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Celebrate Aging in Place Week: Bell's Blog

Oct 12 2015

Bell’s Blog:  The Debutante Ball

By Marty Bell

There may have been 14 screens at the movie complex in Palm Beach Gardens, but there may as well have been just one.  As I stood near the box office late Saturday afternoon, each person in the long line requested the same movie: “The Intern.” Palm Beach Gardens, after all, is a community where people go to retire.   And they all wanted to see Robert DeNiro playing a 70-year-old, one of them, who interns for Ann Hathaway and gets to romance Rene Russo.  Eventually, the ticket seller stopped asking “Which movie?” and simply said, “How many?”

Just five years ago, I doubt this movie would have been made by a Hollywood studio.  And neither would “Grandma” or “A Walk in the Woods” or “Rickie and the Flash.”  But we’re in the midst of a culture shift. Some people (particularly those who prefer deficit cutting to caring for our own) call it the Silver Tsunami, which means it scares them.  I prefer to call it the Silver Debutante Ball. This is the national coming out party for older Americans.  The focus is on them.  And hurrah.

As we begin our celebration of Aging in Place Week 2015, we find ourselves in a different environment than in any of the nine previous weeklong celebrations: the market is being flooded with new products, new approaches, new solutions for aging issues.  Venture Capitalists are fielding and funding new companies all over the country.  Age focused businesses are emerging and, in many cases, merging to get larger and accommodate the crowd that is building like tailgaters in an NFL city parking lot on Sunday afternoon.

All of this is good.  The more solutions, the more attention, the better.  But it also comes with its own problems.  As the market gets more crowded, as the available products and services multiply, how are people with mobility, cognitive and confidence issues going to sort their way through it?  How are they going to find what they need, what is available and who they can trust to deliver it?

That’s where we come in.  Among our roles as an alliance of assistance providers and advocates must be the education of our aging families and friends about the burgeoning market they find themselves in, to clear out the clutter, get rid of the weeds, and, most importantly, simplify access.  Our method of achieving this is collaboration and centralization.

When I was a kid in the ‘50s, our mom would pile my brother and I into our station wagon on Saturday mornings and travel all over town and into other towns for food shopping, clothes shopping, cleaning, haircuts.  And then someone came up with the idea of the mall, of everything in one place.  It was so obvious.

As we celebrate this week, apart but together, what I feel we are building is a national virtual mall for aging in place.

Happy Aging in Place Week.