Americans are reaching the age of retirement in record numbers, and with more than 90% of older adults who prefer to stay in their own homes as they age, senior care providers are challenged to think and act differently. As aging in place gains momentum, new concerns around availability of senior-appropriate housing, healthcare management and wellness make their way to the forefront of discussion. Senior care providers dedicated to meeting the needs of this population must adjust to assure easy access to needed resources and services. One approach is the development of partnerships between senior care providers and community groups and organizations.
Following are three distinct examples that illustrate how aging in place can be encouraged:
Affordable Senior Housing
Although more seniors prefer to stay in their homes, they don’t always have the financial resources to convert their living space into an aging friendly environment. Many live in substandard housing with barriers that make it nearly impossible to live safely with limited mobility and other health related concerns. Limited access to supportive services like housecleaning, meal preparation, laundry and personal care services can aggravate the situation even further.
The value of providing high quality senior housing across a wide economic spectrum is evident at a multi-organization partnership at the historic site of Stadium Place in Baltimore, MD. Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) established partnerships with Presbyterian Senior Living, Enterprise Homes, the YMCA and other community groups to bring low income and market rate housing to seniors in the Baltimore area. The result is a mixed-use community that provides residents with access to beauty salons, convenience stores, community rooms, computer labs, long-term care services and a local YMCA branch. A Green House nursing center operated by Catholic Charities was recently added. The result is a campus that encourages aging in place through its architecture and supportive environment.
The U.S. healthcare system is frequently described as disjointed and expensive. This lack of coordination and fragmentation is most evident with seniors as they experience the complications of chronic illness and frailty. A more comprehensive and coordinated view of the needs of seniors is essential to extend health and wellness that will permit seniors to live independently and avoid more expensive interventions. Some senior care providers are reaching out to other organizations to develop new approaches to achieve better outcomes.
One partnership in central Pennsylvania is helping residents avoid re-hospitalizations and emergency room visits and establish a pattern of frequent monitoring of health issues and educational support. When Presbyterian Apartments in Harrisburg, PA began a dialogue with nearby PinnacleHealth, they discovered that residents were using the PinnacleHealth Hospital emergency room for routine medical care, instead of taking complicated and inconvenient public transportation to regular doctor appointments. The hospital and senior care provider established a partnership to address the issue. The partnership ultimately established a program that helps residents more closely adhere to hospital discharge instructions. They also provide on-site office hours each week to administer routine medical care, working closely with the resident’s existing primary care providers. To date, the teams have seen a 20% reduction in emergency room visits and 49% reduction in hospital re-admissions.
The program was relatively easy to implement and has produced tangible results in better health outcomes and lower cost.
For some seniors searching for a greater sense of balance and fulfillment, access to wellness resources is one of the greatest challenges to aging in place. One of the benefits of a continuing care retirement community is the presence of resources focused on wellness – balanced meals, physical activities, spiritual groups and socialization.
New community partnerships are being established to make these resources more readily available to all seniors – not just those living in retirement communities. One example is the Wellness Coach model. In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, a mobile unit travels to various sites – such as churches or senior housing complexes – where attendees can access nutrition and fitness programs, pharmacy education and health management resources, and spiritual services. This outreach requires the cooperation of senior care providers and other community groups to take the message of healthy, active aging to a wider audience.
The establishment of strategic partnerships is a way to reach more seniors to help them to live happier and healthier lives in the place they call home.
Stephen Proctor is the CEO at Presbyterian Senior Living.