Older adults overwhelmingly want to age in place. This has been shown in multiple surveys, including one by AARP in 2021 that reported that 75% of adults older age 50 want to stay in their current residence for as long as possible.
While that is admittedly a narrow definition of aging in place—the CDC and others typically consider aging in place "staying in one's home or community"—it signals a strong desire by seniors. These individuals will make decisions based on this goal. They'll look to the health care industry and others to help them stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible.
However, we know that not all older adults are able to successfully age in place. To discuss the barriers that exist, and the role of health care organizations in overcoming these barriers, we convened leaders from across health care to discuss opportunities to support older adults in their goals of aging in place.
Here are the main takeaways from the conversation:
1. The goal of aging in place may change as a person ages.
It's hard to pick a perfect definition of aging in place. But one thing participants agreed on is that aging in place is fluid. What an individual desires at age 50 may be different from what they want at 65, or 70. And what is feasible at each age may also change as people age and their health status changes.
The goal of organizations seeking to support aging in place should be to give individuals the opportunity to make decisions that best support the stage of life they are in.
2. Aging in place is a health care issue, but the solutions do not lie within health care alone
While there are many factors that influence aging in place, all participants agreed that it is a health care issue. And while health care organizations can and should play a role in supporting aging in place, they may not—and sometimes should not—always be the lead organization.
Older adults often need to access services that support a variety of needs. Physicians and other health care providers must recognize that there are numerous community organizations who can provide and often coordinate these services.
Physicians and other health care providers should be a part of these conversations but may not be best suited to play a leading role. As one participant put it: "Despite the health care implications of aging in place, the real solutions often reside outside of health care."
3. Health care's role in supporting aging in place often lies outside of traditional clinical solutions
When the group brainstormed opportunities for health care organization to support aging in place, we were surprised at how little time the group spent on discussing direct clinical care strategies or technology.
There are certainly opportunities to expand home-based care and incorporate more remote monitoring technology to provide clinical care to seniors in their homes, but much of the conversation focused on other opportunities for health care organizations, including helping connect with older adults to overcome social barriers, supporting caregivers, and developing a geriatric-informed workforce.
Towards the end of the conversation, participants were asked to vote on which solutions they would prioritize. This voting also reflected an interest in working on non-clinical solutions. Here are some of the solutions voted on:
- More emphasis on proven programs like PACE
- Support community-based organizations
- Build the in-home workforce, particularly for personal care services
4. For any solution to be truly successful in supporting aging in place, it must address the inequities that exist around who can successfully age in place
The group acknowledged that while aging in place is something that many older adults desire, it is not always a choice. For some older adults, they have no choice but to age in place, as they cannot afford to move. For others, they are forced to move if their home becomes unsuitable or they cannot find a place in their community that affords them the opportunity to age in place.
These forced choices are exacerbated by the existing racial and financial inequities that exist within health care today. As health care organizations are considering aging in place and partnering with others, leaders must take into account these underlying inequities to be sure that opportunities to age in place are offered to and supported for all older adults.
This workshop was part of Advisory Board's research on how the health care industry can better care for the growing aging population. You can see all our research on this topic at www.advisory.com/seniors