Aging in place is a way for older people to live gracefully and safely in their own homes. It allows them to stay in a familiar and loved house and neighborhood and helps to avoid costs to themselves, their families, and from government assistance by avoiding the expensive use of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. It also cuts down on expensive medical bills from extended hospital stays, ambulance costs, and emergency room visits because there is a strong focus on home visits and preventative care.
House modifications are a main focus of aging in place initiatives. Homes can be modified for accessibility and ease of use through installation of ramps, handrails, lever style doorknobs, and other useful devices depending on the level of need.
Aging in place initiatives can also include home visits from health professionals for services such as regularly scheduled checkups, administration of medications, or physical therapy. In the long run, in-home treatments tend to be less expensive then hospital visits and requires less time on the patients’ part. A large focus of such visits includes preventative care, something that many seniors miss out on if they’re not highly mobile.
Studies have proven that people who are able to age in their home are healthier overall, both mentally and physically. Aging in place is especially important in Appalachia because as a region, we have the largest per capita of people 65 years and older in the U.S. (http://www.arc.gov/assets/research_reports/PRBDataOverviewReport2007-2011-Chapter2.pdf)
Why Aging in Place is Important in Appalachia
The poverty rate of our older population is one of the main reasons why developing a solid aging in place program is important. They can’t afford the nursing homes; chances are the families can’t either, which means Medicare has to pick up the tab. Despite the high cost, there is also a lack of such facilities in the area as well as a lack of healthcare professionals. However, many older folks actually own their homes without a mortgage. If the home is sound or can be repaired properly, then staying in their home is more likely.
While there are some seniors who own their homes outright, there is still a large need for quality housing for many of the seniors in Appalachia and there’s also a shortage of housing for members of the workforce, including those of the healthcare profession.
By 2025, the number of seniors in Appalachia is expected to double. If we don’t find solutions now, then the lack of services can have a catastrophic effect on their health and on our economy.
Fahe is working on solutions however. We have hosted an Aging Summit recently to address the above concerns. We learned that there has been a lack of communication between healthcare providers, homebuilders, and policy makers. By getting these three groups all in one room we were able establish a conversation that showed how each could help the other in terms of servicing our elderly. These solutions included finding new sources of funding, incentives for healthcare providers to stay in the area, and access to affordable housing and renovations.
Aging is an issue that everyone faces. By finding a solution now, we not only help our current seniors, but we also ensure a more stable and healthy life for ourselves.