As the United States experiences substantial growth in its older population, the adult day care business will continue to grow. "This is going to be the solution to the age wave," Joe Robbins said from his office at Freedom Day Center in Columbus.
Robbins and his wife, Hope, own the business, which recently moved from Enterprise Court to Macon Road. "We just outgrew our other location. We needed more space," he said.
According to a report by the United States Census Bureau, the older population in this country is going to considerably increase. In 2050, the population, aged 65 and over, is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double its estimated population in 2012. By 2030, more than 20 percent of U.S. residents are projected to be at least 65.
The bureau says baby boomers are largely responsible for this increase in the older population, as they began turning 65 in 2011. As a result, more adult day care programs are being created.
The National Adult Day Services Association identified 5,685 day care programs in the United states in 2014. A previous count in 2010 was 4,601. According to NADSA, more than 80 percent of participants attend full days and 46 percent attend five days a week.
As the number of centers grows so does government regulation. Hope Robbins said, as of April this year, adult day care centers must be licensed by the Georgia Department of Human Resources Healthcare Facility Regulation Division. Freedom Day Center has been certified.
"The license should be posted at the center. Look for one. You have to be careful about where you leave a loved one," she said.
According to the couple, it is estimated up to seven million women are unpaid caregivers to the elderly and they struggle to cope with the mental and physical demands of caring for a loved one, especially one with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia.
"Elder care has become the top problem in our society today as it replaces child care as the number one issue for the men and women in today's work force," Hope Robbins said. "Already, people are spending more time caring for or providing for the care of their elderly parents than they did caring for their own children. The problem will only magnify with the aging of the population."
Joe Robbins said many of the elderly do not want to go into a nursing home and it can be expensive to have a professional sitter come to a home every day.
"Some caregivers don't want someone to come to the home because they are afraid of theft or abuse," he said.
Freedom Day Center was formerly Freedom Home Care and had sitters who went into homes, but the couple got out of that part of the business. He said it is difficult to find people to work as a sitter.
"By having this center we are letting caregivers get a respite from the chore of taking care of an elderly loved one or somebody who is disabled," he said.
Freedom Day Center offers services from trained professionals, such as medication management, personal care and memory therapy. Basic medical checks are regularly done. "We have a place where clients may shower," he said.
The center participates in the Child and Adult Food Program of the United States Food and Drug Administration, which offers free and reduced meals for clients. "We have a full kitchen," he said. Some people attend Monday through Friday but others don't. Some attend for a full day and others just for a few hours. There are different programs available.
Computers are present for clients. "We train them how to use the Internet," Joe Robbins said. There are televisions to watch. Games, videos and books are available. Bible studies are an option. Outside, there is gardening.
As he walked through a large activity room, Joe Robbins pointed to colorful decorations on a wall. They were made by clients.
"Aren't those just great? Crafts are big here," he said. The couple says the socialization with staff and other clients is an important benefit of being in such a place.
"We are helping the elderly be able to live at home for as long as they can which is important to them, We are allowing caregivers for the elderly or disabled to stay in the workforce and not have to worry about the care their family member is receiving. We feel all of that is important," Joe Robbins said. "We feel blessed to be doing what we are doing."