The Aging Population and the Health Care Crisis

The Center has succeeded and flourished over the past three years for many reasons. Chief among them has been that since the 1970s as discussed in above, it has become increasingly clear that the mind-body connection is more powerful than previously acknowledged. And, the methods employed intuitively at the Center have a strong scientific foundation. In addition, as more is learned from science the more refined the practices have become.

Rehabilitation in the Broken American Healthcare System

The Center is an example of a low-cost, high benefit method of approaching the needs of as well as empowering certain individuals who seek enhanced quality of life and to lead productive lives despite their long term disabilities.

The image to your right was clipped from the New York Times Editorial page more than a decade ago. Its message unfortunately still resonates even more today.

The World Health Organization recently ranked the American health care system 37th in the world in terms of quality. For this low level of service we are spending more than twice as much per capita as the average of the world's top 24 industrialized nations. Fifty years ago, the US spent about the same on health as on national defense, which was about twice the amount spent on education. Today health care spending is 4.3 times the amount spent on national defense. In 2004, the United States spent 16% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care. It is projected that the percentage will reach 20 percent in the next decade.
The National Coalition on Health Care.

Health care in America is a growth industry requiring more and more diverse solutions to the challenges brought about as medical technology requirements change and population needs demand. People are living longer and advances in technology have the potential to reduce the impact of disability for those who can access health care.

The health care system will be in crisis for the foreseeable future. The number of medical settings that refuse to participate in Medicare and MediCal is increasing along with the number of uninsured citizens. Increased costs and reduction in services is complicated by the aging of our population which brings us face to face with a greater incidence of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems that require long-term rehabilitation treatment strategies.

The Center does not pretend to replace medical rehabilitation services, but for eighteen years it has provided services that are critically needed and diminishing rapidly in availability. Moreover, it has provided these services at a fraction of their cost in similar but medically-modeled settings. One week in a typical hospital rehabilitation unit costs $2000.00 a day. The cost of outpatient physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy is typically $100.00 per hour. A student attending the Stroke Center full-time for one year receives 640 hours of class time taught by occupational, physical, and speech therapists. The cost of an equivalent amount of therapy provided in a clinic or in-home setting at prevailing rates would be $64,000.00
based on local medical and educational costs.

Some analysts estimate that retired couples now need to have $200,000.00 set aside just for the potential cost of their medical care. Clearly, less expensive alternative, like the Center’s approach to long-term rehabilitation need to be taken seriously.

The Age Wave is Here

One of the significant factors about the Stroke Center is that it is a present day illustration of the immediate future. The majority of students at the center are mature adults and seniors. They reflect the changing demographics in America. According to the US Census Bureau, America is undergoing a radical demographic departure from being a nation of youth, to being a nation where people over 60 years of age will outnumber children under 14 years.

The generation between the ages of forty and sixty is the largest, most powerful, most influential generation in American history. This is the Age Wave. The aging Baby Boom is the most significant societal force of our day. This enormous demographic change is having a significant impact on the way our society views aging. Growing old is no long seen as the end of a productive life and a time of inevitable decline in health and vitality. Rather, terms such as successful aging, productive aging, robust aging and the like are found more and more frequently in scientific literature and in popular media reports. We have mounting evidence that lifestyle, in terms of nutrition and exercise, among other behaviors, can prevent or delay chronic conditions. It has also been shown that lifestyle changes can improve these conditions even in the later stages of life. Thus, naturally occurring behaviors and health practices as well as intervention to improve lifestyle behaviors can potentially enhance social functioning, improve physical and mental heath, prolong independent living and promote greater autonomy.

Despite marked changes in attitudes and improvements in lifestyle, chronic disease remains a fundamental characteristic of aging. People 60 years of age and above have, on average, slightly more than two chronic conditions. Because people are living longer and longer, the morbidity and disability associated with chronic disease has substantially increased. Unfortunately, despite the recognition that for a rapidly increasing number of people, learning to live with chronic diseases may well be one of their most important adult developmental tasks. To date, neither medical care nor health-related education has had much to offer.

Community college disabled students programs are likely to be called upon to meet new challenges presented by this powerful and growing new sociological force. When this generation reaches old age, it will dramatically bring the realities of an aging society into focus. Effective programs like the Stroke and Acquired Disability Center will be in great demand.

It is equally important to be aware that Health care workers at all levels will be needed to staff hospitals, assist caregivers, work in in-home supportive services and provide for the variety of therapies that will be required by the dominant and largest segment of our population. The typical Stroke Center student is a stable, mature adult who has absorbed and survived some tough life experiences. Patience, graciousness, good humor and an openness toward new options and learning opportunities prevail. Therefore, Stroke Center students are ideal candidates to serve as subjects in a real life laboratory situation and to assist in the training of upcoming health care professionals that will be required during the next crucial decades.

We are grateful to Congressman Sam Farr and the US Department of Education,
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation for the funding support that made this website possible.