Is 2013 the year of action?
We've been in cycles of awareness-building, instead of action-driving, for far too long. Awareness is good, of course, and we've learned many important things over the past several years. For example, we've learned that in 2012, 11.5% of the world population was 60 or older, but by 2050, this number is projected to more than double. We've learned that nearly 30% of the U.S. population will serve as a family caregiver during their lifetimes. We've learned that our current health and aging systems are not built to recognize these realities and must change.
So, hi, 2013. With you, I am hopeful that the awareness-building phase is evolving into something much more tangible. And I am seeing signs throughout the marketplace that I'm not the only one who feels this way.
· The first example starts with a history lesson. Twenty years ago, two women facing the realities of family caregiving founded the National Family Caregivers Association. When the organization was created, the concept of family caregiving wasn't widely understood or recognized as a massive issue in need of public support and resources.
So they started the long, tedious process of closing the knowledge gap. Today, family caregivers have a public voice, and it's largely thanks to the two decades of awareness-building led by this organization. And this year, the National Family Caregivers Association changed its name. It is now the Caregiver Action Network. I believe that this represents a huge societal shift. The world knows about family caregivers now; there's no denying that they are the backbone of our health and social care systems. For the first time, though, the world just might be ready for action.
But wait – there's more. I've seen a similar intellectual shift in another organization, the Global Coalition on Aging. This industry alliance has spent the past several years traveling all over the world and educating people on the reality of our aging populations. It's been a labor of love: trying to demonstrate what an aging workforce means to our economies while framing the situation as an opportunity, not a crisis. Public consciousness of the issue was a first priority.
Now, there's a palpable shift. Take a look at this Fiscal Times blog post by their Executive Director, Michael Hodin, where he lays out four new year's resolutions for a “new American ‘age.'” Here, we see specific actions that various groups can, and should, take. These resolutions live and breathe the concept of “doing” to me.
I'm seeing this transition out of awareness-building into action-driving all around me. For example, new and innovative models of care are no longer just adopted by the most audacious and forward-looking companies – there is, for the first time ever, true penetration into the mainstream!
Yes, there's still a long way to go. But I can feel it in the air around me. This year is going to be different. Maybe we'll even look back on it and say, “that was the moment when it all changed.”Shannon McIntyre is the Corporate Communications Director at Intel-GE Care Innovations™