New Models of Support for Aging in Place

Most American seniors choose to live independently as long as possible, while maintaining strong relationships with family and friends. A major concern, however, is access to the support and services they need. There is a growing sense of urgency about this, as more of us are determined to remain as independent as possible throughout our lives.

With strong community support services, a senior who loses his or her ability to perform certain tasks can remain in his or her home. However, for a senior to age-in-place comfortably, the following is also ideal: 1) affordable and accessible housing, 2) convenient transportation, 3) work, education, and volunteer opportunities, 4) access to health and support services, 5) participation in civic and cultural activities, and 6) intergenerational connections. When communities rise to effectively address these challenges, they become more livable and welcoming for people of all ages, across the life cycle.

Certain community support models are designed to meet the need of seniors who are aging-in-place. These can include:

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs)

The term NORC — coined in 1984 by Michael Hunt, a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — denotes any geographically defined community in which at least 40% of the population is 60 or older and live in their own homes. NORCs can take many forms, such as vibrant communities that encourage seniors to stay engaged.

  • A NORC is a community or neighborhood where residents remain for years, and age as neighbors.
  • Nearly 27% of seniors live in a NORC.
  • Fair housing laws provide for a complex with 80% of its residents over 55 to become officially age restricted. Another classification for restricted age is for 100% of residents to be above the age of 62, but this is rare in an evolving NORC.
  • For many years, the law required an age restricted community to offer significant  amenities and services if it was age restricted. That is no longer the case, but to compete and attract residents, some NORCs are offering amenities and services including social and recreational programs, continuing education programs, information and counseling, emergency and preventive health care programs, and more.

Fraternal and Religious Organizations

For many years, fraternal and religious organizations such as the Masons, churches of all denominations, synagogues, etc., have been giving back to their communities and to their own members.

  • They help their fellow members with anything from repairing a broken toilet to meal preparation or transportation.
  • The organization will also help with emergency funds for things such as lapsed utility bills. In one case, a member in Ohio needed a wheelchair ramp.  Volunteers built the ramp, and when the member could not afford to pay for the supplies, the local Masons covered the cost.

“If you can’t get these things done, you run the risk of falls, of depression, of not eating well,” says CEO Tom Stofac. “Those kinds of issues start to escalate, and seniors may end up in the hospital because they’re malnourished.  What we haven’t done a good job of in the aging field is to look upstream at these little things. That’s what I’m finding is really helpful.”

Learn more about Masonic senior care here.

Grand-Aides

A home care model that is spreading globally is called Grand-Aides, which now operates at 20 sites in the U.S. Grand-Aides provide an innovative health care delivery program with caring, experienced nurse extenders making home visits to develop a trusting relationship, and connecting the patient and care team quickly and cost-effectively. Please see short video for more information on Grand-Aides.

  • Grand-Aides, who are employed by health systems at no charge to patients, have the temperament of kindly grandparents and the skills of specially-trained certified nursing assistants, according to program founder Dr. Arthur (Tim) Garson.
  • Armed with computer tablets, Grand-Aides provide home care to people at risk of hospital admission or an emergency room visit.
  • A Grand-Aide will visit the patient several times the first week. Using a computer tablet, he or she will video the patient and his medications, with a registered nurse on the other end viewing the encounter and double-checking the meds.
  • By troubleshooting problems and offering clear guidance and reassurance, Grand-Aides affordably provide home health care and may reduce readmissions, a major goal of hospitals and of Medicare.

“Everybody is pushing towards trying to manage patients with ‘apps,’” says Garson. “It turns out that some people just need  people.”

Technology-Based Living

Engineers and health experts are developing new ways to keep people in their homes longer. Current technology includes sensors, tracking devices for sleep, medication reminders, mobile doctors, and more. Unfortunately,  many seniors are resistant to adopting new technology that can help them age-in-place safely. Please see our recent article on this topic for details on helping seniors overcome their reluctance to trying new age-in-place technology.

This week, AARP announced the launch of its AARP TEK Academy, a free, easy-to-use online classroom designed to help 50-plus Americans get the most out of technology to connect with family and friends, explore employment opportunities, access health information, enjoy entertainment, and more. Located at AARPTEK.org, the site offers dozens of tutorials on a range of helpful topics, from social media to staying safe online.

When Aging-in-Place is no Longer an Option

Most people want to stay in their home for as long as possible, but even with the aging-in-place supports described above, they can’t. If you or a loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives.

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please contact Farr Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation:

Fairfax Medicaid Asset Protection Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Medicaid Asset Protection Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Medicaid Asset Protection Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Medicaid Asset Protection Attorney: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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