How an Aging Population is Affecting Caregivers

By 2050, the world population of adults ages 60 and older will double to 2.1 billion, according to the World Health Organization. Accompanying that trend will be a heightened demand for caregivers. 

Psychological researchers shared their findings on the societal impact of these trends during “Projecting a Future with an Aging Population,” an APS Science for Society webinar held May 15.  

Elsie Yan, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University professor and expert on gerontology issues, shared her research showing how physical and verbal aggression by residents in long-term care facilities leads to high staff turnover and shortages. She said researchers and policymakers should explore improved training in dementia care and mental health support for staff.  

Catherine Riffin, a Cornell University psychologist with expertise in medical gerontology, reported that more than half of adults who are caring for an older relative face significant physical, emotional, and financial hardship. The strain can lead to health consequences such as lowered immune function, cardiovascular disease, and sleep disturbances, she said. She advocated for addressing caregivers’ mental health problems during routine health care visits.  

Kuan-Hua Chen, a University of Nebraska neuroscientist who studies relationships between people with dementia and their family caregivers, emphasized that caregiving experiences aren’t always bad. Chen’s lab is investigating the benefits of addressing the emotional connectedness between care recipients and their caregivers.  

The speakers also discussed psychological aspects of elder abuse, home modifications designed to ease caregiving, and the importance of social engagement in the later stages of life.  

APS members and registered attendees can now view the full video of the webinar.

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