Editor’s Note

Aging Independently — and Differently

There is a trend among the aging population that providers need to understand.

David KopfAmerica is getting older, but it’s also aging differently. How many seniors choose to live will impact how providers serve them, and could create new opportunities.

We know that the American population is aging. By 2034, the Census Bureau reports that older adults will edge out children in population size. People aged 65 and over are expected to number 77 million, while children under age 18 will number 76.5 million. Starting in 2030, when all Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) will have reached age 65, older Americans will make up 21 percent of the population, up from 15 percent today. By 2060, nearly one in four Americans will be 65 years and older, the number of 85-plus will triple, and the country will add a half million centenarians.

Also, Generation X (born from 1965 to 1980) will soon get into the act. Already the oldest members of Gen X have been holding onto their AARP cards since 2015, and they’ll hit Age 65 by 2030 (the jury is still out as to whether they’ll be financially ready to do so).

But it is important to note that how people are aging is changing. How? First off, a significant portion of them is doing it alone. Older folks living on their own is nothing new, but the numbers are going up. According to Census data, almost 26 million Americans age 50 or older live alone. Compare that to 15 million in 2000 and 8 million in 1970.

Secondly, recent real estate trends are starting to indicate that the word “alone” is relative. A senior might not be married or living with family members, but they might not be living entirely solo. For example, recent reporting from the New York Times noted that many seniors owning multi-bedroom homes are discovering that downsizing into a smaller place is actually a losing proposition. So they are renting out rooms or housing friends with similar demographics.

Also, the United States is starting to see the growth of senior cohousing communities, which are quasi-communal living arrangements combing small residences with shared living spaces for people who want to live independently but also be part of a group. Often SCCs are founded on shared ideals or circumstances. Not to be confused with “over 55” planned communities, these are often projects started by the residents rather than a developer. Currently, the Cohousing Association of the United States reports there are 306 SCCs in the country.

It’s important for HME providers to take note of these trends because how they serve this growing population of people who are “alone but not alone” will differ from how they serve other seniors. For example, a caregiver might be a community member; there might be opportunities for package sales of bigger ticket items; these communities might need accessibility upgrades later on down the road. Obviously, this situation is a work in progress, but it’s a change that providers will want to monitor.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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