From Growing Older to Growing Golder – Let’s Change the Conversation on Aging Well in America

Conversations around aging in America are weighed down by imposing statistics about the number of people turning 65 each day and the impacts on our health system and caregivers. The daunting implications of these statistics are exasperated by approaches that have, to date, fallen short in addressing the health needs of this fast-growing population.

Meeting the mounting demands necessary to support our aging citizens requires an intentional shift in how the health industry addresses aging. A shift that focuses less on purely clinical needs and more on promoting human flourishing. This concept “consists of a much broader range of states and outcomes, including mental and physical health, happiness and life satisfaction, meaning and purpose, character and virtue, and close social relationships.”[1] Effectively promoting human flourishing starts with erasing the box around the healthcare system and engaging the broader health ecosystem.

 

Living well at any age

Current culture is trending toward a focus on wellness and living well for kids, teens and adults. Yet, when it comes to older adults, the conversation changes to the burden of aging. But, what if age didn’t frame the conversation? Instead, the focus remained on the individual and addressed the physical, emotional, social and spiritual health, regardless of age. By holistically encircling individuals and those who care for them with resources, connections and quality care, seniors can find success in living well.

 

Certain countries across the globe are taking a holistic approach of supporting seniors, prioritizing living well at any age. These countries address aging from a perspective of reverence and duty (flourishing), as opposed to a financial and operational problem (burden).

  • Switzerland ranks at the top for the best country to live in for those 60 or older. Switzerland’s policies and programs promote and support the health of older adults, and the country fosters an enabling environment measured by access to public transportation, physical safety, social connections and civic freedom.
  • Singapore has invested billions to help its citizens age successfully, developing initiatives focused on health and wellness, education, volunteerism, housing, transportation and social inclusion. One example of this is the country’s initiative to house elder-care and child-care centers in the same facilities to promote intergenerational bonding.

 

Switzerland and Singapore have progressed from asking “How are we going to pay for all these aging adults?” to “How can we better align healthcare with health everywhere resources to provide the highest quality of life regardless of age?” Addressing health in the context of helping individuals flourish within their current surroundings, beliefs and health status will drive solutions to support living well.

 

Follow our HLTH blog series on changing the conversation on aging in America. Our next blog will highlight the technology in place today to support human flourishing and ways the ecosystem can improve access to these solutions.

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/114/31/8148.full