Living Large: Overweight Seniors Fueling Growth for Home Instead Senior Care Businesses

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Home Instead Senior Care announces that the business is witnessing a dramatic demographic shift as the ranks of obese seniors grow and need personal care services. It might be called the tale of two Boomers: One day you hear that older adults have never been healthier; they're working out and buffing up at YMCAs and fitness clubs throughout America, and living longer as a result. At the same time, half of middle-aged adults between 55 and 64 have high blood pressure and two and five are obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The bottom line is these people aren't dying, but they're living with significant disability

Home Instead Senior Care announces that the business is witnessing a dramatic demographic shift as the ranks of obese seniors grow and need personal care services. It might be called the tale of two Boomers: One day you hear that older adults have never been healthier; they're working out and buffing up at YMCAs and fitness clubs throughout America, and living longer as a result. The next day there's a report about Boomers who face mounting health challenges. For instance: half of middle-aged adults between 55 and 64 have high blood pressure and two in five are obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The dramatic growth in the numbers of obese seniors in the U.S. has not gone unnoticed by senior care businesses such as Home Instead Senior Care as they gear up to provide more personal care services for these clients.

As it turns out, people are living longer. And while some have adopted healthier lifestyles, many Boomers have not, with obesity threatening to interfere with the activities of daily living for a growing number of seniors. The outlook is not expected to get better any time soon.

This trend could have a dramatic impact not only on seniors and their families, but the economy as well. Most adults in the U.S. will be overweight or obese by 2030, with related health care spending projected to be as much as $956.9 billion, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Caregiving companies already are tracking this trend and gearing up for what could be a larger market of disabled seniors. For instance, the international caregiving company Home Instead Senior Care, which began as a non-medical service to help keep seniors in their homes by providing companionship and help with household duties, is now receiving more requests than ever for personal care services like feeding, dressing and toileting. That has prompted many of the company's 585 North American franchise offices to become licensed to provide personal care. And that's just in time.

Findings from a study just released by Purdue University reveal that those who are moderately and severely obese run a significantly increased risk of having disabilities serious enough to warrant long-term care, according to lead researcher Dr. Laura Sands. "The bottom line is these people aren't dying, but they're living with significant disability," Sands said.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI is calculated using height and weight. For example, a 5-foot, 9-inch adult who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30, thus putting this person into the obese category, according to the Obesity Society. Find out your BMI (Body Mass Index).

A 2005 report in The Gerontologist confirms this research. The study reveals that male
and female life expectancy in the 70- to 80-age group is roughly the same, whether an individual is obese or not. But males who were obese could expect to have 4 disabled years before they died, compared with 2.5 years for their non-obese counterparts. For 70- to 80-year-old obese women, it was 7.4 disabled years compared with 4.8 years for their thinner counterparts.

The older obese adults in the Purdue study were significantly more likely than those of normal weight to have difficulty carrying out activities of daily living (ADLs) -- such as feeding themselves, dressing, getting into or out of a bed or chair, bathing or using the toilet, Purdue researchers found. These adverse health conditions will place an increased demand on family caregivers since people who can't carry out these everyday activities independently typically need personal care or other long-term care services. In fact, 33 percent of the moderately or severely obese seniors in the study reported using either paid or unpaid personal care services.

As a result, companies like Home Instead Senior Care are experiencing dramatic increases in requests for personal care services. "Some Home Instead Senior Care offices that are licensed to provide personal care have reported that up to 80 percent of their business is devoted to those duties," said Home Instead Senior Care Co-Founder and CEO Paul Hogan. "Many offices providing personal care have experienced significant growth in the past year. The growing need for personal care services reflects the heavy burden that disabled seniors are placing on their family caregivers. We're seeing more clients who are disabled sooner than we ever have before. These seniors are less mobile and risk more falls and other accidents in the home. That's why companionship and personal care become so important."

Read more about the Five Implications of Obesity.

Training also is a necessary component of caring for seniors who have special needs, Hogan said. "If a senior is disabled to the point he or she has problems getting around the home, caregivers must know the safe way to get that person in and out of the bath or to the toilet without hurting themselves or the senior. We encourage our franchise owners to do step-by-step hands-on training in their offices for the Home Instead CAREGivers who are caring for older adults with special personal needs. An added benefit is that these CAREGivers can help seniors stay active and adapt more healthy lifestyles."

Despite the grim forecast, there is the opportunity for seniors to change these outcomes with a little help from family and friends or a professional caregiver. "Older adults must actively engage in strategies to help them retain their independence as they age," Sands said. "The results of this study show that maintaining a healthy weight is an important component of maintaining independence. Families can help by encouraging healthy eating and exercise among older adults. Even disabled older adults may benefit from safe exercise programs."

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care and obesity challenges facing Boomers and seniors, contact Dan Wieberg, Public Relations Manager at 888-484-5759 or email dwieberg@homeinsteadinc.com.

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