Aging America

Source: Al Jazeera America, America Tonight, 2014

With our senior population booming, America Tonight examines the problems and possibilities in the way we provide care. …

The silent army
Twenty-nine million Americans, or nine percent of the entire population, care for someone over the age of 74. Michael Okwu spends time with three women who have had to disrupt or suspend their lives to tend to an older loved one. From moving in with aging parents to putting a resistant father in a home, their stories offer glimpses of the decisions and strains born across the country by a largely invisible army.

The labor of care
As America’s elderly population balloons, so does the population of elder-care workers. Primarily women of color, these workers labor in isolation for meager pay and with few legal protections. We profile one woman, an immigrant from Barbados, who has been a domestic worker since she was 14. She details the enormous work of providing care, the frustrations of being unable to go to a movie, or even buy food, because of her salary, and the long, hard battle to get respect.

Seniors helping seniors
There is one group of Americans with the time on their hands to care for seniors in need: Younger, retired seniors. Christof Putzel follows Larry Davis, one representative of the growing seniors-helping-seniors movement, who fetches firewood for the elderly in his New Hampshire town, helps them winterize their homes and shovels their stoops. He wants to help them stay in their homes a little while longer, and hopes that when he needs it, someone might do the same for him.

For those who can’t find or afford human care for older loved ones, technology may end up filling the gap. Adam May visits some early adopters of elder-tech, from a group of siblings who check-in on their elderly mother with a telepresence robot, to homes wired up with sensors on cabinets, doorways and beds to allow for 24-hour monitoring. These technologies give hope for many families, but also force them to wrestle with the boundary between safety and privacy. …