Thursday, November 15, 2007

Aging Tsunami Coming

In September a group of individuals came together for an “Aging Revolution Summit” – a look at how aging services providers will begin to address the coming changes in needs that the aging baby boomers will bring.

According to a story in the FutureAge magazine, the summit was kicked off by Wesley Enhanced Living’s president and CEO Jeff Petty, who said, “As ‘revolutionaries,’ we need not answer traditional questions, but begin questioning traditional answers.”

Keynote speaker David Walker, comptroller general of the US, shared a detailed analysis of coming costs and trends that the seismic demographic shift will bring. (See report.)

Walker notes that just the government liability for Social Security and Medicare benefits alone increased 197% between 2000 and 2006. In his presentation he notes that “GAO’s simulations show that balancing the budget in 2040 could require actions as large as 1) Cutting total federal spending by 60 percent or 2) Raising federal taxes to 2 times today's level.”

Clearly, we have not only a clue, but solid facts about what the future of this country will be with the dramatic increase in the aging population.

As senior care and services providers, our responses will need to be not just “more of the same,” but we will truly need to “question traditional answers” and explore ways to move beyond the current service and delivery method.

One traditional answer that we’ve been working hard to turn on its head is the traditional approach to training. More and more individuals will need to be trained to provide services to seniors in their homes, in assisted living and residential care settings and in skilled care settings.

Fewer and fewer resources will be available to train them. Introducing quality online training can not only increase the number of individuals that can be simultaneously trained, but it can also increase our output of trained individuals.

Once they’re trained, we need to figure out how to keep the goods ones in senior care. We know that ongoing training is a key element, but what other sorts of questions of traditional answers do we need to be asking?

Walker closes his presentation with a statement about the “Five Leadership Attributes that are needed for these Changing and Challenging Times: Courage, Creativity, Integrity, Stewardship and Partnership.”

It is time for real leadership. And that leadership will come through partnership as we work together, creatively, to solve these challenges.

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