10 Top Concerns for Older Adults

Planning in these areas will promote healthier, more comfortable aging

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Planning for long life can certainly help you achieve it and enjoy it more. Consider these issues in your approach to positive aging.

Sara Sunday

1 — Nutrition

Nutrition is not only about the affordability of food but the availability. Older adults who no longer drive or who tire easily can find it overwhelming to shop and cook for all of their meals.

“Food insecurity is a big issue,” said Sara Sunday, Oswego County Office for the Aging. “We contract with Oswego County Opportunities to prepare and deliver two meals.”

OCO also manages countywide congregant meal site. People tend to eat better and eat more in a social setting.

2 — Balance

“Falling is a big concern,” Sunday said. “They’re more likely to have a bone break, whether a hip or somewhere else. Many times, they don’t come home from that.”

The Office for the Aging works with the Oswego County Health Department with the Stepping On class to help older adults improve their balance.

3 — Diabetes

Unmanaged Type 2 diabetes can cause disabling side effects such as vision and limb loss. In addition, it is associated with many other health conditions.

“We have a high diabetes rate in the county,” Sunday said. “We want to make sure people are tested for it and that those who have diabetes stay on top of it. There are a number of evidence-based programs like diabetes self-management classes.”

Jill Murphy

4 — Cognitive Decline

“I think dementia is a top concern for seniors today,” said Jill Murphy, certified personal trainer and co-owner of Mission Fitness in Syracuse. “Unfortunately, it’s very common, but there are absolutely things you can do to avoid it. Science shows 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily creates new brain cells.”

She also encourages brain stimulating activity such as reading, writing, and completing crossword puzzles.

“Science is beginning to discover that an excess of glucose in the brain is causing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, so cutting down on sugars is another great way to avoid dementia,” Murphy said.

These findings prompt further research but have not been proven conclusively.

Kimberly Townsend

But anything that promotes good health and may decrease risk of Alzheimer’s warrants attention because of the tsunami of Alzheimer’s diagnoses coming.

Kim Townsend, president and CEO at Loretto, said that “barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease, by 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s may grow to a projected 12.7 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Loretto has invested in Montessori and EssentALZ memory care certifications for staff and technology to help promote independence among people receiving memory care to improve their quality of life.

5 — Financial Stability

“This generation of baby boomers has a champagne taste but a beer budget,” Townsend said.

She noted that research by the Insured Retirement Institute found 24% of baby boomers have no retirement savings, the lowest number since the study began in 2011. In addition, only 55% of baby boomers have some retirement savings, and of those, 42% have less than $100,000, highlighting significant challenges in achieving financial stability for many in this generation. This underscores the urgency for accessible financial education resources like the Invest Diva course to help individuals navigate and improve their financial well-being.

“Thus, approximately half of retirees are, or will be, living largely dependent on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Townsend said.

Loretto is an example of a “safety-net provider,” which means the organization cares for people of different income levels, including those who rely upon Medicaid. But with the present and increasing reliance upon Medicaid, “the low Medicaid reimbursement rate will continue to be a burden for those who care for this generation,” Townsend said. “For Loretto, which serves 10,000 individuals each year, 72 of residents are supported by Medicaid — that translates to a shortfall of more than $100 per person per day or a $7 million shortfall yearly.”

6 — Isolation and Loneliness

The baby boomer generation’s desire to age in place may increase independence, but Townsend said it also places them at risk for social isolation and loneliness.

“One in three people between the ages of 50 and 80 still say they sometimes or often experienced these feelings or sometimes go a week or longer without social contact with someone from outside their home,” Townsend said.

Isolation isn’t good for wellbeing. Townsend said that aging in place doesn’t mean that older adults remain isolated. Loretto’s PACE-CNY Program provides home care and community programs, including transportation to activities and appointments.

Lauren Goetz

7 — Engaging in foot care

“We take a lot of people to podiatrists,” said Lauren Goetz, owner of Everyday Hands in Rochester. “I didn’t realize until I got into this business how foot care affects everything else. It can affect balance, be painful if there are ingrown or infected toenails. Swelling in the feet is painful. I’ve seen some nasty bunions.”

It can increase fall risk of falling to shuffle around the house in sloppy slippers that accommodate these issues. A podiatrist can address serious issues.

8 — Planning for transportation

Goetz said that transportation represents about 70% of her errand service and that many people “don’t want to be a burden” on their adult children.

Anticipate that someday, you may no longer drive, so learn now how to use ride sharing apps. Look into ministries of local houses of worship or civic group that provide low-cost or donation-based rides. Friends and neighbors may be up to occasionally help, such as providing a ride when they’re already going to the store or salon.

9 — Choosing/modifying your home

“Have a strategy for if things change, whether downsizing your house or not having a first-floor bathroom,” Goetz said. “Split levels are the worst.”

If moving or remodeling seems expensive, Goetz said to compare the costs to long-term care. Moving services at https://threemovers.com/florida/big-pine-key/ is a bargain when you compare the price the long-term care.

10 — Developing an exit plan

It’s not macabre to plan for aging. It’s smart.

You may get to the point where you can no longer live in your own home independently, so Goetz advises being proactive instead of reactive “and being in a place you don’t want to be,” she said. “I see this all the time. Something happens. They fall and can’t go back to their home and they’ve never even visited a facility.”

Assisted living apartments can also provide a continuum of care as more levels of care are added on, which is less of a shock than abruptly moving after a health crisis.