Laurie Orlov’s Age in Place Tech blog cited the recent Washington Post Article that claims the notion of “aging in place” has been over sold. But has it?

The article features Professor Stephen M Golant, whose simplistic and sweeping view of seniors has a “you punks git off my lawn” feel to it. He even compares the notion of aging in place to “rotting in your own home”.

In an industry that has been struggling for attention and which has been dedicated to improving lives for the past ten years, this article does us no favors.

We all know that one size does not fit all, and that there will always be a need for more acute, specialized care. But we can certainly do better than the current model. As with any disruptive demographic (that’s the impending aging/silver tsunami), there is almost always an enabling technology solution that comes along and helps us out. Just as it has done with industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation, we are now finally reaching into the aging and healthcare space trying to use supportive and more cost-effective technology.

While the article does touch on some excellent points, I think it’s a bit too easy to cast aspersions. It’s harder to actually participate in the solution.

Aging in place starts when you are born, there are so many stages of life that we don’t even consider when examining the notion of aging at home. What age is it that folks are no longer able to do this? It all depends on their own self health management, chronic diseases, mobility issues, cognitive decline, etc. Many of these factors can be mitigated using enabling technologies, accessibility and home modifications as well as proactively managing health. We fail to focus on preventative measures and instead just make sweeping statements like above. We need to proactively intervene before a crisis takes place and not wait until someone “can no longer be at home.” What happened before that? Why can they no longer remain at home? Was it preventable? Would they have been healthier had they been more active? If the home had been modified to alleviate fall risks would that broken hip still have occurred? It is simply not possible for us to put every single senior in congregate living. We do not have enough brick and mortar, let alone the physical caregiving staff, to tackle the job. Most importantly, many of them do not need or want institutionalized care.

This movement must start now. Stating that aging in place has been oversold is a detriment to this movement–the movement that I, members of grandCARE and other industry experts (e.g Laurie Orlov, Patrick Roden, Mary Furlong, Donna Cusano, Peter Radsliff) have been nurturing for the past 10 years. We need support. We need the promotion of solutions We need visionary thinking. Having more folks stay at home with enabling care and technology solutions will save everyone money. There will be people that need more acute care, and this will always be the case. There will always be a need for skilled nursing care, rehab, hospice care and memory care. But why use it prematurely? Why not make every attempt to avoid costly and unnecessary interventions? At the very least we could stay put within a current state within the continuum of care for longer. For example, if I can stay in independent living within a care community for longer–with the help of some technology, some cognitive assists and perhaps some added caregiving–why not strive for that?

After all, ‘rotting in place’ can occur anywhere along the care continuum.