A panel of national experts from a variety of disciplines addressed this issue at the National Planning Conference on April 14.
“YES” was the resounding answer, as Jana Lynott of the AARP Public Policy Institute presented the demographics.
- Women are the primary caregivers for children and aging parents.
- Women are the primary caregivers for their aging spouses.
- Women outlive men and are more likely to live alone as well as in poverty.
So how do we address these issues?
1) Identifying the issues and recognizing that informal caregiving costs women, and ultimately society, billions of dollars in reduced income, lifetime earnings, and social security benefits.
2) Through Enabling Design. On every level–from the products and features of the home, to the design of the community–design which respects our varied needs across the lifespan can remove the unnecessary effects of environmental press, and raise the level of functioning, independence, and well-being of all our residents. When the more dependent of our society are more independent, not only do they benefit, but it reduces caregiver burden.
3) Good Planning Practice: in communities such as Atlanta, where aging agencies are under the same umbrella as planning, the success of addressing age-related needs is dramatically increased. See the amazing work of the Atlanta Regional Commission and Laura Keyes.
4) Recognizing the Multigenerational component: As Mildred Warner of Cornell University discussed, if we open the aperture from strictly focusing on the needs of seniors, and include the needs of children, we find their is tremendous overlap in terms of both needs and solutions, particularly services.