Moving the HME Industry Forward

General Healthcare

Where Will Boomers Live? Harvard Says…

December 1, 2014

POTOMAC, MD – The Harvard study referenced in this editorial makes is quite clear that the bulk of long term care will occur in private homes, meaning excellent growth for the out-of-pocket, in-home long term care business. Read on and get excited. Think about how to better serve private pay clients with marketing, merchandising and customer service like you expect at Nordstrom’s.

And now…Where will boomers live? The new report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation says we will live in owner occupied single family homes. Not all but way more than any other housing category. This groundbreaking report corroborates what Aging in Place advocates have known all along. Now we have the currency to build our strategy.

Aging in Place grows up in this study. As a critical building block in our nation’s strategy for housing the coming onslaught of older Americans we should now call it what it really is: Long Term Care@Home. It is the best strategy for a big problem. Harvard says so.

We are going to live in our homes because we already own them, love them, and want to age in them. We age most happily and inexpensively in the comfort and dignity of our own homes. They are the most economical site to receive care as well as taking best advantage of family and informal care. We can’t afford to build enough senior housing, nobody likes it and it is not a good or economical place to age. Long Term Care @Home is the best strategy. Harvard says so.

The key sub heading may be “Housing as the linchpin of well-being.” The cost and difficulty of health and care, especially near the end of life, is already a recognized problem. Too little retirement savings is also recognized. This report is clear: the availability of supportive services is an aspect of housing as residents age. We can’t really fix healthcare without dealing with housing.

Getting housing right is a big step to fixing healthcare. Again, Harvard says so. Accounts of the report, Housing America’s Older Adults refer to housing as the next crisis or the next housing crisis is seniors. Why is it a crisis? and is it only for boomers?

The report has plenty of good tables on population size housing costs and increasing disability that accompanies aging. Housing current ‘seniors’ is a problem but the situation will grow quickly to crisis because of the huge boomer cohort and our continually extending lives. More people. Living longer.

Longer lives means more disability and chronic health conditions which require appropriate housing, care and medical expense. A bunch of this without sufficient resources and infrastructure and you have a full blown crisis. How can we avoid the crisis? Long Term Care @Home is the best strategy.

What are the barriers?
1) Accessibility. Our houses are not designed to accommodate disability or care.
2) The ratio of caregivers to needs is growing worse.
3) Connections are critical. This includes healthcare and shopping as well as social and spiritual. Transportation is hard, especially for those living in the car dependent suburbs. Current transit systems are designed for the driving, ambulatory workforce.
4) Housing affordability. Too many older Americans are forced to tough decisions between rent or mortgage, medicine and food. (any is too many).

The solutions are a combination of:
• individual responsibility;
• seizing opportunities and entrepreneurship; and
• government programs and incentives.

We have the responsibility to prepare our homes, finances and health. But we need education and encouragement. Exercise can have an almost unbelievable impact. Corporate wellness and chronic disease self management have shown just how well encouragement can work. Similar programs for home modifications and savings are needed.

Louis Tenenbaum is the founder of the Aging in Place Institute. He is working across business sectors to integrate services so they are easy for consumers to access and navigate, enabling them to stay in their homes with dignity. Tenenbaum is a former contractor and has worked with the medical equipment, construction, design, health, finance and insurance industries. He can be reached via his Web site: www.louistenenbaum.com