solo aging and urgent call to action

Solo Aging and Senior Living’s Urgent Call to Action!

For the last 12 years, Sara Zeff Geber, author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers, and a Nexus Fellow, has been studying what she calls “solo aging.” It’s a concept that came to her when she realized that all around her, Baby Boomers were taking care of their aging parents, running errands, moving them into senior living communities, helping them with doctors appointments and insurance, and spending a great deal of time helping them navigate their lives as they aged. She began to think about herself and the many others without children, “Who is going to do that for us?”

“At least 70% of people are going to need some kind of assistance as they get older,” she explained, but solo agers won’t have adult children to help them with it. “We have a situation coming in 10 or 15 years that is going to take both the senior living industry and the government to help resolve.”

Sara Geber coined the term “Solo Ager.” She is the foremost thought leader in solo aging and is passionate about creating change in senior housing. More than anything, Sara wants to drag baby boomers out of their denial of aging and point them toward positive planning. Learn more about Sara Zeff Geber at Nexus Insights.

 

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Bringing together different perspectives with a common passon

Bringing Together Different Perspectives with a Common Passion

Nexus Insights is a think tank comprised of a diverse group of thought leaders and stakeholders in aging and health care (Nexus Fellows) with a shared vision to advance the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing, community and health care. The goal of Nexus Insights is to affect change by sharing innovation across traditional silos, convening leaders from different perspectives in our Nexus Voices salons, and bringing positive, life-affirming ideas into the public domain.

What makes Nexus Insights truly unique is the diversity of our Fellows. We bring together different perspectives and different backgrounds, leaders with expertise in academic research, government policy, private sector startups, and successful businesses serving older adults. It’s the diversity of perspectives, together with the common passion, that drive the disruptive thinking within Nexus.

Bob Kramer is broadly recognized as one of senior living’s most influential and high-profile thought leaders and connectors. With over 35 years of industry leadership, he has earned the reputation of “agent provocateur” in the seniors housing and care industry and aging services field. He has been described as an ice-cutter and scout in identifying industries and trends that will disrupt the future of seniors housing, aging services, and aging more broadly. Learn more about Bob Kramer at Nexus Insights.

 

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Aging in Place to Aging in Community

From Aging in Place to Aging in Community: A 2020 Virtual Talk by Dr. Sara Zeff Geber

Aging in place can be a recipe for isolation and loneliness, according to solo aging expert and Nexus Fellow, Sara Zeff Geber, PhD. In a 2020 virtual presentation, she explains the risks, which include cognitive decline, depression, high blood pressure and more. The result? A decreased quality of life.

According to Geber, there are three types of loneliness:

  • Intimate/Emotional: Longing for a close confidante or intimate partner;
  • Relational/Social: Yearning for quality friendships and social companionship;
  • Collective: Hunger for a network or community of people who share a sense of purpose and interests.

In her presentation, Geber also explains:

  • What makes us happy in later life;
  • The importance of relationships and where they come from;
  • Opportunities to build community;
  • How building community can lead you to the right place to age.

Watch the full presentation:

The event was co-sponsored by Newton Free Library, 2Life Communities, Temple Shalom, and Newton Department of Senior Services.

 

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aging in place baby boomers

Why Boomers May (or May Not) Want to Age in Place

There are so many options between aging-in-place and a nursing home. Open-minded baby boomers should explore them all.

While many people plan to “age in place” and remain in their homes, it isn’t always the best plan, the best location, or the best house. It may not even be an option in later years when unexpected health or mobility issues, or even loneliness, play a factor. Does that mean the only other option is a skilled nursing facility? Absolutely not. According to an op-ed written in the Sun-Sentinel by Nexus Fellows Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber, PhD, other options include “age-friendly apartments, active adult communities, independent living senior communities, home-sharing, co-housing and accessible dwelling units (ADUs).”

What makes a place the right place, or the best place, when it comes to a happy life? Purpose, engagement, and social connection, according to findings from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. Frederick and Geber go on to explain how policymakers can support this, and how Boomers can make the right choice for their “bonus” years, the 21 years beyond retirement.

Read the full piece, ‘Aging in Place’ is not a plan. It’s denial – and it ignores an opportunity.

Ryan Frederick and Sara Zeff Geber are fellows of Nexus Insights, a think tank advancing the well-being of older adults through innovative models of housing and healthcare. Frederick is the author of “Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2021). Geber is the author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults” (Mango, 2018).

 

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Cost of Ageism in the United States

The Cost of Ageism in the United States

Ageism is not only painful for those it disadvantages, it’s also costly – an estimated $63 billion per year. Furthermore, it contributes to mental health issues and is the leading cause of suicide in older adults. At a time when people are living longer, healthier and more productive lives, the rest of society persists in seeing older people as obsolete. This is according to an article published in Seniors Matter.

Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician and a Nexus Fellow, points out ageism in the United States in the documentary film The Roots and Consequences of Ageism in America. “Society holds up very young and inexperienced people as being the paragons of virtue and strength and idealizes them while setting aside real elders with real lived experience making them virtually invisible.”

“Ageism is common, but it doesn’t need to be inevitable,” says Erica Harrison, the author of the article, and expands on what can be done by individuals to change the narrative.

  • Be inclusive
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Avoid ageist language
  • Call out ageism

Read the whole piece: Seniors Matter.

 

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The Increase of Solo Agers in America and What that Means for the Caregiving Industry

In a Forbes.com article written by solo aging expert and Nexus Fellow Sara Zeff Geber, we learn that childlessness has nearly doubled since the silent generation–and it’s compounding some existing problems. Geber discusses the various reasons why many more people of childbearing age in the 1970s decided against having children. In addition, she points out that many baby boomers approaching retirement age will lack the family caregiving options that previous generations had. 

Read the full article at Forbes

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A New Wrinkle on Aging – Jill Vitale-Aussem

In a recent blog post, Jill Vitale-Aussem, President & CEO of Christian Living Communities, describes how many women feel about aging–and it’s not good. Most times we focus on the negatives: the wrinkles, the aches and pains, the doctor appointments and so on. Fortunately, she has a more positive message to share, asking “what’s awesome about aging?” 

It turns out that while there are challenges that come with aging, there are also many upsides. Most older people agree that their lived experience makes them wiser than they used to be. There’s some evidence that older people are better able to see things from different perspectives than their younger counterparts and better able to find compromises. Studies also show that in our later years we are often just plain happier and have better well-being than when we were younger. 

Finally Vitale-Aussem reminds us that maintaining an attitude of gratitude is key. After all, she points out, “aging is just another word for living.” And living will be much more rewarding if we can focus on the positive aspects of life. 

Read the full article: https://www.christianlivingcommunities.org/blog/a-new-wrinkle-on-aging/ 

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Data For Health Plans

Data gaps could amplify difficulties for health plans

In an interview with Health Payer Intelligence, Caroline Pearson, Nexus Fellow and Senior VP of Health Care Strategy at NORC at the University of Chicago, emphasized that the industry’s understanding of effective payment models and strategies for social determinants of health management is “riddled with unknowns.” Her remarks appear in an article: The State of Payer, CBO Social Determinants of Health Contracting.

It is natural, for example, for organizations like large healthcare providers and payers to turn to smaller community-based partners for on-the-ground insight and service delivery. However, according to Pearson, it can be problematic with smaller partners who lack the infrastructure to cover a large population, or are unable to provide the kind of data needed for decision-making. 

How can you know if a community-based organization is going to be a good partner for you? Pearson says one key indicator may be their ability to gather and exchange this data.

“The data requirements to deliver supplemental benefits to a health plan population are pretty high: you need some way to identify those members, you need to be able to receive the referrals from the health plan, and then, increasingly, those health plans really want a feedback loop where you can give them information about the result,” Pearson said.

But Pearson explains that even if an organization lacks this ability it’s still possible to work with them –if you can involve a vendor who provides a platform to bridge the gap.

Read more

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housing for solo agers

What senior living providers need to know about Solo Agers

Adult children do many things for their aging parents, including helping them find a senior community. But what about “Solo Agers”? This term was coined by author and solo aging expert Dr. Sara Zeff Geber to describe those seniors who find themselves aging alone. Dr. Geber wrote the 2018 book, Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.

According to Geber, “A significant number of Boomers will not have adult children to help them with care or relocation if living independently becomes difficult or impossible.” She cites geriatric specialist Maria Carney, MD, and colleagues, who determined in 2016 that “approximately 22% of older Americans had no one to turn to in a crisis.” 

In a recent article in the International Council on Active Aging’s The Journal on Active Aging, Geber points out that, while the COVID pandemic has brought into national focus the devastating isolation of those aging alone, it also made clear that there are opportunities for senior housing communities and the aging services industry to provide for the needs of solo agers. The important first step is to understand this cohort, and their unique needs.

“I noticed many of my contemporaries were starting to spend huge chunks of time and energy helping to care for their aging parents,” said Geber. “They were chauffeuring their parents to appointments, shopping for their groceries and other essentials, monitoring their medications, arranging for home repairs, and spending considerably more time on the phone and in person with them than they had in the past.” That got Geber wondering. “Who is going to do all the above for those of us without children? More questions arose. How many of us are there? What are our options? And how should we prepare?”

Among the differences she noticed that set Solo Agers apart:

  • Solo Agers (women and men) tend to be more highly educated and to have made a good living over their lives, making them excellent candidates for higher-end senior living. 
  • Congregate living offers the advantage of built-in community, to help Solo Agers make social connections, and avoid isolation and loneliness.
  • Choosing independent living that is connected to communities that also provide options for higher levels of care can provide peace of mind to Solo Agers, who want to prepare for greater care needs in the future.
  • Many seniors find comfort in moving closer to adult children or grandchildren. Solo Agers may likewise choose proximity to loved ones, who may be extended family or friends.
  • Solo Agers have typically been living independently, as “masters of their universe” their whole lives, and will want choices for how they live that allow them to continue to learn, develop, and pursue healthy lifestyles.

What are the challenges for senior living communities? According to Geber, “the first hurdle will be selling the concept.” This involves knowing how to sell directly to seniors who may approach the community alone, and make their decisions without the assistance, encouragement or “cajoling” of adult children.

The second hurdle is to develop models of housing that appeal to Solo Agers. One good example, Geber suggests, is to build residences, such as Garden Spot Village’s Cooperative Living House, that house a small number of unrelated roommates. The home provides private bedrooms and baths for the residents and shared communal space. Roommates in these residences maintain some privacy and independence, but they also have the opportunity to develop friendships and even family-like connections, and to provide one another with mutual support, much like what happened in ”The Golden Girls” TV show from the 80s).

Another example is cohousing. Geber describes it as “generally a grassroots effort by individuals who want to create a way to live together in an intentional community.” According to Geber, “Senior cohousing is one of the fastest-growing segments of the cohousing movement.” It’s also “extremely attractive to Solo Agers.”

According to Geber, the window of opportunity has arrived. Boomers have already begun to retire, and the number of Boomers who are also Solo Agers is large and growing. “Many of these individuals will have no real need to continue ‘aging in place’ in their single-family homes,” she said. “They will remain there, however, unless senior living communities demonstrate a viable and attractive alternative—one that meets Solo Agers’ needs to maintain their social networks and participate actively in their communities.”

Download the full article here.

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Innovation for Senior Living

Are We Being Bold Enough? Bob Kramer Keynotes SLIF 2021

Nexus founder and Fellow Bob Kramer set the tone of this year’s Senior Living Innovation Forum by kicking off the first day of the conference with a provocative keynote speech. “Are we being bold enough?” asked Kramer. “No. The industry demands a significant shakeup.”

What does innovation mean for the next generation of senior living customers? Will they be our customers? Is increased longevity a blessing or a curse? Will the boomers be a vast resource that is both unwilling and unwanted as contributors to our society and economy? What does senior living have to do with it? And what about those who have been left behind in the longevity revolution?

According to Kramer, the upcoming generation of senior living customers “wants nothing to do with senior living” because the image that comes into their minds when they think about senior living is a negative one. It is our job, he said, to reimagine and redefine what senior living can mean for the next generation.  

His keynote set off some lively conversations and debates, with several following speakers referencing and adding further insight to Kramer’s remarks.

Other highlights of the event include a talk from Nexus Fellow and SmartLiving 360 CEO Ryan Frederick about his book, “Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life” and Fellow Sarah Thomas’ interactive session on experience design.

 

Watch Bob Kramer’s entire speech:

 

Photo courtesy of Influence Group.

 

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