The Aging Debate Across America


by Carol Marak

Eight of our nation’s leading aging-focused organizations have come together to build a better understanding of Carol Marakolder adults needs and their contributions to society. They hope to provide the general public with a current perspective of what the aging population needs and to improve the lives of all people as they age.

The eight aging-focused organizations include AARP, the American Federation for Aging Research, the American Geriatrics Society, the American Society on Aging, The Gerontological Society of America, Grantmakers in Aging, the National Council on Aging, and the National Hispanic Council on Aging. Read about their study on the Frameworks Institute.

Another recent report published by, America has a Major Misconception on Aging. The report was prompted by two studies; The Inquiry Journal, “Long-Term Care Over an Uncertain Future,” and the America Talks: Protecting Our Families’ Financial Futures. Both illustrate consumers misconception of the future needs of the aging population. The Inquiry found that 7 out of 10 Americans would need some long-term care after the age of 65. But only 32% of the Americans believe they will need or use care as they grow older than what the Inquiry reported.

The discrepancies between the two studies prompted my investigation into American’s belief or denial that they will need senior care later on. What makes 67% of the U.S. consumers believe they’ll remain healthy and independent for the rest of their lives? Is that wishful thinking or do they know something that the aging industry doesn’t know?

In the report, America has a Major Misconception on Aging, Dr. Bill Thomas,, gives a warning, “People who are not prepared get care chosen for them by someone else” and that choice is usually bare minimum. For those who depend on the government or the state for elder care have limited options and those choices point to a Medicaid bed in a nursing home.

Because the two studies reflect wide degrees of discrepancy, I wanted to know what if anything, can be done in turning Americans’ acceptance of growing older? So, I took four questions to 44 thought leaders in senior care:

  1. Why the big difference between consumers’ perception vs. researchers forecast of the long-term care need?
  2. What consequences can consumers expect for not planning?
  3. How would you close the discrepancy gap? (Provide more education? More media exposure?)
  4. What advice can you give consumers (to get more prepared) about their future care needs? (What do you suggest they do now to begin preparing?)

The replies and suggestions made a lot of sense.

“We don't see people receiving personal assistance because they're being cared for out of sight. It’s easier to ignore the likelihood that we'll become one of the 70% of individuals who will need long term care.” Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Author

“I see so many tragic situations where unpreparedness has resulted in complete depletion of one's life savings, being cared for in a less than optimal nursing home situation, or the adult children's funds being depleted. I've also seen families torn apart by disagreements at the end of life care because advanced directives were not expressed.” Susan Baida, Co-founder and President,

“Working families need better tools to plan and pay for their future care needs, and this can only happen when there is a groundswell of public support and dialog." Dr. Bruce Chernof, CEO, the SCAN Foundation.

"Take a walk through several assisted-living communities. Ask residents if they ever thought they would end up there. Ask them how their families are holding up. Also ask residents what they would do differently if they had the chance to do anything over when it comes to planning for long-term care." Joy Loverde, Author, The Complete Eldercare Planner.

So, what is your opinion about consumers and their acceptance or denial on aging? Here are 44 senior care experts take on it. Read what they predict and suggest how to deliver us from the anguish of aging.

Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and healthcare market. After caring for her parents, she now advocates healthier options for older adults and family caregivers. Read her work at and Find her on LinkedIn and contact her at