There is no shortage of news stories about the changing demographics in the United States. Advances in healthcare and slowed birth rates mean that a much larger percentage of the country is elderly than ever before–the trend will continue for years to come. Our New York elder law attorneys understand that most discussion of these issues revolves around fear about what these changing demographics mean. However, an interesting New York Times article this week took a different look at the issue, noting that it is wrong to “assume defeat” when considering the challenges posed by an aging population. Instead of dwelling on the challenges, we instead need to embrace the benefits of our increasing longevity and buckle down to get the financial, social, and healthcare concerns raised by the demographics in check.
The article included an interview with Dr. Linda P. Fried, an epidemiologist and geriatrician. She noted that new research needs to “reframe our understanding of the benefits and costs of aging.” Dr. Fried notes an increased focus on science into the aging process, with the potential for positive impacts on social and political policies that address these issues–including many elder law concerns.
Dr. Friend is at the forefront of exciting new research into the aging process, with implications in many different fields, from nationwide healthcare policy to nursing home abuse prevention.
For example, she developed a “frailty assessment” — a simple tool now widely-used to understand healthcare issues for seniors and the way that the elder body responds to various stressors. It is this frailty system that geriatric experts now use to ensure those in long-term care settings receive the support that they need. It was Dr. Fried’s work that conclusively identified, for example, how insufficient nutrition can lead to a chain reaction of problems with a loss of muscle mass resulting in reduced strength, slower walking speeds, less energy, and, ultimately, dangerous accidents like falls.
Now a legend in the field of geriatric care, Dr. Friend is urging all those working in areas related to aging–including New York elder law attorneys–to embrace the challenges posed the “graying” of society. Instead of shirking away from the challenges, she urges everyone to get to work planning for the future and ensuring that one’s golden years are spent the best way possible with seniors flourishing instead of languishing. In fact, she is currently developing a new program that seeks to steer those near retirement into specific volunteer activities. The volunteer services are specifically tailored not only to provide some social service to the community but also to provide the volunteering senior with needed health and wellbeing benefits.
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