Another article on the “epidemic of loneliness,” this one focused on the U.K. In Britain and the U.S., about a third of people over 65 live alone, increasing the risk of social isolation.
Blackpool, England, has developed The Silver Line Helpline to give seniors a place to call and be assured of a patient, friendly ear. It gets 1500 calls a day.
There’s an interesting comment from John T. Cacioppo, a psychology professor at the University of Chicago, who calls loneliness “an aversive signal,” like thirst or hunger — in other words, a feeling of loneliness may be a useful warning sign, alerting you to a need for social interaction.
“Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” he said.
The move to support “aging in place” has some cities looking at their zoning laws. At a conference on livable communities, a New York State official suggested: “Local zoning laws are the greatest obstacle to senior housing alternatives.”
Many zoning ordinances are still based on the American Dream of single family home ownership, rather than on meeting the mixed use needs of seniors.
From “Enable people in your community to age in place,”
presentation by Linda King, New York State Department of State
Writing in the United Church Observer, the medical journalist André Picard describes loneliness as a hidden epidemic, afflicting up to 6 million Canadians.
The medical impact of this epidemic is startling. According to Picard’s review of the studies:
…loneliness is as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day;
having no friends may increase the risk of premature death by about 30 percent;
social isolation can be twice as deadly as obesity;
it’s as big a killer as diabetes
and it hikes the risk of dementia by 64 percent.
Loneliness is a quantifiable health hazard.
The solution, he notes, is building community.
Under the general heading of Aging in Place, CMHC has compiled a number of resources on Accessible Housing and Adaptable Housing. Resources collected on the adaptable housing page include a detailed Flexible Housing guide and Flexible Housing Checklist.
“CMHC’s FlexHousing (TM),” it says here, “is an approach to home design, renovation and construction that is able to adapt and convert affordably as a household’s lifestyle and needs change.”
There’s a website devoted to aging in place called… yeah, aginginplace.com. Much of it seems inordinately devoted to selling products and I find it somewhat annoying. I’m not convinced that new appliances are the answer to all my life goals.
In fairness, though, it does have some useful content, like its “Top 10 Aging in Place Bathroom Fixes,” but annoyingly (again!) I can’t give you a direct link to that article, just a link to the “bathrooms” page on which it’s found.
The top 10 bathroom fixes are well thought out and include some features I haven’t already seen everywhere else. For instance:
- anti-scald controls
- a handheld shower head (noting specifically that the cord should be long enough to reach your feet while you’re seated on a bench)
- a wall-mounted sink because, if needed, a wheelchair can fit under it.
There may be a lot more good stuff there but it’s hard to survey because, annoyingly (have I mentioned it’s annoying?) there is no search box. If you feel like taking some time to browse, knock yourself out.
In honour of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth last month, a Next Avenue blogger compiled his best quotes on aging.
There’s something to be said for Gratiano’s bring-it-on spirit in the first scene of Merchant of Venice, when he says “With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” But IMHO they should have continued the quote to include the following lines:
And let my liver rather heat with wine
Than my heart cool with mortifying groans.
But for sheer joie de vivre, you can’t beat Adam in As You Like It: “Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty.”
Writer Louis Tenenbaum challenges some conventional wisdom in an article called 8 Things to Consider Before You Remodel to Age in Place. Among them, he suggests:
Built-in shower seats are an increasingly common feature yet are often not utilized the way they were intended because most seats are placed too far from the showerhead and controls. As a result, most are typically used to prop up your foot while shaving your legs or as a big shelf. A movable seat is a better (and less expensive) solution.
He also definitely not a fan of walk-in tubs. Curbless showers, he suggests, are a better option.