In 20 years, the population of the United State aged 65 and older is expected to double in size. In that same year—2030—almost one out of every five Americans, some 72 million, will be 65 or older. Those statistics come courtesy of the National Institute on Aging. And here’s one more: the fastest growing segment of the American population is the age 85 and older group.

In Western New York, our numbers are higher than the national averages, with the population over the age of 85 rising at a rate of more than 10 percent per year in Erie County alone. This tremendous shift in demographics will require new techniques and tools to help seniors maintain  quality living with as much independence as possible.

One response to this growing need is the www.WNYSeniorCare.org website that was launched four years ago. This tool helps seniors and their families make educated choices about services available through the community or through senior care providers that can help seniors to maintain their home or apartment or transition to another residence that provides more care, such as a senior community or assisted living residence. The site features an interactive tool to aid families in assessing caregiving challenges. This online assessment was developed by the Western New York Association for Homes and Services for the Aging (WNYAHSA), a not-for-profit, all volunteer, regional advocate of quality senior care in our region. WNYAHSA is made up of nearly 70 member providers and affiliates throughout the area, and is one of the largest regional networks of its kind in the country.

The assessment tool will not only determine what additional services an individual will need now or in the near future, and will also suggest an array of providers that may be of assistance. These providers include home care services, senior apartments, assisted living residences, nursing homes and other options.  The assessment tool is free of charge, according to Michael Helbringer, immediate past president of  WNYAHSA and president of Bristol Home/Bristol Village. “This unique assessment tool is provided as a public service by the association; it is not a revenue generator,” he said. “It was developed from scratch and includes input from doctors, discharge planners, registered nurses, home care providers, social workers and others,” explained Helbringer. “The sub-committee conducts ongoing review and maintenance to ensure that it remains as comprehensive and accurate as possible.”

The other purpose of the website is to educate families about senior care options and where to access more information. Links to the site are updated annually with new content added periodically. The innovative website has proven popular since it was launched in December 2006. More than 2,500 families have visited the site to complete a senior care assessment. Many families who live in other states but have elders who reside in Western New York have found the site especially helpful. More than 95 percent of the website’s quality surveys have positive reviews. Creative interventions like these will be needed if we are to constructively move forward as a society while maintaining the highest quality of life for all of our citizens.

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Michael Olear

is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker

with MJ Peterson Real Estate