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How Will Aging Look in the Future?

This is a busy time of year for PA Link. Lead Link Coordinators like me are out and about at health fairs and events in the community almost every day. I love it because I get the chance to hear everyone’s stories and learn about their greatest needs and challenges.

When I was at a Senior Health and Lifestyle Expo several weeks ago, I was people watching. To paint you a picture, there were quite a few organizations with display tables and a nice turnout of seniors. At one end was a stage with a great acapella group singing well-known show tunes. At the other end, a group of country-western line dancers showing off their skills. Seniors were sprinkled throughout talking to vendors and picking up information. I failed to mention that this Expo was held in a mall, which many of you know is a dying way of shopping these days. As I watched my surroundings, I couldn’t help to think how aging will be different when I am a senior in 25 years and even more so when my kids reach that age.

First of all, in the future what will constitute a senior? With medical advances and people living longer lives, new seniors may be 70, 75 or even 80 years old before they begin to slow down. I can 99.9 percent guarantee you that seniors in the future will not be visiting malls to pick up brochures. Will seniors look to websites to research options? Probably not. Desktop computers and laptops are barely used by my teenagers. They solely rely on their phones and touchscreens. Although Facebook and Instagram have been around for a while now, those sources will likely fade and a more modern version might take their place. Is this how people will access information instead? Or, will a smart phone scan your face, determine your age and tell you what you need? Don’t laugh, I think anything could be possible as technology progresses.

I also thought back to this again when I visited a senior center last month. It was a Monday morning and I arrived early. Seniors were just coming in and opening the center. They hugged one another, showed each other quilting projects they had completed over the weekend and gossiped about fellow participants’ latest maladies. There was genuinely a sense of community among those who came. It felt warm and welcoming. I wondered what place senior centers will have in the future too. Regardless of technology, people can feel lonely and depressed. A facetime phone call isn’t always the same as human interaction. Will people still look to a community place where they can interact and feel like they belong? Will this be necessary to seniors in the future who grew up with technology and incredible conveniences in life that we will lose the need for social interaction to feel fulfilled?

I know I am leaving you with more questions than answers today. But, as we all age and we watch our children and grandchildren, we have to wonder about the future. Also, as professionals working in this industry, we must continue to adapt and find ways to reach those who are the most vulnerable. Sure, people are living longer and usually a better quality of life, but at some point, many will need help and as professionals we need to know how to reach those people today, tomorrow and in the future.

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