evokes an image of a more vibrant, active image lifestyle that is desirable to today’s seniors.

Life Plan Communities and baby boomers are inextricably linked, as these communities reflect the changing needs of today’s seniors. Older adults are now living longer than ever, and they want to remain part of their communities and their loved ones’ lives for as long as possible. Life Plan Communities rose out of those evolving needs. With careful planning, today’s seniors can expect to experience very different retirement years from the generations that came before them.

Ben Lamm is a communication specialist and blogger with Senior Planning Services. He enjoys playing the guitar, spending time with family and social networking.

This post originally appeared on Caring.com

 

Senior Living Companies Spread Their Wings Internationally

It’s no secret that the senior living industry is exploding in the U.S., but U.S.-based senior living operators are now expanding overseas in countries like China. The Seattle Times reports that Seattle-based senior living companies such as Cascade HealSenior living growth in Chinathcare and Merrill Gardens are spreading their wings and opening senior living communities in places like China, where senior living communities like those found in the U.S. are not widespread.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million by 2050, representing the impact of a period of rapid growth between 2012 and 2050. In fact, the 83.7 million figure is nearly double the estimated 65+ population in 2012: 43.1 million.”The baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they began turning 65 in 2011. By 2050, the surviving baby boomers will be over the age of 85,” according to the U.S. Census report.

But the U.S. is not the only country experiencing rapid growth in its aging population. In China, 9.4 percent of the population is 65 or older, or about 132 million people. By 2050, the U.N. estimates that 22.7 percent of China’s population, or 332 million people, will be age 65 or older. China’s economy, however, is still under development, and the country does not currently have a strong system in place for long-term elder care.

Not only is China looking to companies like Cascade Healthcare and Merrill Gardens to fill gaps in long-term care, but also as a means to learn models and managerial practices from successful U.S. operators. Eventually, China-based companies will likely enter the market building on the concepts introduced by U.S. senior living operators, while incorporating cultural values unique to China.

The growth of the aging population in the U.S. isn’t slowing down, but the U.S. is not alone in the mounting challenge of ensuring adequate long-term care options for the elderly. With the aging population experiencing explosive growth in many countries through 2050, senior living providers have abundant opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad to serve the needs of older adults.

Technology Gifts to Simplify Life for Your Aging Loved One (or Make It More Fun)

In an interview with Jon Stein, a Forbes Contributor, technology journalist Lary Magid makes a strong statement about baby boomers and technology: “It’s stupid and insulting to pitch baby boomers as tech novices.” His statement was prompted by an email he received from a PR rep pushing a touch screen computer for older people who want to “get on board with technology.” As Magid points out, “Many of us used CP/M, DOS or even Unix long before Macs and PCs had graphical user interfaces. We were the ones who had to know how to use escape codes to get our printers to work and sometimes wound up building our own PCs.”

Boomers and seniors are more tech-savvy than you may think

So, where has the idea come from that baby boomers and older Americans are not astute in their technology use? In the Stein article, Patricia McDonough, senior VP-analysis at Nielsen Co., says, “It’s actually a myth that baby boomers aren’t into technology. They represent 25% of the population, but they consume 40% [in total dollars spent] of it.” In fact, the numbers from an April report from the PewResearch Internet Project reveal that 59% of seniors report they go online. Additionally, 77% of older adults have a cell phone (18% own a smartphone), and 27% of seniors own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both. The statistics definitely support the notion that baby boomers and older Americans are using, and enjoying, technology. The myth, more than likely, is due to the fact that usage rates among seniors trail those of the overall population: 86% of all U.S. adults now go online.

Most seniors are on the Internet daily

The report also points out that once U.S. adults age 65 and older do make the online jump, 71% go online every day or almost every day, and 11% go online 3-5 times per week. Furthermore, older internet users have very positive attitudes about how online information benefits them: 79% of older internet users agree that “people without internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing,” and 94% agree that “the internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.” Overall, the statistics support the ideas that seniors can and do use technology and that they see the benefits of doing so. With seniors embracing and enjoying technology this much, and with shopping “holidays” like Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, it makes sense for you to give them the gift of technology. 

Smart phones, tablets, and e-readers

According to a report, eight of the world’s 10 best-selling smart phones are made by Apple or Samsung. Apple’s iPhone 5s was the hottest selling phone, beating out the Samsung S5 and S4. The ranking was based on smartphone sales from 35 countries. With their popularity and widespread use, these smart phones would make great gifts for your aging loved ones. Plus, the phones store contact information, pictures, videos, and more, to keep your loved ones connected with the entire family. Loved ones also can take advantage of all of the mobile apps available for the phones – everything from medication management apps to physical activity trackers to games are ready and waiting for them in the App Store and on Google Play.

Tablets are another great tech gift idea for your aging loved one. An International Business Times article summarized Gartner’s data on 2013 tablet sales, which revealed that tablet sales grew 68% from 2012 to 2013. Apple’s iPads remain the most popular individual tablet, with 36% of the market; Samsung’s Galaxy Tablets come in second with 19% of the total sales. For older Americans, the Apple iPad mini is a great choice, because it is smaller, lighter, and more affordable than the standard iPad. The iPad mini comes loaded with built-in apps to get your loved ones started on the internet, with email, photos, iBooks, maps, FaceTime, contacts, and more.

As for e-readers, CNET ranked the best of the best, and the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (2013) came out on top. Calling it the “best e-reader currently available,” CNET explains that Amazon improved the Paperwhite with a faster processor, more responsive touch screen, and a better integrated light that’s brighter and whiter and displays more evenly across the screen. These are just a few of the reasons that make Paperwhite the best choice for your aging loved one. Plus, the benefits that come from the improvements mean that seniors can read anywhere – even outside – without any screen glare and without eyestrain.

Technology Gifts for the Home

Technology is more than just about smart phones, tablets, and e-readers. So, when you are starting to think about your holiday gift lists for this upcoming season, consider the tech gifts that can make life for your older loved one more simple and maybe even more fun, while at home.

Lutron’s Maestro Occupancy/Vacancy Sensors are a gift that keep on giving because they turn lights off when you leave, helping your loved one to save energy. Better yet, they turn on when someone enters a room, so your aging loved one does not have to worry about coming home to a dark house or fumbling for the light switch in the middle of the night. Saftey, security, and convenience are all a part of the Lutron sensors.

Control4 provides home automation and smart home control, and their solutions integrate with iPads, iPhones, and Android smartphones and tablets. Control4 allows you to begin with one room or automate your whole home all at once. Some of the options included with Control4’s solutions are perfect for your aging loved one. A “wake up” scene automatically adjusts the thermostat and gradually turns up lights each morning, and the “goodbye” button will lock the doors, set the alarm system, turn off the lights, and adjust the thermostat when people leave. Your loved one won’t have to worry about controlling much of anything in the home, and if your loved one is preparing to age in place, Control4 can alert you to movement in the home or even if there is a water leak. Control4 is a great gift of convenience for your loved one, and it provides you with the gift of peace of mind.

The Nest Protect Smoke Detector is a smoke and carbon-monoxide detector that is a great choice for older family members. Rather than setting off an ear-piercing or high-pitched alarm, Nest Protect first alerts you to the problem by telling you what it is and where it is. Protect also takes the guesswork out of when to change the batteries in the smoke detector; thanks to its Nightly Promise, Protect’s light ring will quickly glow green to show the batteries are working, or it will glow yellow if there is a problem like the batteries need replacing. Best of all, Nest Protect will send messages to smart phones or tablets if there is a problem, or you can open the Nest app at any time, so you and your loved one can have peace of mind.

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker is a perfect gift idea for anyone, but it’s an especially good choice for seniors. Bose already is a popular choice for speakers among older adults, but now Bose has entered the high-tech world with its SoundLink Mini. It wirelessly connects to smartphones, tablets, or other Bluetooth devices, and it weighs in at 1.5 pounds so it is easy to take anywhere. Your aging loved one will be able to listen to their favorite music anywhere, any time, and because it is a Bose, the SoundLink Mini delivers advanced audio with full-range sound. Its simple, compact design is ideal for your aging loved one – after you’ve gotten them that smartphone or tablet, of course.

The Best Technology Gift for Fun

For years, researchers and doctors have been touting the benefits of playing games and remaining mentally sharp for seniors to stave off the mental decline often associated with aging. But, one newer form of gaming for seniors is becoming more popular and more widely prescribed by health care providers: video gaming. In an overview of the benefits of playing video games, The Economist describes a study conducted by Dr. Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Gazzaley tested a group of participants aged 60 to 85 and found that, upon playing a video game at home in an adaptive mode for three hours a week over a month, they had greatly improved multi-tasking abilities and other improved aspects of cognition, including working memory. Even more astounding was the fact that even after a six-month hiatus from the video games, the participants were “still nimble-minded.”

So, which video games are the best for seniors? Diana Rodriguez explains in her article that one study, presented at the Gerontological Society of America’s Annual Scientific Meeting, found that seniors who played Nintendo Wii for an hour a week reported higher positive mood and fewer feelings of loneliness than seniors who watched television. In addition, a study done at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, reported that “1/3 of participants who played an exercise game on the Wii reported a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms.”

As if the scientific evidence weren’t enough, Wii mini is a great gift idea for your aging loved ones because seniors who have played Wii games love them. In a Chicago Tribune article describing the fun seniors have while playing a Wii, reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz found seniors at Bolingbrook’s Heritage Woods assisted living community are hooked on Wii bowling. The seniors found that the Wii was easy to use and got people out of their rooms, playing and socializing. 86-year-old Elsie Sottile even admitted the games get serious: “It might be leisure, but we’re fighting.” Who needs a better review than that?

Of course, the list of potential technology gifts for your aging loved one is long. We’ve suggested a few of the most easily accessible, popular, and convenient gifts to simplify life and add a little fun for your older relatives. Have a different suggestion? We’d love to hear from you in the comments. Happy shopping!

Images via Flickr by Symo0Markus Spiering and Amnestic_Arts

Harvard Says U.S. Senior Living Industry Unprepared for Coming Aging Wave

America is aging, and an AARP blog post by Melissa Stanton explains that Harvard reports the country is totally unprepared for what that really means. A report, “Housing America’s Older Adults: Meeting the Needs of an Aging Population,” released September 2 by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies with the support of the AARP Foundation, clearly shows that “both individually and as a nation we’re not ready for all that comes with age.”

The authors of the Harvard report explain that existing housing is “unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity, and supportive services.” Moreover, the country’s transportation and pedestrian infrastructure “is generally ill-suited to those who cannot or choose not to drive, isolating older adults from friends and family.” Plus, “disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.”

Aging will be expensive in the coming years

Stanton points out four eye-opening statistics and facts that show just how challenging it will be for seniors to afford aging:

  • Typical homeowners over age 65 can afford in-home assistance for about 6 to 9 years of assisted living
  • Typical renters over 65 only can afford two months of support
  • In 2012, 1/3 of adults 50+ paid more than 30% of their income for housing, including nearly 9.6 million who paid more than 50% of their income for housing
  • Low-income seniors significantly cut back on food, health care, and retirement savings because of high housing costs

Housing, necessities, transportation, and more create obstacles

Maicie Jones, program manager for AARP Foundation’s Housing Impact Team, breaks down the 5 essential facts from the Harvard study, highlighting the housing challenges that face older U.S. adults. Her key findings:

  • In order to remain housed, older people are “skimping” on necessities
  • The needs of older adults are not going to be met by a large portion of America’s available housing
  • Driving is essential to living in America, and older adults who don’t have the ability will feel isolated
  • Older people’s independence is at risk because of the increased costs associated with the lack of integration between housing and healthcare
  • It is not too late to help a majority of aging Americans

Some Boomers skeptical about the potential for positive outcomes

At age 50, Richard Mize is not so sure about the positive note the report ends on, and with which Jones ends her list of 5 facts. He knows “older folks who are really struggling. My own house needs repairs and modifications I can’t afford.” He also says that because of these challenges facing older adults, “aging-in-place might as well be aging-in-space.” Because of his experience as one of the older adults the study refers to, Mize has a few bullet points of his own that he wants to highlight for the aging population:

  • “The existing housing stock is unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordability, accessibility, social connectivity, and supportive services.”
  • “High housing costs force millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities including food, undermining their health and well-being.”
  • “Much of the nation’s housing inventory lacks basic accessibility features, preventing older adults with disabilities from living safely and comfortable in their homes.”
  • “The nation’s transportation and pedestrian infrastructure is generally ill-suited to those who cannot or choose not to drive, isolating older adults from friends and family.”
  • “Disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.”

You see, Mize admits that he is thankful for the hopeful note at the end of the study, but he is doubtful. He points out that Baby Boomers have “the most cause to be concerned” because they “have not seen that much ‘effective action’ ‘at all levels of government’ working with the private and nonprofit sectors on a national level.” He cites the report’s point that the older population numbers are swelling because younger boomers are in their 50s, “‘with lower incomes, wealth, homeownership rates, and more debt than generations before them, members of this large age group may be unable to cover the costs of appropriate housing or long-term care in their retirement years.'”

Mize concludes by lamenting the fact that the study’s hope is awfully high and he’s not convinced that America understands the ramifications of such a swell in the older population: “Besides, ‘high quality,’ ‘independent,’ and ‘financially secure’ are not the usual attributes of the aged, not in history. It can’t happen without all, or at least most, members of a community pulling together across generations.”

Are you concerned about being able to afford aging? What is your plan for a financially secure and housed future? Share in the comments to get the discussion going.

Images via Flickr by Maria Popova and Dan Moyle

Volunteering Promotes Health and Happiness for Older Adults

A new study appearing in the Psychological Bulletin is the first to examine peer-reviewed evidence to investigate the psychosocial health and wellness benefits of volunteerism in the older adult population, according to a report by Psychology Today. It turns out that volunteering has positive impacts on health and happiness among older adults, with particular benefits for those with chronic health conditions.

Meta-analysis looks at the benefits of volunteering on health and wellness Volunteering Benefits Older Adults

The study involved the review of 73 studies, all published within the past 45 years, examining adults age 50 and older who were or are serving in a formal volunteer capacity.All studies reviewed in this analysis the psychosocial, physical, and/or cognitive outcomes associated with volunteering, including:

  • Happiness
  • Physical health
  • Depression
  • Cognitive functioning
  • Social support
  • Life satisfaction

Volunteerism provides numerous positive benefits for older adults

Researchers say they found compelling evidence that volunteerism is a beneficial activity for older adults. A few key findings from the analysis:

  • Volunteering is associated with longevity, fewer symptoms of depression, fewer functional limitations, and better overall health.
  • When it comes to volunteering, more is not always better. The optimal amount of volunteering is about 100 hours annually, or two to three hours per week. After this mark, the benefits of volunteering plateau.
  • Seniors who are more vulnerable, such as those suffering from chronic health conditions, stand to reap the most benefits from volunteering.
  • Volunteering creates a feeling of being needed and/or appreciated, which seems to amplify the overall health and wellness benefits for volunteers.

Increased physical activity adds to the social, emotional, and physical health benefits

One possible reason for some of the health benefits realized through volunteering is the increase in physical activity. Seniors volunteering to deliver Meals on Wheels to aging or disabled adults in their homes are more physically active than those who maintain a more sedentary lifestyle, so seniors are benefiting not only from the social interaction and feel-good benefits of volunteering, but the added physical activity which can help ward off chronic disease.

Specifically, researchers find that a moderate amount of volunteering (around the 100-hours-annually mark) is associated with less hypertension and fewer hip fractures, when comparing seniors who volunteer to those who do not.

Troubling gaps in research points to areas for future study

Researchers also found some intriguing gaps in prior research that may point to future areas of study. For example, they found very few studies which have investigated the link between volunteerism and cognitive functioning. They found not one study that has looked for an association between volunteering and the risk of dementia, or even an association between volunteering and other health conditions that have been previously associated with a higher risk of dementia, such as stroke or diabetes.

With dementia rates expected to double over the next two decades, Nicole Anderson, Ph.D., who led the team of Canadian and American academics in this meta-analysis, encourages researchers to delve into the potential benefits of volunteerism on cognitive functioning in older adults. The research report suggests a “comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests, so that the association of volunteering with the risks of various forms of dementia and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, could be ascertained.”

Do you volunteer in your local community? Tell us about the volunteer activities you enjoy and how volunteering has been beneficial for you in the comments below.

Roommates Aren’t Just for Dorm Rooms: Seniors Find Companionship and Save Cash by Sharing Spaces

The rate at which seniors are becoming roommates is on the rise. They’re not exactly sharing chemistry notes and frat house addresses, but seniors are participating in homesharing programs being offered across the nation to be able stay in their homes and save money. The companionship they find is an added bonus. According to an AP story, “agencies that put such seniors together say the need appears to be growing as baby boomers age and struggle to deal with foreclosures, property taxes and rising rents.”

In most cases, elderly women who have been divorced or widowed need help with the upkeep of their house or apartment and have an extra room. So, they reach out to agencies specializing in homesharing to find somebody to live with who will pay rent. In some cases, people will barter for household help such as grocery shopping, housecleaning and repair work rather than charge rent; but, recently people have been in search of financial aid so they can keep their homes and remain a part of their community.

And, the companionship home sharers gain in the process is a definite plus. According to Kirby Dunn, executive director of Homeshare Vermont in Burlington, “Independence is great but isolation as we age is a growing concern, so companionship can be almost life-altering. People are telling us they’re happier, sleeping better, eating better.” Some homesharing matches find a lifelong friend and others find someone they can trust and respect while sharing living space. They may not all be Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia, but the home sharers definitely are finding a solution to a potential housing crisis.

Various agencies across the country are helping people find housemates, whether they live in apartments or houses. Most offer services that include matching people to ideal candidates through screening processes to determine compatibility, much like those of online dating sites. And, seniors are taking advantage of those services offered by agencies because it is more efficient and safer than posting notices in local stores, paying for advertisements in newspapers, or posting online to sites such as Craigslist. While not a comprehensive list, the agencies listed below are some of the most reputable and successful in the country.

HomeShare Vermont

A small non-profit organization based out of Burlington, VT, HomeShare Vermont already has helped nearly 100 people remain in their home and found affordable housing for 83 people so far in the 2014 fiscal year. Operating since 1982 (formerly known as Project Home), HomeShare Vermont has 14 staff volunteers who contribute to the screening and matching process. HomeShare Vermont prides themselves on tailoring their services to individuals and remaining actively involved with their matches to offer assistance as their needs change or any challenges arise. HomeShare Vermont requires a one-time non-refundable $30 processing fee for all applicants and charges a Match Fee based on a sliding scale, depending on income. HomeShare also resizes to deny services to individuals who cannot afford their fees; fees can be reduced or waived in cases of hardship. While their primary goal is to help elders remain in their home, they do not have any age, ability or income restrictions in their services. They have found “that people of all ages and abilities can benefit from homesharing.”

Open Communities

Open Communities’ Homesharing program matches residents in the north suburbs of Chicago who have extra rooms with renters who need them. They have facilitated more than 700 matches since 1985 through their free, award-winning shared housing program. Open Communities’ Homesharing is ideal for homeowners, renters, and older adults with disabilities. Their screening process includes prescreening both homeowners and renters and includes getting to know applicants’ personalities, living habits, and expectations. To take part in the Open Communities Homesharing program, homeowners must have a separate bedroom to rent and be willing to share kitchen and laundry facilities. Renters are required to have a minimum monthly income of $1,000 and excellent references.

New York Foundation for Senior Citizens

The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens is dedicated to helping New York seniors enjoy life by remaining in their own homes and communities and avoiding being prematurely institutionalized. The Foundation’s free Home Sharing Program links adult “hosts” who have extra bedrooms in their homes or apartments with appropriate adult “guests” to share their space. At least one of the housemates must be age 60 or over, or the program will match “hosts” age 55 and over with developmentally disabled adult “guests” capable of independent living. The Foundation’s Professional Social Work staff screen all applicants and use QUICK-MATCH, a unique database to help them find the most compatible matches by inputting 31 lifestyle objectives. Once matches have been determined, the staff schedule “match meetings” to facilitate potential hosts and guests in determining their compatibility and willingness to home share. The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens also reports that applications for homesharing through their program have tripled since 2008.

HIP Housing

HIP Housing has helped individuals in San Mateo County, California, live happier, more independent lives for more than 40 years. Their mission is to improve housing and the lives of people in their community and enable people with special needs, either from income or circumstance, to live independent, self-sufficient lives in decent, safe, low-cost homes. HIP Housing offers two types of Homesharing: rent exchange and service exchange. In rent exchange, a home provider is matched with a home seeker who pays rent. In service exchange, a home provider is matched with a home seeker who exchanges services in lieu of or for reduced rent. HIP Housing arranges for applicants to complete an interview and a screening process and offers other services including Personal Housing Coordinator, home visits to seniors and home-bound individuals, Facilitation of Living Together Agreements and more.

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center

St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center is Baltimore’s oldest nonprofit housing provider and has served over 118,000 families since 1968. With innovative and evolving programs, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center helps 3,000 low- and moderate-income families each year. The St. Ambrose Homesharing program matches homeowners offering an extra room in their home with someone looking for an affordable room to rent; the matches are based on varying levels of compatibility. Applicants can rest assured that their homesharing experience will be positive because St. Ambrose staff has years of experience and carefully screens each applicant through interviewing, background checking, and personal reference contacting. St. Ambrose homesharing staff also facilitate each homesharing contract and provides regular follow-up services while empowering home sharers to negotiate and create their own successful living arrangements. St. Ambrose operates in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Other homesharing resources:

Golden Girl Homes, Inc. – an organization dedicated to promoting and advancing shared housing, particularly for older women by providing information about shared housing and creating networking opportunities for women

HomeSharing, Inc. – an organization in New Jersey providing homesharing solutions in Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon, Morris and Union counties

National Shared Housing Resource Center (NSHR) – a clearinghouse of information for people looking to find a shared housing organization in their community, or for people looking to begin a program in their area

Image via Flickr by Arlington County
Post by Angela Stringfellow

Active Northwest Seniors Compete in the 18th Annual Washington State Senior Games

Across the United State this summer, seniors are competing against their peers in senior games—proving that you can be an athlete at any age. In recognition of these games, and with this year being a qualifying year for the National Senior Games in 2015, we are publishing a series of articles about the senior games. Join us as we celebrate the men and women who are redefining active aging.

WA State Senior Games - Athletes hugging

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

This July, seniors—from Oregon, British Columbia, and even from California and Arizona—will converge in the Olympia area to compete in the Washington State Senior Games (WSSG). For 18 years, these games have enabled seniors the opportunity to compete against their peers in a professional setting and be cheered on by family and friends.

According to Jack Kiley, president of the WSSG, the games came to Washington State late; while the first National Senior Olympic Game was held in 1987 in St. Louis, the games didn’t begin in Washington until 1996. At that time, it was called the Puget Sound Senior Games and there were only a few hundred participants competing in four to five sporting events. Now Kiley says that 23 events are offered with 2,000 participants competing each year, and we are still “trying to get past that 2,000 person plateau,” he says.

Though their games are “very inclusive,” allowing out-of-state seniors to participate, Kiley admits there is difficulty spreading word about Washington’s games due to a limited budget. Though they send flyers to senior centers and YMCAs, it is mostly through word-of-mouth that seniors learn about us and join the games, he explains.

Basketball team at Washington State Senior Games

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

Another difficulty in attracting participants could also be the stereotype associated with the term senior, Kiley says. Even though the games are open to adults 50 years or older—there was even a 103-year-old shot putter one year—those in their 50s do not consider themselves seniors just yet. The average age of most participants is 62-63.

Of the 23 events offered at this year’s games, seniors can expect some new ones including rock climbing, power walking and trap shooting. Kiley says the board is “open to virtually everything” when it comes to event suggestions, but some might not be held if they cannot find a commissioner to run the event or find a venue to host it.

Because of the diversity of sports and the need for multiple venues to host the events, the events are held around the South Sound area. “We have to pay for most of the venues we use,” Kiley says, and the board strives to find the best venue possible to give the participants the best experience possible. He adds that “the venues like the idea of being part of the games.” As an example of the event sites this year, softball is held in at the Mason County Recreational Area, soccer at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey and shuffleboard at the Little Creek Casino in Shelton.

Athlete participating in bowling at the Washington State Senior Games

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

With the WSSG being an all-volunteer nonprofit, they depend upon outside funding to support the games. The majority of funding comes from the lodging tax collected in the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater. Kiley adds that over 30 businesses and governments— including the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Panorama, and Olympics West Retirement Inn—participate significantly to make the games a success. The athletes also support the games through their registration fee.

While it has been suggested to host the games elsewhere in Western Washington, Kiley says the board likes the idea that the games are held in the state capitol. The WSSG are a “significant event in a smaller area,” which means we can attract more attendees, he says.

Though the opening ceremony is July 26 at the Tumwater High School Stadium, several events are being held this weekend, including softball and ballroom dance. Of all the games, Kiley says that softball comprises of one-third (around 600) of the total participants. Track and field has the second highest number of participants at 200. For many of the events, there is an equal participation of the sexes, but “I would love to have more women’s softball and basketball teams,” Kiley says, which only have men teams.

WA State Senior Games - Javelin

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

With 2014 a qualifying year for the 2015 National Senior Games, Kiley expects there likely will be more participants competing. He says what makes the games unique is the sight of grandparents being cheered on by their families; it is “really a great reverse for the lives of most of us,” seeing the young folks actively cheering us—“it is very sobering and very delightful to see.”

Kiley recommends that those who are interested in participating should visit the WSSG website and take a look at the available events. He also adds that seniors who want to learn how to train should talk with our volunteers and they will be connected with others involved in the sport.

For Kiley, he played tennis in the games during the 2000s. When someone learned he was retired, they asked him to join as a treasurer, which led into the administration, he explains. With most of the board members still working, Kiley takes on many of the responsibilities in managing the day-to-day tasks of organizing the games. And though, at 75, he has every right to enjoy a work-free retirement, Kiley embraces the work because there is “a lot of satisfaction putting the games together, to give these committed senior men and women a chance to compete against their peers.”

Andrea Watts is content writer for SeniorHomes.com. In addition to covering senior living, she also writes on sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWest, The Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.

Are Marketers Missing the Mark When It Comes to Baby Boomers?

Marketing

Baby Boomers outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services.  In fact, with Baby Boomers accounting for 35% of the American adult population and the 55+ age group controlling more than ¾ of America’s wealth, you would think that they would continue to be a marketer’s dream.  These facts and statistics support Steve Gillon’s claim in Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever, and How It Changed America that almost from the time they were conceived, Baby Boomers were dissected, analyzed, and pitched to by modern marketers who reinforced the sense of generational distinctiveness.

So, with all of the Baby Boomers’ control over personal financial assets and consumer spending in the United States, why is Peter Hubbell, CEO of the BoomAgers ad agency, telling marketers to wake up when it comes to Baby Boomers and arguing in his new book that boomers are a bust for most brands today?

In a recent interview with Richard Eisenberg for Forbes, Hubbell explains that every time he goes out and speaks, boomers tell him they are really frustrated about advertising, and some are angry.  They see ads with pop culture icons they don’t even know selling brands they have been buying for years, and they’ve had enough.  Hubbell admits that he has switched his jeans allegiance to J.L. Powell from Levi’s because he is out of Levi’s marketing cohort, with ads featuring “tattooed kids with messy hair, ripped clothing and pierced skin making out in the back of the car.”

Hubbell contends that Madison Avenue only worships consumers until age 50 and then ignores them.  But, with the beginning of the new era that Hubbell has coined “The Age of Aging,” the last of the boomers will turn 50 and leave the portion of market that advertisers have declared matters most: ages 18 to 49.  He firmly holds that marketers need to “get old” because in a few short years there will be more people over age 65 than under age 5 for the first time in world history, and there is “no other global trend that will do more to affect global economies than The Age of Aging.”

Baby Boomers

If marketers are going to do it right, they are going to have to understand that boomers desire to be current and have “FOMO – a Fear of Missing Out.”  A recent Transamerica Retirement Survey found that 65% of boomers either plan to work past 65 or don’t plan to retire, yet few employers are helping their older employees transition to semi-retirement.  Only 21% of the survey respondents said their firms have a program in place to help employees shift from full- to part-time.  And, only 41% of boomers said they’ve kept their skills current, which would be another huge business opportunity for companies that could help boomers stay current with their skills.  Another way companies could benefit would be designing eldercare benefits for employees.

Jim Gilmartin, an expert on marketing and sales to boomers and a principal at Coming of Age, which provides interactive/online marketing services to clients eager to connect with boomers and senior customers, shares many of Hubbell’s sentiments.  He noticed Baby Boomers were being dismissed by Super Bowl ads and devised seven boomer attributes that advertisers should keep in mind to attract lucrative boomer customers:

1.    We demand facts – Boomers want more facts and less hyperbole.

2.    First impressions are more likely to be permanent compared with younger consumers – Boomers react more quickly with negativity and lack of interest than people in their 20s and 30s.  Positive first impressions often result in more faithful boomer customers.

3.    We’re less self-oriented and more altruistic than the younger generation, too – Boomers have a shift toward stronger spiritual values and a greater concern for others; remember, our narcissistic and materialistic values wane in influence.

4.    We spend more time making purchasing decisions – Boomers often ignore time-stamped offers, so don’t bother with the “offer good until…” business.

5.    We see fewer differences between competing products – Boomers typically believe most items in a category are basically the same.

6.    We’re less sensitive to price and more sensitive to value – Boomers combine our spiritual, intellectual, and tangible values when deciding if a product is worth buying; the purchase experience becomes a projection of our whole being.

7.    We’re interested in much more than just a product’s features and benefits – Emotions are the driving forces behind boomers’ purchasing decisions.

So, boomers don’t want to be younger.  They don’t want to be ignored.  They don’t want to be thought of as being less valuable or opposed to new choices and behaviors.  And they certainly don’t want to be treated like the younger demographic because their boomer generation is a brand in itself.  Learning something new and doing something new makes boomers happiest, because they are able to feel smarter, younger, modern, and current.  And this is where companies need to direct their marketing if they are going to reap the potential benefits of The Age of Aging.

Images via Flickr by 401(k) and Quinn Dombrowski
Post by Angela Stringfellow

Dispelling the Confusion Between 55+ Communities and Independent Living

An active husband and wife senior coupleAs part of our mission to help families find senior living options that fit their loved ones’ needs, SeniorHomes.com offers a free Care Advisor service. On any given day, our Care Advisors assist over 400 seniors and families to find housing and care options that meet their needs and fit their budget.

Over time, our Care Advisors have noticed some frequently asked questions common to many of our inquirers. This article is the first in a series where our Care Advisors respond to questions many retirees have. In this article, Care Advisor Cindy Fox explains the differences between independent living and 55+ communities (sometimes referred to as Active Adult Retirement Communities).

When seniors and their families inquire about a community, they know exactly what they want their new lifestyle to have: they desire an affordable monthly rent, a dining option on nights they don’t feel like cooking, living among other seniors their age and perhaps have scheduled activities to join. When most people begin their search for independent living, they think this is the community setting they are looking for; however, that’s not the case.

All too often, I ask the seniors to tell me a bit more about themselves and they tell me that they’re a husband and wife in their mid-60s, fairly active without any physical ailments, and don’t want the hassle of home ownership. We conclude that an independent living community isn’t what they want for a variety of reasons.

Couple having tea Younger seniors desire an active setting—living much as they had before retirement—and these types of communities are often referred to as 55+ community, active adult, or age-qualified. Services, such as meals, housekeeping, and transportation—amenities that generally appeal to an older demographic (around 80)—are not of interest to them. And younger retirees want to live among those of a similar age.

Understandably, many people are confused and frustrated when they learn that independent living is not what they seek. Unfortunately, nothing is straightforward when learning about a new and unfamiliar environment, and part of this is because not everyone has adopted standard terms in the senior living industry. This is where my advice can help.

Couple bike ridingIn my experience, the marketplace has yet to adapt to the demands of younger seniors. They want fewer responsibilities and more opportunity for social engagement with their peers, yet prefer services such as dining or housekeeping to be optional. More specifically, they would prefer to forgo maintaining and upkeeping a house, but keep the routines of home life—cooking meals and cleaning their personal space.

The good news is that this type of community does exist, typically called active adult, 55+ or age qualified communities. Furthermore, they come in a variety of styles, and whether they are gated developments with free-standing houses or an apartment complex, they will generally have beautiful common areas where residents can congregate. Typically, you must be at least 55 years of age to live in this setting and the median age is late 60s to early 70s—a generation younger than those moving into independent living communities.

According to industry standards, independent living refers to a setting where a meal plan, housekeeping, linen service and transportation are standard amenities included in the monthly rent. Often a full-time activities director is on staff to schedule daily activities and weekly outings. The median age of seniors in this type of community is usually in the early 80s. When joining an independent living community, there is generally no option to “opt out” of the meals and services. Frequently, this setting will also offer assisted living support as needed.

Couple enjoying the natural sceneryBoth 55+ and independent living communities will allow home health care providers to assist residents with light-to-moderate support. This à la carte approach can quickly become cost prohibitive when a resident has high care needs, and it may become necessary to consider a location that offers higher levels of care on site, such as assisted living. If you have a condition where you can expect substantial increases in care outside of the normal aging process, it will be important to take these options into consideration.

When you decide which type of community meets your needs, it is time to search for your new home. While searching for independent living or assisted living communities is relatively easy, it is a bit more challenging to find 55+ communities. If you don’t find the words “dining service,” “meals provided,” or “housekeeping” listed on a community’s website, it is likely a 55+ community.  Additionally, the cost to live in a 55+ community will be far less than an independent setting because the there are fewer amenities bundled into the rates.

You will spend many fruitful years in your new home, regardless of what choice you make. As you age, you might transition from one type of senior living community to another as your needs change, providing the quality of life most important to you.  If you are looking to find a setting that offers a 55+ setting, where you can transition to independent living and assisted living as needed, you may wish to consider a continuing care setting. This for many seniors is their last move because it offers a continuum of care designed to provide the environment you want at the time it is needed.

I hope this discussion has proven helpful in your search for your new home, and I’m just a phone call away should you have any questions!