Reframing Aging, Ageism, and Aging-In-Place

There is a demographic shift in the United States, in which we are seeing a rapidly aging population and a constant increase in life expectancy.  Currently, more than 46 million older adults are 65 and older.  It is expected that by 2050, there will be almost 90 million Americans over the age of 65.  That is 1 out of 5 Americans is projected to be 65 years old and over (RHIhub, 2021).  At the same time as adults age they are more likely to suffer from other chronic co-morbidities and functional disabilities.  Consequently, they may require more resources and services (home health care-assistance, home improvement or senior friendly homes/communities).

Older adults overwhelmingly prefer to age-in-place, but their living space may not accommodate for their functional limitations and therefore do not provide for a safe environment to age-in-place.  Additionally, many older adults may not have the financial means to afford the high cost of transitioning to a nursing home/assisted living facility. Also, out-of-pocket pay for private home care/assistance can be a challenge impacting their ability to age-in-place.

Framing as a strategy is regularly applied in media and in politics of welfare cutbacks, identifying segments of the population as deserving or underserving, and persuading society to align with a side to either support or oppose change reforms (Esmark & Schoop, 2017).  However, very little is heard regarding new and innovative ways to frame issues around aging, ageism and changes needed to meet the needs of the increasing aging population.  The lack of push for an increased focus on policies to create and improve a more age-integrated culture and society, speaks volume of the public view on aging.  Many may think it is a waste of societal funds to invest in services for a population they view as nonessential and close to the end of their lifecycle.  Current framing perpetuates the negative perception of aging by depicting them as sickly individuals that cost society big dollars in pharmaceutical and medical care and social programs.

However, aging does not translate to mean decline, frail, disable and dependent.  Many older adults are able stay fairly healthy, functional and independent and age-in-place despite experiencing some of the normal changes associated with aging.  All older adults should be afforded the ability to age-in-place with access to appropriate resources.  To move the dial on the aging discussion, communication strategies should focus on reframing messaging to educate the public of defining aging as a normal process, and the positive contribution they bring to society (i.e., active voters and taxpayers etc.).  Finally, building a coalition of stakeholders with an interest in aging, ageism and aging-in-place is critical to bring attention to the issues (Smith et al., 2019).  Supporters such as AARP, Area on Aging Agencies, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Aging and Adult Services, and Department of Planning and Development:  Housing and Community Development can be a strong unified voice of older adults’ issues and needs.



Esmark, A., and Schoop, S.R. (2017).  Deserving social benefits?  Political framing and media

framing of ‘deservingness in two welfare reforms in Denmark.  Journal of European

Social Policy. 27(5), 417-432. (Links to an external site.)

 (Links to an external site.)     Rural Health Information Hub, (2021). Healthcare Access in Rural Communities [online]. Rural

Health Information Hub. (Links to an external site.)

Smith, S., Buchanan, H., and Cloutier, R. (2019).  Political Framing:  A Strategy for issue

analysis.  The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 15, 760-763. (Links to an external site.)