10 Improvements That Can Enhance the Lives of Older Americans

In a time of significant political tensions and limited resources, it is unrealistic and counterproductive to expect miraculous breakthrough solutions to our problems.

Instead, the key to “thinking big” might lie in “going small” by focusing on specific and relatively affordable changes. Here, we present ten improvements that have the potential to significantly enhance the quality of life for millions of older Americans.

These changes are not exorbitantly expensive and, in fact, can alleviate financial burdens on seniors and overburdened government budgets. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, these improvements are not receiving adequate attention in public discourse or election-year debates concerning the future needs of our country. However, they absolutely should be.

1. Finances

Dependable and Fair Social Security

It is inexcusable that we continue to neglect necessary adjustments to Social Security’s funding and benefit programs. Resolving this issue does not require a large infusion of funds but rather a relatively modest and incremental restoration of the program’s financial stability. A good starting point would be to reinstate the system’s historical progressivity. While gains in longevity support raising the retirement age for healthy seniors, it is crucial to recognize that many lower-income workers do not enjoy longer lives and therefore need continued early-retirement and disability protection.

Reviving Traditional Pensions

Decades of experience with 401(k)s and IRAs have demonstrated that individuals often struggle to make sound long-term investment decisions. While we may not be able to afford the secure company pensions of the past, we can certainly reorient defined-contribution retirement plans toward annuities and guaranteed retirement income.

Higher Interest Rates

Age-appropriate investment vehicles, such as annuities, rely on higher interest rates to ensure acceptable payouts of retirement income. The Federal Reserve should gradually allow interest rates to rise over the next few years, as doing so poses little risk of dampening capital demand or exacerbating inflationary pressure.

2. Aging in Place

By an overwhelming nine-to-one margin, people express the desire to stay in their homes and age in place during their later years. To make this possible, three essential elements must be in place.

Accessible Public Transportation

Government entities at all levels should develop long-term plans that shift their focus and allocate public funds from private automobiles to superior mass-transit solutions. Energy conservation and climate-change concerns have supported this argument for decades, and these factors have only become more pressing. Additionally, the practical needs of a growing senior population and the rising demand for urban living further reinforce the urgency of investing in improved public transportation.

Walkable Neighborhoods

For most seniors, the ability to walk to grocery stores, shops, medical offices, the gym, and other essential locations is vital for satisfying the concept of aging in place. Beyond providing convenient access to necessary resources, walkable neighborhoods promote better physical health and mental well-being by reducing social isolation and fostering a more sociable living environment.

Universal Design

To enable seniors to live safely and comfortably in their homes as they age, it is crucial to incorporate standards such as wider hallways, accessible switches and outlets, and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms and home entrances. Unfortunately, progress in implementing these standards into new homes and retrofitting older homes has been insufficient.

3. Healthcare

Home-Based Healthcare

Home-based healthcare presents one of the most promising win-win opportunities. Institutional care is both expensive and unappealing to many seniors. Leveraging technology to deliver high-quality care to people in their homes can result in improved health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. Significant changes are necessary within the healthcare industry and the institutional mindset that governs many senior support services.

Increased Number of Geriatricians

Expanding health insurance coverage to an additional 30 million Americans under the Affordable Care Act is projected to exacerbate the already critical shortage of general physicians. The situation becomes even more dire when it comes to producing more geriatricians and training professionals to provide care for older individuals. Addressing this issue will prove challenging unless we allocate more resources to geriatric medicine.

4. Technology

Self-Driving Cars

Thanks to remarkable advancements, self-driving cars are no longer confined to the realm of science fiction. Led by the impressive progress made by companies like Google, these vehicles can provide seniors with the means to extend their independent years. While mass transit is undoubtedly crucial for seniors, the ability to continue using personal vehicles can offer substantial benefits in their later years.

Intuitive Technology Products

While this aspiration may seem lofty, it is crucial for seniors to be able to participate in mainstream social activities and avoid isolation as they age. To achieve this, they require user-friendly technology platforms with simplified interfaces and tools that do not necessitate extensive user manuals.

By implementing these ten improvements, we can enhance the lives of older Americans and contribute to a more inclusive and supportive society for all. It is imperative that we recognize the importance of these changes and prioritize their implementation to ensure a better future for our aging population.