by Alice Bonner and Joanne Lynn | Alice Bonner is an associate professor of nursing at Northeastern University in Boston. Joanne Lynn, MD, is director of the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness at Altarum Institute in Washington, DC. For more information, go to http://medicaring.org/.
“Good news! We will, most of us, live to a ripe old age!
“The other half of the story? Most of us will also live with disabilities and medical conditions that make it impossible to be fully independent. For most of us, that period will last more than a year (the average is about 3 years). Many of us will spend a substantial part of that time in some sort of facility that provides supportive services: a nursing home, an assisted living facility, or housing with services. Many readers will already have served as caregivers to older and increasingly disabled elderly relatives and will have experienced the challenges that come with living a very long time, accumulating chronic maladies and worsening disabilities. We know what it means to get that midnight phone call that Mom has fallen or left the stove on; we know the stress of trying to arrange a morass of services (and pay for them); and we have lived with the stress of trying to work, care for ourselves and our children, and help our parents.
“We would also prefer, if we could, to live more like Bruce Springsteen, crowd surfing at 64; Tina Turner, still belting it out at 70; or George H.W. Bush, skydiving at 90—and then die rather suddenly, from an accident or a massive stroke.”