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The Long-Term Care Imperative conducted a statewide poll last fall to learn more about what Minnesotans think about senior care.

As a part of the poll, we asked an open ended question: What comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘long-term care for seniors’? Here is a visual representation of the responses we received:

Pretty interesting – overwhelmingly, people think “nursing home” when they think about long-term care. Even more interesting is that nursing homes are actually the least common form of older adult services, reserved only for those with the most complex medical needs.

Senior care in Minnesota is actually a diverse system of different kinds of support, resources to help people stay independent, care options based on an individual’s needs and wants, and variety of different housing and lifestyle choices. We need the whole system (not just one part of it) to be strong in order to meet the changing demands of our aging population.

Below is an infographic developed by the Long-Term Care Imperative to demonstrate a few of the ways Minnesotans access senior care and the journey many people go on as their needs change.

Take a look:

What do you think – does this represent your experience?  What needs to change to make it easier for Minnesotans to get the care they need when and where they need it?

This week, hundreds of caregivers, volunteers and aging services professionals will visit the State Capitol for a week of face-to-face meetings with lawmakers.

The goal of these meetings is simple: to share stories about the changing faces and places of senior care in Minnesota, and urge lawmakers to make this issue a top priority.

Gayle Kvenvold, president and CEO of Aging Services of Minnesota, set the stage for this week’s meetings:

“Someone will always say there isn’t enough money. This is about priorities. Minnesota seniors and caregivers should be among our top priorities – they deserve our support and investment.”

When advocates and caregivers meet with their elected officials this week, they will highlight five key ways to strengthen senior care and prepare Minnesota for the future:

1.      Invest in Caregivers

  • Provide wages that attract and retain the very best caregivers, paying them adequately for the demanding work they do on behalf of Minnesota seniors.
  • Protect the more than 112,600 MN jobs that senior care generates across the state.

 2.      Invest in the Places Where Senior Care is Delivered

  • Fund infrastructure improvements in senior care buildings and communities that will increase the quality of life for residents and allow caregivers to deliver the best possible care.

3.      Invest in Quality 

  • Senior care is so much more than nursing homes. We must invest in new models and innovation that will continue to improve quality, while offering seniors the care/services they need and want.

4.      Create Financial Stability for Seniors, Families and Providers

  • People who can afford it should plan and pay for the cost of long-term care, and we should create tools to help them do that; and
  • Low income seniors should still have access to a safety net and the right level of services for their unique needs. Funding for home and community based service must be adequate to pay for what consumers need.

5.      Invest in the Future

  • Fund technology that improves how we care for seniors, and find ways to truly integrate long-term care services and supports with the rest of the health care world.

Advocates also will share with lawmakers the results of a recent public opinion survey conducted by the Long-Term Care Imperative. Key findings of that survey include:

  • 85 percent of Minnesota voters support increasing funding for in-home and community based care to make it easier for seniors to stay independent longer.
  • 77 percent said they support increasing funding for nursing homes to improve overall quality.
  • 75 percent support allowing individuals to cash in their life insurance in order to pay for long-term care.
  • And finally, 64 percent of voters are willing to pay more in taxes to improve long-term care in Minnesota.

Will you be at the Capitol this week? What will you advocate for? Take a few minutes to visit the Stars Among Us online gallery, where hundreds of senior caregivers have shared what they want lawmakers to know about the important work they do.

Minnesota’s state demographer Tom Gillaspy posed this tongue-in-cheek question early on in his presentation to a room full of leaders at the Aging Services of Minnesota Annual Meeting in September. Of course we all know the answer – we’ve known about the demographic wall we’re about to hit for many years. However, human nature, political realities and a host of other factors have left us unprepared for the challenges we’re about to face.

An hour-long discussion of the ways our aging population will shape Minnesota’s future – from our economic health to changes in our education, health care and public safety systems – is likely to leave a person seriously stressed or strangely optimistic, depending on your view of the world.

It’s true, the demographic changes we face are significant. Here are a few highlights from Gillaspy’s presentation:

  • In the next 10 yrs, MN will need 46% more healthcare workers to meet the growth in demand for services – especially in older adult field.
  • The single most common and fastest growing type of family in MN is 55+ empty-nesters with no kids at home.
  • In 10 years, MN will add as many people age 65 as we have in the past 4 decades – this number in particular begs the question, if we can’t afford long-term care today, what will we do in 20 years?

Looking at numbers like these reinforces the notion that nothing short of transformational change is needed to recreate our systems for the future. We are officially beyond the point where small changes, cuts and reforms around the edges will be sufficient – we need game-changers to stay ahead of the curve.

But that’s exactly where the opportunity lies and Minnesota is good at game-changers. We have been national leaders in seeing new and different ways to do things, creating unique partnerships, looking beyond how things have always been done and translating possibility into reality.

The evolution of Minnesota’s long-term care system is a prime example of what can be achieved when individuals, businesses, nonprofits, community leaders, families and elected leaders come together to envision something different.

We now face challenges that will require new partnerships and another infusion of energy, commitment and creativity to bring the next wave of game-changers, not just to our health care system, but all across our state.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a snapshot of how Minnesota’s leaders in the older adult services field are looking at the future: A live-poll of 200 Aging Services members at our Annual Meeting revealed that 78% are still optimistic about the future, despite many challenges on the horizon.

What do you think? Does the demographic crystal ball make you cringe, or are you doing new things to help shape the future?

If you spend any time on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen mentions of various reports confirming that indeed, older adults are taking the world of social media by storm.

Here are a few great reads that provide more detail on exactly how older adults are spending their time online – it’s fascinating stuff.

Pew Internet Survey of Adult Social Media Use:

  • 65% of online adults use social networking sites
  • 51% of those 50-64 and 33% of those age 65+ use social networking sites
  • In the past two years, social networking site use among internet users age 65 and older has grown 150%, from 13% in April 2009 to 33% in May 2011.
  • During this same time period, use by 50-64 year-old internet users doubled – from 25% to 51%.
  • Among the Boomer-aged segment of internet users ages 50-64, use of social networks on a typical day grew a rigorous 60% compared to one year ago.

Nielson State of the Media: The Social Networking Report:

  • Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile internet.
  • Over twice as many people aged 55+ visit social networking sites on their mobile phone than last year – a 109% increase in one year.

So it’s well-documented that older adults are embracing social media. That has all kinds of implications for aging – how well-connected we remain with friends and family, access to health and wellness resources online, engagement with virtual communities of people who share our interests and experiences as we age.

What does this mean for older adult service providers? Without hard data, it’s hard to tell, but it does seem as though the provider community is a bit behind when it comes to embracing the opportunities of social media to connect and engage with clients, residents, family members and the broader community.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of providers using social media in really interesting ways – they just don’t seem to be the majority. Part of the challenge likely is the fact that despite its rapid growth among older adults in the past few years, use of social media is still a fairly new phenomenon among this age group.

Social media is also a really important and effective way to connect with the next generation of the aging services workforce. Increasingly, access to professional networks, peer relationships, mentoring and continuing education happens online, often via social networking channels. In fact, the Nielson report confirms that more Americans visit Facebook while online than any other single web-based brand.

A few questions I’d love to know more about from you:

  1. Do you, your staff or your clients and residents use social media? If so, how? And what has been the result?
  2. If you don’t use social media to engage with residents and other community members, why not? Are there barriers or reasons you don’t?
  3. Are there any great examples out there that could inspire others? Your own approach or something you’ve heard about? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

And in case all of the data and reports aren’t enough to convince you that seniors are online in record numbers – have a look (and a laugh) for yourself: http://bit.ly/ni687f.

“You live your life the way you want.” That’s how Ecumen’s vice president of business development recently described the company’s philosophy regarding the experience of all seniors who live in one of their communities.

That’s what we all strive for, right? Housing, support, services and eventually care that are all driven by what we want for our lives; guided by decisions we’ve made about what’s best for us and our families.

But that quote – “live your life the way you want” – also got me thinking about something we all try to avoid: Will there be a point at which, no matter how much support I have, I won’t really be able to live my life the way I want? What then? I don’t foresee a situation where I will want to need 24-hour care or be limited in my physical or mental abilities to make my own choices – but none of us knows what the future will hold.

Fifty may be the new 30, and 80 sure isn’t what it used to be – but none of us can outrun the clock, and at some point we will need help. In fact, statistics show that if we make it to age 65, 80 percent of us will need some type of long-term care.

That’s why it’s so important that we – as individuals, families, communities, lawmakers and care providers – are honest about the realities of growing older and talk about the full spectrum of needs and choices we’ll eventually face.

Those choices might start with adding some help and services to make life easier and safer or moving to a new community that provides companionship and new adventures. Eventually, it could include tough choices about how and where we want to live out our last days.

What do you think? Do you talk with your spouse or family about how you want to live your life into old age? If you’re a provider, how does the “live your life the way you want” philosophy makes its way into your organization? What can lawmakers do to support the full spectrum of long-term care options?

 

A few years ago, Aging Services of Minnesota launched this blog as a way to provide timely updates on policy and advocacy activities at the state Capitol and in Washington, D.C. After a year-long hiatus, we’re excited to report we’re reviving the blog! We’ll still include important advocacy updates and engagement opportunities, but we’re also going to expand the discussion to a broader mix of topics.

Every morning as I make my way through multiple news sources and the crazy, wonderful world of social media, I stumble onto stories about aging and older adult services that make me think. Fascinating stories about individual people who are breaking the rules and redefining what it means to age today, innovative providers who are paving the way to the future and family members asking deep philosophical questions as they realize that age is taking its toll on a loved one. This is the world we live and work in, and it just begs for more conversation.

We also want to use this space to shine a light on the talented, dedicated, innovative people and organizations that are shaping the field of aging services in Minnesota. Their stories don’t often make the front page of the paper, but they are truly inspirational and deserve to be shared far and wide.

We’ll use the Aging Exchange blog to ask questions, give props, and share stories that put a human face on the complex issues of aging and long-term care.

We hope you’ll visit often and most importantly, join the conversation! If you have a story, idea or big question we should feature on the blog, please share it! Here are a few ways to connect with us:

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Aging matters to all of us.

This blog will address the issues, questions, challenges and opportunities that surface as we work to meet the demands of an aging population.

It’s also a place to highlight the people and organizations whose passion, creativity and commitment are shaping the future of older adult services in Minnesota.

Everyone has a story about how aging impacts their life – we hope you’ll join the conversation and share your story.

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