In the past several decades — and indeed, the past several years alone — enormous strides have been made in senior healthcare. We are seeing more older adults live longer, healthier, and happier lives than ever before. Medicines have been established to decrease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease[1. “Medications for Memory Loss,” https://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_standard_prescriptions.asp] and reduce the risk of strokes[2. “Warfarin Replacement?” November/December 2013, https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/archive/110113p16.shtml]. The benefits of physical therapy for older adults, as well as the recognition of senior depression as a serious disease, are also important advances in the field. It’s not naïve to believe that many similar breakthroughs are likely on the way.
However, the most important development in health care for this age group may pertain not to what care they receive, but where. Read on to learn why the future of senior health care may be at home.
Health Care in a Familiar Environment
Nursing homes don’t have to be the first choice
A common theme in growing older is the fear of being “put into a nursing home.” Although no one can make a competent adult transfer to a facility against their will, sometimes, the equivalent happens anyway. Reluctant seniors feel they have no choice but to move into long-term care because they can no longer look after themselves or their homes.
However, in the future America may see a different kind of move — a move away from the nursing home model. More options for independent living (including receiving care at home) may become mainstream. The reasons for this include the rising costs of nursing home care and cuts to the insurance rates that pay for it.
Housing with multigenerational twist
One option for older adults who don’t want to move into facilities is a concept called “multigenerational housing.” Already common in many parts of the world, it involves the older adult living with other members of his or her family. Presently in the U.S., this usually involves the older adult moving into a spare room or floor of the family’s home. But there is more talk of planned communities where houses will be built specifically with this situation in mind. That may mean designing buildings with more room and privacy for everyone!
Better civic planning for neighborhoods
It’s not just housing that may be getting a makeover for older adults — advances are being made in civic planning as well. Since one of the biggest problems this population faces is transportation, community planners are working on making downtown areas and their amenities more accessible. It can be difficult for seniors who no longer drive or can’t use public transportation to get to vital locations, such as the doctor, pharmacist, or grocery store. But with a little foresight, new communities can be built closer to senior housing, making services much easier to get to.
Co-housing: an exciting new option
Over the past decade, we’re seeing more of another new trend in living styles for older adults: co-housing. Although it’s less independent than being in individual homes, it usually doesn’t remind older adults of a nursing home either. Essentially, residents have separate units, but also enjoy certain shared spaces and gardens. Tasks that prove physically difficult (such as cooking and cleaning) are paid for through fees. Finally, each resident has a voice when it comes to making decisions that affect the entire community.
The Future of Senior Health Care Starts Now
If your loved one is interested in receiving health care where they currently live, they don’t have to wait any longer. It’s entirely possible for them to stay healthy at home, and get services there that, in the past, would’ve only been available on the outside. By choosing a qualified home care agency, the older adult in your life can enjoy skilled nursing care, medication management, nutritional counseling, and more. Talk to your loved one about their goals for the future, and start making them happen today.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.