lunes, 1 de febrero de 2016

The homeless are aging too

The homeless are aging too

Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive humans will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 


The homeless are aging too

As our population ages, the homeless are getting older too.  This will presents societal challenges in the years ahead. In the early 1990s, only 11 percent of the adult homeless population in the United States was aged 50 and over.  It increased to 37 percent by 2003, and today half of America’s homeless are over 50. 
Margot Kushel, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, is part of a research team funded by the National Institute of Aging that is looking into how people aged 50 and over become homeless, and what happens to them and their health as a result.  Their (California centric) research finds that as a society we must find ways to adapt existing programs for homeless adults to meet the needs of an aging population, as well as trying to stop older people from losing their homes in the first place.
Surprisingly, the study results show that a large proportion of the homeless population in Oakland, California first became homeless late in life.  This is unexpected because a common perception of homelessness is that it it afflicts only those with mental health and substance use problems. Their stories follow a similar pattern of men and women who have worked throughout their lives in low-skill, low-wage jobs, with one study participant telling of the shock of losing his job after 27 years.  Another described losing his housing after being evicted when his wife had had a stroke.   Job loss, illness, a new disability, the death of a loved one or an interaction with the criminal justice system are all possible causes. The other half of the older homeless surveyed had been homeless on and off for many years, cycling through jails, prisons and hospitals.
The major issue is a health one.  Research shows that homeless people in their 50’s and 60’s commonly develop health problems normally seen in people in their 70’s and 80’s, and often don’t have the means to obtain adequate medical care.  Health care providers dealing with the homeless must now manage chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart and lung disease, as well as general aging issues such as the ability to manage daily tasks and deteriorating vision and hearing.  However, effective health regimes are made difficult when someone is homeless. 
Thus, the research highlights that current systems set up in the 1980s are not designed to serve an aging population.  For example, people at high risk of falls are put at risk by bunk beds or by bathrooms in shared facilities that do not have grab bars and slip-resistant floors.  Many require personal care assistants to enable them to bath and dress. The study suggests that many older homeless adults will require nursing home placement, some of which could have been avoided with earlier housing and home-based services. 
Kushel also comments that “to put it bluntly, as a society, we face the specter of older adults dying on the streets.”  Not a nice thought. Older homeless adults die at a rate four to five times what would be expected in the general population . They die from the same causes as do other people – heart disease and cancer – but they do so 20 to 30 years earlier.   Effectively caring for the aged is something societies the world over are grappling with, and the homeless present an especially difficult case.

It was said that Americans of the Victorian era were so prudish that they enveloped the legs of table and pianos with frilly garments to safeguard their modesty. This canard seems to have been the malicious invention of English novelist Frederick Marryat.
However, the mythical spirit of Victorian repression is alive and well in Italy, of all places. Last week Iranian president Hassan Rouhani paid a state visit to Rome to stitch up an US$18 billion trade deal. Much to the amusement of journalists at the press conference at the Capitoline Museums, classical nudes were covered with large boxes, presumably not to offend the Shi’ite dignitary.
This is the sort of event which sends journalists into paroxysms of sarcastic hilarity and pitches op-ed contributors into lugubrious forecasts about a Muslim Europe. In fact, no one has taken responsibility for requesting or authorising the prudery packages.
Whatever the facts of the matter, MercatorNet contributor Chiara Bertoglio sees in the event an opportunity to reflect on the Judeao-Christian view of the human body. “Each one of us, even if we are old, ugly, fat or disproportioned,” she writes, “is a creature in whom God rejoices: in our Creator’s eyes, each one of our bodies is as beautiful as the perfect nudes of Classical sculpture.” Read her article below
Michael Cook

Chiara Bertoglio | FEATURES | 1 February 2016
Italy's nude sculptures cover-up exposes contrasting attitudes to the body.
Canadian euthanasia raises weighty conscience issues for doctors
Sean Murphy | FEATURES | 1 February 2016
Complicity in evil is a legitimate concern.
The Revenant
Luisa Cotta Ramosino | POPCORN | 1 February 2016
A masterful symphony on the tenacity of man - that never quite reaches the heart.
Is the internet losing freedom of speech?
Denyse O'Leary | CONNECTING | 1 February 2016
It’s as if your telephone company were your judge and jury, not the court system.
The health benefits of forgiving
Tamara El-Rahi | FAMILY EDGE | 1 February 2016
Forgiving may be hard but research says it’s worth it.
The homeless are aging too
Shannon Roberts | DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY | 1 February 2016
How will societal systems change to cope?
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