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Science – The Crowning Achievement

by Louis on April 23, 2017

Longevity has to be science’s crowning achievement. What is a more important purpose for our intellectual endeavors than more life? Ranking life expectancy is a common measure of cultural and national success.  ‘Achievement’ is the right word but all consequences are not positive. It is not all success if ‘crisis’ is so commonly used to describe the situation in countries where life expectancy is high. We have a responsibility to recognize, monitor and mitigate negative impacts just as we celebrate, or we risk neutralizing – or worse – our success.

Negative outcomes include poverty, loneliness and medical and care costs that threaten the general economy. Overpopulation increases the burden on the earth’s resources, threatening our planet and all measures of success…including life expectancy. Among many smaller ironies, that our success may be our undoing is also a pinnacle, but not an achievement.

One of these ironies is that longer lives often means inability to participate in the community and being forced from one’s beloved home. Much of our infrastructure predates extended longevity. Transportation is designed for ambulatory commuters. Driving is critical to daily life but difficult and dangerous with age. Basic home design is outdated as well. What we now recognize as common physical changes of aging were not considerations when the standards of home design were adopted.

Updating our housing fits a long and normative pattern of our economy. As I walked in the March for Science this weekend we passed the White House on our way to the Capitol. Plumbing was added to the second floor of the White House in the 1850’s.  Electric lights and steam heating were installed in the Capitol in the late 1800’s. Air conditioning was retrofitted in the 1950’s.

These changes mirror the evolution of our housing technology. Rural America was plumbed and electrified during the 1930’s. Furnaces were added to many homes that had already been in use for many years and then upgraded as homes were also weatherized in response to higher fuel costs. Now we are adding solar collectors and storage batteries.

It’s time to update our homes to match our crowning scientific achievement. There is evidence that home updates result in fewer falls, fewer hospitalizations and reduced time in expensive and depressing rehab facilities. This reduces misery and saves healthcare dollars. It may not be rocket science, molecular biology or gene therapy but it is science, engineering and technology. And it is important.

A bipartisan bill, HR 1780, the Senior Accessible Housing Act, was introduced by  Congressman Charlie Crist (D- Fla.) and others on March 29, 2017. The bill incentives home updates. This bill is successor to last year’s HR5254 introduced by Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), also a sponsor of this year’s bill.

HomesRenewed, a broad coalition whose mission is to “significantly increase the number of homes prepared for residents throughout the modern lifespan”, supports the new bill. Updating our homes will reduce the burden on families and the healthcare budget. That is a no brainer. Maybe as significant this bill can help fill our responsibility to make sure our scientific success seems like a success to the direct beneficiaries- older Americans who can then live in their homes and communities safely, economically and with dignity.

Updating our homes will reduce the burden on families and the healthcare budget. That is a no brainer. Maybe as significant, updating our housing infrastructure helps fill our responsibility to make sure our scientific success seems like a success to the direct beneficiaries- older Americans who can then live in their homes and communities safely, economically and with dignity.

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Judith Sachs April 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm

Agreed! But for many more reasons than you offer. I work with people who have moved to assisted living (mostly because caregiver partners, who may be dealing with illness themselves,simply can’t manage upkeep of a house). There’s a sadness and emotional letting go of their identity that is often allied to the home they built and previously maintained over decades. Those who are living in place are more vital, socially involved and happier!

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