BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As of Jan. 1, the first baby boomers turned 65.
What can American society expect as boomers retire, age and
continue to be active? How will this affect the stigma of growing
As the birthday celebrations commence, University at Buffalo
faculty experts are available to comment on tips and trends related
to aging in America. Topic areas include elder law, geriatric
medicine, hearing loss, mental health, television viewing and
designs for living.
The thoughts of the UB faculty members are summarized below. For
more information or to search the UB Faculty Experts blog, go to
Will hearing aids become a fashion statement? Rock music
takes its toll
Richard Salvi, PhD, UB professor of communicative disorder and
sciences, otolaryngology and neurology and director of the UB
Center for Hearing and Deafness, is an expert in deafness and
According to Salvi, "baby boomers now have reached an age where
hearing loss and tinnitus become major health problems. Many have
already lost much of their hearing and developed tinnitus (ringing
in the ear) due to many years of listening to loud rock music.
"Hearing aids, not yet considered a fashion statement, will by
necessity become a necessary part of the boomers dress code as the
prevalence of age-related hearing loss begins to accelerate beyond
age 65. While hearing aid technology and miniaturization have
steadily advanced, restoring the hearing of our youth remains a
formidable challenge," he says.
"Hearing health care costs are skyrocketing due to noise
exposure and aging. The Veterans Administration ranks hearing loss
as one of its Top 5 major disabilities. In 2010, the Veterans
Administration paid out more than $1 billion for tinnitus
disability claims alone. The trends in the VA are a reflection of
those in the general population."
Severe to profound hearing loss and tinnitus associated with
aging and noise exposure are not just hearing problems; they can
lead to social isolation, anxiety and depression contributing to an
overall decline in one's general health, Salvi says.
Salvi can be reached by phone at 716-829-5310 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Near-death continues to be a reality on TV
Today's television lineup includes many reality shows about ESP,
"true-ghost" stories and the wonder of near-death experiences. Are
they aimed at the elderly? Pop culture expert Elayne Rapping, PhD,
professor emerita of American studies, says that whether they are
aimed at the elderly or not, her hunch is that's who is watching
them. "After all," she says, "TV supports wishful thinking and
shows that entertain the connection between the here and the
hereafter may be more enticing to an aging population than to those
who don't plan on leaving the earthly plane anytime soon."
Rapping can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aging-in-place may replace nursing homes in the
Anthony H. Szczygiel, a professor in the UB Law School, has
extensive experience lecturing, studying and actively taking on
cases of elder law and says the elderly and near elderly are
demanding changes in how society, governments and the courts deal
with aging-related chronic care.
"Traditional nursing home stays are being replaced with new ways
of dealing with chronic needs, such as the Greenhouse Project for
rethinking nursing home facilities and care and the aging-in-place
Village movement," says Szczygiel. "A new example of this Village
movement approach to elder care, Canopy of Neighbors, will open
soon to serve the aging in one Buffalo neighborhood," he says.
Szczygiel notes that in the legal arena, two recent federal
court decisions give support to nursing home residents and their
families challenging the warehousing of chronically ill elders,
where the resident may benefit from continued physical or
occupational therapy. "Too often the nursing home staff gives up on
the patient and stops providing such therapy," he says. "The cases
provide a way to reverse the unintended negative consequences of
Medicare's nursing home and home care coverage standards."
Szczygiel also is knowledgeable of the federal Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act, which provides significant
support to research and demonstration projects aimed at better
handling chronic health care problems.
Szczygiel can be reached at email@example.com or by
contacting Charles Anzalone in UB's Office of Communications at
Stress and the sandwich generation
Scott T. Meier, professor and chair of the UB Department
Counseling, School and Educational Psychology in the Graduate
School of Education, is an expert in counseling and
"Traditionally, the elderly have been less interested in mental
health services than younger people," states Meier. "However, that
may partially be a generational effect in that people who came of
age in the 1960s and later are more accustomed to the idea of using
counseling and psychotherapy for personal, vocational and family
problems. Consequently, we may see the average age of individuals
in counseling and psychotherapy increase over the next two
"One of the issues that may cause stress for boomers is that
they are more likely to have to take care of elderly parents (who
are living longer) as well as their own children (who may have more
trouble getting employed and established in careers and
Meier can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by
phone at 716-645-1121.
Old doesn't have to mean sick
Robert S. Stall, MD, is a UB clinical assistant professor in
medicine and a specialist in geriatrics.
Stall says boomers should avoid self-prejudice ("Doctor, I'm not
getting any younger!") and ignore ageist comments from friends,
family, even health professionals ("What do you expect at your
age?"). Aging boomers have a lot to expect in terms of health and
well-being, Stall says. "You should tend to both the diseases and
the dis-eases (such as pain, depression, social isolation,
functional problems) that are more common as you age but not due to
age, in and of itself.
"Everyone knows a 95 year old who looks and acts 75, and the 65
year old who appears to be 80. And anyone who thinks the pain in
their right knee is solely age-related needs to wonder how their
same-aged left knee can be pain-free."
Stall says it's important to remember that "gradual decline may
not be Alzheimer's disease, ageist attitudes are harmful and there
is always something that can be done to help" as we age.
Stall can be reached by at email@example.com
or by phone at 716-213-4345.
Design that ages with you
Edward Steinfeld, adjunct professor of architecture and director
of UB's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access
(IDEA), is an expert on issues of accessibility. He believes that
products and services that benefit elders do not have to be
stigmatizing or isolating.
"If we don't take steps to plan our communities and homes for
aging populations, older people will be isolated and their quality
of life will suffer," Steinfeld says. "Communities that feel an
obligation to respond to the needs of their elder residents will
proceed with specialized services like expensive paratransit, more
publicly assisted housing and services like Meals on Wheels. This
will increase the tax burden."
The solution to this problem, according to Steinfeld, is
universal design, design for improving usability and social
engagement in response to the diversity of the population.
"Universal design applies to services as well as products," he
explains. "I like to describe the key benefits of universal design
by the stages of the lifespan: safety and security for children,
independence and social responsibility for young adults, reducing
stress for working-age adults and maintaining independence and
social engagement for elders.
"Together with our partners, we founded an organization called
the Global Universal Design Commission, which I think will soon
take a leadership role in changing current attitudes in the
business world. The commission already has members like AARP,
Disney and Proctor and Gamble, which see the value of this idea. In
a few years, universal design will be as well known as
sustainability is today."
"The smart sectors of the business community, including
builders, developers, planners and manufacturers, are well aware
that changing demographics will provide an opportunity as well as a
challenge in the future. They have not addressed the aging
population very well in the past because they often believe that
environments, products and services targeted to older adults are
stigmatized due to ageism, thus no one else will buy them," he
"This, of course, leads to a separate market for things like
age-restricted communities, mature market products and age-targeted
services like home monitoring. Even older people don't like to
identify as old in our society because 'ageism' is so rampant."
Steinfeld can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone
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