Conventionally, women make up the majority of residents in assisted living communities. But, as the average lifespan of men increases, the numbers show that more men are moving into assisted living than ever before.
More men are living into the frail years of old age— and they’re outpacing women when it comes to yearly gains in longevity.
While the average lifespan of a man in the U.S. is 76, in some countries the average ranges as high as 81.7. Meanwhile, the latest numbers from the Institute of Health Metrics show that “there was no significant change in life expectancy for women in more than 1,400 counties in the United States over the past quarter century.” By comparison, only 158 counties showed no increase for men.
Gains in lifespan potential come as good news for most men, of course, but downsides include the increased likelihood that men may outlive their wives, or live to be older and more sick than they would have in the recent past. It’s no surprise then, that more men are entering senior care facilities during this time. Other factors driving this trend include:
Adult children and grandchildren are the most frequent providers of non-institutional elder care, but, according to Lynn Feinberg of the AARP, “The proportion of the frail older population — those 85 and older — without any surviving children will increase from about 16% in 2000 to about 21% in 2040.”
While other friends and relatives may step in to provide care, likely candidates tend to be of similar age, and may well be facing similar age-related issues themselves. Other potential caretakers, such as nieces and nephews, or the sons and daughters of close friends, are likely to be busy with their own parents.
From attractive individual apartments to trendily decorated common areas, assisted living facilities offer home-like environments that are much more inviting and comfortable than the nursing homes of past decades. While skilled nursing care is still available for those who need it, seniors who have more moderate needs for assistance with daily tasks no longer have to choose between continuing to live at home and moving to a hospital-like setting.
Today’s senior care facilities offer amenities such as restaurant-like meal service, housekeeping, fitness facilities classes, game rooms, and transportation to outside activities. Combined with round-the-clock access to emergency help, these offerings make assisted living seem like an obvious choice for many seniors.
Whether acute or chronic, health conditions are the driving force that propels many seniors to enter assisted living. According to the CDC, among the assisted living population, nearly 75% have been diagnosed with “at least 2 of the 10 most common chronic conditions.”
The ten most common conditions include:
Assuming that an elderly parent and his or her adult children live within an easy driving distance of one another — which is far from a sure bet — by the time seniors reach the point of needing daily support, their adult children are often in the busiest times of their careers and family lives.
With more people delaying parenthood until their thirties or later, it’s increasingly likely that the 40-something child of an aging parent has relatively young children of his or her own. At the same time, mid-career employees often hold demanding, senior-level positions that require near constant availability. Between changing diapers, driving middle-schoolers to and from soccer practice, and answering endless streams of email, providing the necessary level of support to an aging parent may not be a realistic option.
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