“What does it take for elders older than 80 to remain at home, alone?” is the question discussed in a thoughtful article by Robert L. Rubinstein and CLC Board member Elena Portacolone. The article appears in the January-February edition of Aging Today. While the options may be fairly good for those with substantial resources and know-how, for most everyone else, especially those with cognitive impairment, the challenges can be daunting.
The authors cite that nearly 40% of all Americans over 80 are living alone; we know the proportion here in San Francisco is even higher. And trends show the number of older adults with cognitive impairment is expected to nearly double in San Francisco between 2000 and 2030.
While there are significant challenges, there are also promising solutions. In the article, Portacolone and Rubinstein hold out the pioneering work of Dr. Franco Basaglia as an example of one of the creative models for meeting the needs of older Americans living alone. Many of us were inspired when we heard about Dr. Basaglia’s work in a presentation by his colleague, Roberto Mezzina at last year’s On Lok Long Term Care Conference. A priority in Dr. Basaglia’s initiative is the integration of individuals with their social network – what he calls “their right to citizenship.” The Aging Today article concludes that a positive attitude, good friends and meaningful activities are key components for being able to live alone at home in older age. But also critical is a solid network of support, supplemented by solid assets or steady access to essential public resources such as home care aids, subsidized rent and transportation and support from savvy social workers.
You can read the article in Aging Today, the bi-monthly newspaper of the American Society of Aging. And you will find other interesting articles on this theme by Elena Portacolone, Ph.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., who is currently an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and an associate specialist at the Mack Center on Mental Health and Social Conflict at the University of California, Berkeley.