Aging and Caregiving in the News

Information, updates and interesting tidbits from across the country and around the world.

In this issue:

  • Will seniors accept care from a robot?
  • Giving advice is healthy for older adults
  • Sobering statistics about finances of Alzheimer’s caregivers

"R2D2, Bring Me My Reading Glasses!"

Robot shaking a senior's hand

Science fiction fans might enjoy this study from Penn State's Media Effects Research Laboratory. There's been quite a bit of coverage about the present and future use of robotic technology to supplement human care for seniors living at home and in senior living facilities. Researcher S. Shyam Sundar says, "Robots could provide everything from simple reminders — when to take pills, for example — to fetching water and food for people with limited mobility." Yet many older adults have expressed distaste for having an electronic gadget take the place of a human caregiver. Wondering how to overcome resistance to robotic assistance, Sundar and his team discovered that seniors were more open to the idea of robotic devices when they were familiar with fictitious robots — not only helpful, gentle ones like C3PO, WALL-E or Robby from Lost in Space, but even the more intimidating ones, such as the Terminator. Sundar hopes that this familiarity will be inspiring; he says, "It seems like the more media portrayals they can recall, the more likely their attitudes would be positive toward robots, rather than negative."

"When I Was Your Age…"

We know that in our later years, having a sense of purpose and the feeling that we matter in the world promotes both emotional and physical health. The American Sociological Association recently reported that seniors who have opportunities to give advice and mentor younger people see their lives as highly meaningful. Yet, said study author Markus H. Schafer of the University of Toronto, "Just when giving advice seems to be the most important, opportunities for doing so seem to wane. Older adults occupy fewer social roles, are less socially active, and interact with a more restricted range of people. So, while the average 65-year-old may well have more wisdom than the average 30-year-old, demographic and social structure factors seem to provide the latter with more opportunity for actually dispensing advice." Schafer suggests that our communities create more opportunities for older adults to share their valuable wisdom and life experiences. He suggests, "Schools, churches, civic organizations, and other community groups could consider how to facilitate intergenerational mentorship experiences and to creatively enable more older adults to be advice-givers."

Sobering New Report: Alzheimer's Caregivers Skimp on Their Own Healthcare, Even Food

Each year, the Alzheimer's Association releases a statistical report of current knowledge about Alzheimer's disease, care and caregiving. The 2016 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report, released in March 2016, focuses on the financial impact of caring for a loved one with dementia. Says the association's Beth Kallmyer, "The devastating emotional and physical effects of caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease has been well studied. However, this new report shows, for the first time, the enormous personal financial sacrifices that millions of care contributors must make every day. These sacrifices jeopardize the financial security of individuals and families, as well as their access to basic needs and health care." The study found that these caregivers skimp on their own healthcare, their children's education, and even on food in order to keep their loved one safe and well-cared for. Some tap into their retirement or sell personal property, such as their car. And their jobs are jeopardized as well. Says Kallmyer, "It is imperative for our health care system and the financial security of millions of Americans that we help people understand the full costs associated with Alzheimer's disease, and more importantly, that we provide practical steps to mitigate those costs." Read the entire report at www.alz.org/facts.

Source: Real Properties in association with IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2016 IlluminAge.