In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
– Albert Einstein
Aging in Place: Senior Housing Globalized
In 1999 I read a book by Peter G. Peterson titled: Gray Dawn, it was an apocalyptic view of the coming “global aging crisis.” He likened it to a GRAY ICEBERG we were all heading for. He described the aging of the Western Industrialized nations as “Floridazation” meaning the demographics were going to reflect that of Florida (19% of the population is over 65). For example, in Italy the year 2003 is when the demographic transition was to occur; Germany 2005, Japan 2006, and the USA 2021.
Aging of Asia-Pacific
The Asian-Pacific nations are home to over half of the worlds’ elderly—and quickly headed for Floridaziation as well. India with its population of people aged 65 and older expecting to swell to over 135 million by 2030, is just one example. Many of these rapidly-aging nations present an “opportunity paradox” in that countries with the highest numbers of current (and future) elderly, have the greatest opportunity for market growth in senior housing. But, at the same time, they also have the greatest barriers to overcome in terms of income disparity, low literacy, government support, land costs, paucity of experienced management and labor to support LTC facilities.
This global aging problem of housing the elderly is made even more challenging by several key factors. The first is the changing traditional family roles due to modernization. For example, “Filial Piety” is a Confucian philosophy that believes respect for one’s father, elders, and ancestors is of greatest importance. I once read where traditional Confucian way of life is being replaced in younger generations with the new 5 Cs: Cash, Cars, Computers, Cell Phones, and Credit Cards. This equates to displacement of traditional family roles, with more women in the workplace, and younger family members being geographically dislocated seeking economic opportunities. The end result is dissolving “informal care” networks, leading to early institutionalization for ethnic elders in this country and abroad.
The second is short-sighted government policies, as an example, China with its 1 child policy. This has lead to “The 4-2-1 Problem” where there are 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and 1 child = CRUSHING support ratios that are impossible to sustain.
In addition, as longevity gains are realized in the East, as they have been in the West, long-term chronic diseases will plague individuals. This has been called “the failure of our success” in that extending life has in many cases meant living longer with chronic health problems. This effects mobility and ultimately, independence of older adults.
All these factors have implications for the built environment and senior housing markets in the United States as these groups continue to immigrate. Age-Ethnic-friendly designed environments will be needed from city design, LTCF, and the single family homes.
Dr Bill Thomas recently said: “Brass and glass will never have heart and soul.” Translated, design matters. But not just any design, “empathetic design” that’s culturally relevant, including meaningful objects, cultural artifacts of Place Making, that have identity cues which support a sense of ethnic-self, stir the soul–and delight the senses. Further, ethnically immersive environments that even evoke the will to live…
I will be writing more on this topic in the coming weeks. Ethnic Design for Aging in Place is a new hot niche market, and the demand will only be growing.