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With increasing longevity, boomers are the first ‘older generation’

by Phil Burgess, Unabridged from the Life section of the Annapolis Capital, Sunday June 21, 2020

Oliver Brown, age 62, lives in Newcomb, Maryland, located on the Miles River between Easton and St. Michaels.   Because of increasing longevity among Americans – adding more than 30 years during the last century – Brown, an aging boomer by most standards, considers himself a “proud member of the first, new, older generation”.

There’s a lot of truth to that because we now have an entire legion of Americans who, having lived to age sixty, will likely live into their mid-80s to mid-90s.  Indeed, many will live longer. 

According to Census Bureau demographers, the number of centenarians in the U.S. will have grown from over 53,000 in 2010 to over 90,000 this year. By 2030, the US will most likely be home to more than 130,000 centenarians, growing to over 600,000 by 2060.

Those additional years are not like a adding a few pages to the story of your life; they are like adding a whole new chapter – and for some two chapters and maybe even an epilogue.

Brown is also an optimist about later life – and an evangelist on aging.  This past week, he published the Mid-shore edition of “Senior Services SourceBook” (centered on but not limited to Talbot County) which he describes as a “directory of every reputable senior service in your town”.  

But it is much more than that.

First, the SourceBook is both interesting and very readable. Brown said, “The tone I have tried to set is that of a ‘conversation’ among friends.  You are sitting out on the porch on a sunny summer afternoon, sipping iced tea and chatting with a wise neighbor, the local judge, or a respected town official.  Trust is in the air. Respect is mutual.  The conversation is pleasant, but it is serious and thoughtful as well.” 

After reading nearly every chapter, I can say he succeeded in conveying a conversational tone.

Second, handsomely produced with more than 300 interesting photographs, including noteworthy historic scenes, from around the region, Oliver divides the SourceBook into nine chapters and 168 pages that include 67 background articles as he shares “practical, how-to information on ways you can maximize your senior experience in the years ahead”. 

In addition to senior information resources, the book has chapters dealing with:

  • senior issues – including essays on “rust-proofing my mind” through local libraries, senior centers, community colleges and other services;
  • dementia and other health care issues;
  • financial advisory services, transportation, veterans’ services;
  • rightsizing through moving, renovation or new construction; and
  • the senior marketplace – from home care and assisted living to food pantry services and computer sales, maintenance, and repair.

Scattered throughout the chapters are pages devoted to “Shore Memories” that include essays and vignettes about the history and culture of the Chesapeake Bay and Eastern Shore – from tobacco to fruit farming, oyster farming and the bounty of the sea, and from days of sail to steamship ferry boats.

I immediately went to the contents page to see what Brown might have included on aging-in-place, one of my favorite topics.  I didn’t find an article on aging-in-place; I found an entire chapter (Chapter 6) devoted to the topic. 

In addition to an overview essay, five additional sections are set aside to address aging-in-place themes.  These include:

  • Maryland grant programs to support aging-in-place remodeling,
  • Do-it-yourself changes to make your home safer and more comfortable,
  • Using a contractor for remodeling and choosing the right contractor – with advice to use a Certified Aging in Place Specialist – a so-called CAPS contractor,
  • An aging-in-place remodeling checklist that includes more than 100 items, touching every room of a home – and every function, such as HVAC, lighting and storage, and
  • Home technology to make aging in place safer and more convenient – from voice-activated lighting to medication reminders.

Indeed, as you read through the aging-in-place chapter, you understand the truth of Oliver’s assertion that “We have come a long way from the old ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ pendants” noting that “one of the most pronounced trends in home ownership is seniors’ remodeling their homes so they can age-in-place safely and comfortably.” 

The popularity of aging-in-place is supported by data from the National Association of Home Builders showing that 90 percent of adults over 65 desire to remain in their home as they age and more than 70 percent of today’s remodeling projects include renovation so that a home can be made safe and comfortable for those in later life.

Creating an age-friendly home environment is often on the agenda of adult children, who anticipate that one or more parents may be moving in with them. 

More typical is the older adult who is looking ahead to later life and prefers to stay at home forever, or at least as long as possible – often to avoid being a burden on his children – and sees the need to make some changes in his living environment to make it safer, more accessible and more convenient.

Just as we have come a long way from the old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ pendants”, we have also come a long way from defining age-friendly homes in terms of adding ramps and railings.

Today, creating an age-friendly home includes renovations to kitchens to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs and counter-height microwaves and dishwashers, bathrooms and showers without thresholds and with grab bars, entryways that are covered, and non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces interior and exterior. 

In addition, there are a host of new technologies.  These include voice-activated thermostats, smart pillboxes that issue audible or visual reminders that prompt you to take your medications, smart stove alarms and other danger detection devices that can determine water leaks, air quality or water overflow – and turn off the bath or sink before they are overfilled, motion-activated lighting and many more. 

The result: a new era of safety and security for those aging-in-place – and especially if they are living alone.

Brown said it best: “These new technologies and practices can allow seniors to remain in their homes longer, decrease the need for on-site caregiving, greatly reduce the cost of senior housing and provide loved ones peace of mind that you are safe and secure.”

“Most of all,” he said, “I want the SourceBook to help seniors view later life as the end of the beginning – not the beginning of the end.”

To learn more about the SourceBook, visit: http://www.talbotsourcebook.org/

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3 Comments

  1. Lorraine Drake on June 26, 2020 at 1:25 am

    Yes!!!! I’m 83 and feel GREAT!! And I don’t look like I am 83.

  2. Susan Luck on June 26, 2020 at 3:19 am

    Your article some time ago on Charlie Phelps of Severna Park is remembered now too!
    Charlie turns an active 102 this Sat July 27.

    A drive by parade by friends and neighbors is planned for 11 AM Sat. 308 Hollyberry Rd
    We hope he will be there to greet us Sat as he can usually be found doing beach cleanup.!!! He is still very active and a huge example for all of us on how to live life well.

  3. James F Luck on June 26, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    Phil,
    For some time now, I have been wanting to tell you how much my wife and I enjoy your column. We always look forward to it and appreciate you including us on your mailing list!
    Best regards,
    Jim Luck

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