Senior woman and caregiver outdoors on a walk in park, talking.
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An aging-in-place model of care that uses registered nurse care coordinators helped residents of one independent living community stay longer and more comfortably, according to the results of a new study.

Researchers at the University of Missouri analyzed eight years of health data — from 2011 to 2019 — on more than 190 residents of TigerPlace, a Columbia, MO, independent living community operated by Americare Senior Living and the UM Sinclair School of Nursing. 

The results of their research, published recently in the journal Geriatric Nursing, found that registered nurse care coordinators on site were able to identify illness quickly and provide residents with the appropriate care and service. This ability enabled most TigerPlace residents to age in place and reduced the need for transfers to nursing homes or settings offering higher levels of care and services. 

TigerPlace residents received health assessments from RN care coordinators every six months related to cognitive functioning, completing activities of daily living, depression, falls risk and physical functioning. Some residents also used noninvasive motion, bed and depth sensors to find trends in activity, respiratory and heart rate levels, and falls.

“The benefits of both the regular health assessments and use of non-invasive sensors helped to keep them steady as they age comfortably,” lead author and MU Sinclair School of Nursing Associate Professor Lori Popejoy, Ph.D., RN, said in a statement. “The goal is to identify slight declines in health as early as possible so the right services can be put into place, whether it is connecting them with a doctor, beginning therapy or starting treatment for depression, whatever is needed based off the assessments.”

TigerPlace, where the average resident age is 84, offers home health and personal care services as needed. Residents live in individual apartments and have access to a variety of recreational and socialization opportunities, including sports bars, fitness centers, live music performances, pet therapy visits and volunteer opportunities.

Popejoy said that residents are able to use exercise and socialization opportunities offered at TigerPlace to enhance their quality of life, allowing them to live longer independently.

“For older adults that are still living at home and maybe starting to notice increased difficulty completing daily activities, or for those who are struggling with social isolation, moving to a facility like Tiger Place can be very helpful for living a healthier life longer, and possibly avoiding the need to ever move to a nursing home,” she said.

The study comes on the heels of an AARP survey that found that the majority of older adults want to stay in their homes as they age. 

This isn’t the first time TigerPlace residents participated in aging research. In 2016, for instance, residents were part of a UM study using sensor systems to measure gait speed and stride length to predict falls.

The RN care coordination research study involved collaborations among nursing students, medical students, social workers, engineers and information technology professionals.

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This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living