Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Preparing for a 'Silver Tsunami': New Rural Elder Care Co-Op Aims to Help Seniors Stay in Homes Longer

Magazine article Rural Cooperatives

Preparing for a 'Silver Tsunami': New Rural Elder Care Co-Op Aims to Help Seniors Stay in Homes Longer

Article excerpt

A new homecare cooperative is being formed to bring client-centered care to the coastal town of Port Townsend, Wash. A small, close-knit, maritime community on the northeast tip of the Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend has a population of just under 10,000 and is truly a place where "everyone knows your name."

A sense of community runs strong here, and that commitment to community is especially felt for the elders. When local caregivers, dissatisfied with current homecare options, met to discuss alternatives, central to their concern was the ability to create locally owned, quality homecare services.

Co-op steering committee member Kippi Waters considers forming a homecare co-op essential for meeting the needs of the aging population of Port Townsend. "The aging baby-boomer wave sweeping America is practically a tsunami here in Port Townsend, where we have the oldest median age in the state of Washington," Waters says. "I believe that client-based, community-centered homecare is only possible with the cooperative model. The care of our elders belongs in the hands of our community. Only then can we see the paradigm shift that is much needed in the caregiving industry."

Need for rural elder care

Between 2010 and 2030, the number of older Americans is predicted to double, to 72.1 million. For the first time in history, people over 65 will outnumber children under 5. And, because of medical advances and the increases in life expectancy, people 90 and over now compromise 4.7 percent of the older population (age 65 and older) compared with only 2.8 percent in 1980!

Some are calling this wave of aging Americans the "Silver Tsunami" and it is rapidly headed our way. With professional caregivers already in short supply, this leaves many wondering, "How will we care for these people?"

This care crisis is even more pressing in rural communities. Of all groups, America's rural elders may be the most adversely affected by the challenges of growing old. As people age, they typically require more health care services.

At the same time, however, they often become less mobile due to physical disability or chronic illness.

This creates challenges for rural elders whose younger family members have left the community, and the nearest neighbor can be miles away.

As a result, older people frequently are forced to move prematurely to assisted living or nursing facilities because they are unable to meet their own day-to-day needs. …

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