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Is There a Better Way to Grow Old?

This activist says we need to change how we think about long-term care

By 2030, 27 million people in America will need long-term care. But is our nation ready?

Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations (a national coalition of advocacy groups to transform America’s long-term care system), director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and one of Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencers in Aging, addressed that issue during a recent episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour titled A Better Way to Grow Old.

She spoke with The New Yorker’s Executive Editor Dorothy Wickenden about how to change the way we discuss this endstage of life and how we can change what that time period looks like.

We're one of the only developed countries that provides no support whatsoever for child care or elder care.

— Ai-jen Poo, caregiving activist

Poo was mostly raised by her grandparents in Taiwan while her mother worked, learned English and went to school. Her grandmother still lives independently and is very active with her family and within her community. However, Poo’s grandfather’s experiences with aging were quite different. His poor quality of life in a nursing home was the catalyst that led Poo to become one of the nation’s foremost caregiving activists.

“The experience of visiting him in the nursing home stays with me to this day,” Poo said during the interview. “I remember he shared a room with like six other people […] My grandfather hadn’t slept or eaten for days. He begged me to take him from there and bring him home and I do think that for many, that has been the dominate model.”

The problem Poo sees in nursing homes is that most residents do not have control over how they live. She says that needs to change and a conversation needs to happen in our country on how to prepare for the explosion of our aging population.

“We’re one of the only developed countries that provides no support whatsoever for child care or elder care,” Poo said in the interview. Furthermore, Poo mentioned that the average private nursing home room in New York costs $150,000 per year, which doesn’t even include medical expenses.

That, Poo says, simply is not sustainable.

Listen to the interview below to hear more on this topic.

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