The Stanford University Center on Longevity has just released a trove of information on the health, living arrangements, and demographics of an aging America. The study, “New Realities of an Older America” tells the story of an independent, remarkably healthy population, but one that will present unique challenges as it lives well into its 80s and, eventually, reaches frail old age.

For example, authors Adele Hayutin, Miranda Dietz, and Lillian Mitchell paint of picture of serniors increasingly living alone and in the suburbs–housing patterns that will make caregiving especially difficult.These seniors want to age in place, but providing assistance to a population that may become trapped in their own subdivisions will be a huge challenge. Caregivers battling traffic. Elders no longer able to drive to the doctor or the grocery store, or to even visit with friends. These are not pleasant images.

Yet, the current population of elders has made their opinion clear. In 2005, even among those with functional limitations, 85 percent lived at home or with a relative. Just 10 percent lived in skilled nursing facilities and only five percent lived in assisted living facilities. Even among all those 85 or older, three-quarters lived in traditional housing. 

The great challenge will be finding new ways to deliver care to this population–a challenge that will be compounded by the growing prevalence of dementia among those 85 or older. While this study finds that disability rates among the elderly are falling (a conclusion that is disputed by other research), it also estimates that the population with dementia will more than double, to nearly 11.4 million, by mid-century. 

There is lots more to chew over in this paper. Take a look at it.