DHHS Communications, Nov. 14, 2013
Dennis Streets, director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services, encouraged an audience at the Healthcare Faith Summit in Greensboro Nov. 14 to keep the healthcare needs of older citizens and the families who provide their care high on their planning lists.
“Already one in five North Carolinians is age 60 and older. By 2032, it will be one in four,” Streets said. “While today 59 of our 100 counties have more persons age 60 and older than 17 and younger, it is projected that by 2025, 89 of our counties will have more older adults than those 17 and younger…”
The summit, a collaboration of local nonprofits including the faith community, focused on the challenges of caregiving and the plight of the mentally ill. Theme for this year’s summit was: We Are All in This Together. It was held at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro. Streets was among speakers representing several layers of government, the faith community and medical professionals.
Streets suggested that despite Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other health and social supports, too many seniors face challenges of poverty and near poverty in North Carolina, with one in 10 living below poverty and nearly one in three of those who are age 75 and older living near poverty.
He asked the audience to consider themes that are important to the future of all who grow old in North Carolina:
People must get ready – When Social Security passed in 1935, average life expectancy was 58 for men and 62 for women. Today our life expectancy in North Carolina is 78 and those who are age 60 today can expect to live, on average, an additional 23 years. Because aging is lifelong, it is never too late to adjust our course for the benefit of our physical and mental health, and our financial well-being. He suggested that the faith community could sponsor health promotion programs.
People helping people – Government cannot today or in the future serve all who need assistance. Statewide we have more than 16,000 elderly waiting for home and community services such as home-delivered meals and in-home aide services. There is no shortage of opportunities for people to help people.
Investing in families – Most long-term care is provided informally by families and friends, many of whom are balancing child care, elder care and work. About one in five North Carolinians care for someone suffering from a prolonged illness or disability. Nearly half of these care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. Many of those caregivers need respite, or short-term relief from caregiving. Those who do not receive a respite break are more likely to place their loved one in a long-term care facility.
"Now is currently the time to plan for the aging of our population," he said.