A sobering article the New York Times recently published (HERE) and has been spreading through our office and my networks like fire; “The Graying of America’s Homeless” focuses on the increasing age of homeless folks around the country, and more specifically in rapidly gentrifying cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
Sadly, this is not new news. If you work in the field of aging, chances are you’ve heard about this before. In fact, a decade ago researchers were already noticing an increase in the proportion of older homeless in San Francisco. In 1990, older persons were about 10% of the city’s homeless population; in the 2015 Homeless Count, more than 30% of homeless were 50 years or older.
STOP EVERYTHING! And check out THIS amazing 6min StoryCorps but local rockstar, Ms. Betty Reid Soskin.
“Rosie the Riveter, as a concept, leaves out an awful lot of history…”
You know when you make that decision to [adopt a dog/buy a specific car/only wear cowgirl boots/work in the aging field], and then everywhere you look, all you see is that one specific thing [saucy gals in cowgirl boots, cute dogs or a plethora of that one type of car/senior related issues]? I swear it’s a phenomenon (or just the result of paying attention to something you never noticed before. whatever).
Case in point: My professional life has officially melded into my social life. With friends sending me great senior related stories, random in-depth discussions on senior housing at birthday potlucks (I swear I didn’t bring it up!), front page stories about aging with HIV, and monthly visits to seniors living in assisted living facilities. Hence this blog – stuff just kept coming at me from everywhere and I needed a place to share the great stories sent my way, as well as a soapbox about what it means to be aging in America.
Imagine you lived alone, did not know any of your neighbors, had no friends or relatives nearby to visit, and that the only time you left your house was to buy groceries or maybe to visit the library. Perhaps you would fill your days with TV or reading, but I’d be willing to bet after a few months, loneliness would melt into depression. There are a ton of studies linking health outcomes to one’s quality of life, which includes a senior’s level of isolation and/or social support network. Especially concerning is that isolation, and resulting depression, are becoming increasingly common among seniors.
But good news! There are a handful of creative and innovative approaches to combating isolation among seniors, like the UCSF Community of Voices/Comunidad de Voces HERE. Based on a 5 year study to determine whether choir (as a creative endeavor and group activity) can promote overall health among seniors, the lead researcher, Dr. Julene Johnson, is building on an initial study she conducted in Finland in which seniors in choirs scored higher on quality of life surveys than non-singers.