The world is currently experiencing an unprecedented increase in the population of older persons and there is no region that is exempt. There are currently over 700 million persons around the world age 60 years and older. By 2025, this figure is expected to double. I will be transitioning into that demographic in 3 years and the current system will not meet my needs; will it meet yours?
Through my international travels I have found that aging effects different geographical population groups differently. Our Western world view of individualism in which one financially self-sufficient, living alone, and in control, makes accepting help from others a challenge. On the other hand, many Eastern countries in the world do not subscribe to our Western ideal of individualism. Rather, they place greater value on long-term bonds with family and local community. When people grow into old age they are cared for by younger members of the family and community throughout the entire process. These adults are much better off. Consequently, we need to recognize the value of that thought process in the Western world and that it is nearly impossible to age alone and remain healthy.
What we all have in common is the need to implement a system that strengthens the autonomy of the older person, assure their active involvement and participation in all spheres of life to improve their well-being, and quality of life. As a result, we need to examine closely our current method of institutional care in assisted livings and skilled nursing facilities, move away from a disease centered and functional dependence approach, but rather to care that promotes independence and dignity of the older person. Medicine is only one part of the picture; as people are transitioning into an older person, we need to look at a whole host of solutions that can keep them healthier and happier for their entire lives.
Through our care management practice, we have had the unique opportunity to identify best practices that allow our older clients to transition into a holistic way of aging well. I believe these concepts can provide a framework for future aging models of care.
Our Aging Model of Care:
- Working through expected Life transitions with a predetermined plan
- Creating an autonomous environment that encourages the older person to accept help
- Helping to decrease dependence on medication; eliminating the unnecessary or duplicate
- Treating food as medicine and moving the person into healthy eating
- Recommending alternative and less invasive treatment for many age related conditions
- Determining the root cause of an issue, rather than treating the symptom
- Bringing the “disease” back into balance using a gentile approach
- Following all transitions of care in the current healthcare system
- Acting as the liaison in all areas such as medical, psycho-social, spiritual, cognitive, environmental
- Encouraging and allowing for participation in meaningful life events
- Spending time and enjoying nature as much as possible
- Some type of daily physical and cognitive exercise
- Social interactions and involvement of family and friends
- Multi-generational interactions
I had the opportunity to visit a “Dementia Village” in Amsterdam. Due to their revolutionary approach, the majority of residents achieved the simple goal of trying to make life as normal as possible. As a result of visiting this village, I have strengthened my belief in holistic care. If you’d like to learn more about it you can read a descriptive article here.
When we look at our elders transitioning, we need to stop seeing aging as a disease that needs a cure. Instead, let us bring about a revolution in which future elder care will encourage a return to a natural way of living. We will be close to nature and the things we love. We will walk in the woods, sing songs and appreciate the bounty of the planet and we will AGE WELL.