As the Baby Boomer population gets older, many in this independent generation are prioritizing Aging in Place. It's more and more common to want to remain at home, with necessary accommodations and supports, rather than spending years in an Assisted Living or Long Term Care facility.
Most of us can certainly understand the reasons behind wanting to be at home as we retire and get older. But what may not be as obvious are the many changes a home would need to be an adequate place for people with mobility issues or other impairments.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard identifies three things that suitable houses for Aging in Place will need: step-less entrances, single-floor living, and wide hallways and doorways for wheelchair use.
Less than 4% of all US homes meet these requirements.
A recent article in the New York Times looked at the movements and initiatives to try to meet these challenges, creating the conditions for older people to stay in their homes successfully, even with decreased mobility.
For instance, the National Association of Home Builders now has a program so that contractors can become Certified Aging in Place Specialists, or CAPS. CAPS practitioners include contractors, occupational therapists, and interior designers -- and often work in projects involving all three.
These principles that allow folks to stay in their homes as they age, highlight components of healthcare that we think are key to the modern age of health -- and key to any telemedicine project -- but are often undervalued or underrecognized. Interestingly, these Aging in Place projects are often excellent places where telemedicine can be used successfully -- but in this post, we're interested in looking at what the two movements have in common, in themselves.
4 things Aging in Place and telemedicine have in common:
- People demand more for themselves than just disease prevention.
The Aging in Place movement is about health and quality of life, not just treating disease. This is increasingly the perspective of so many Americans and it fits well with pay-for-performance rather than pay-for-service models. Similarly, healthcare collaboration using telemedicine is about more than just treating disease -- it's about providing excellent care, for the whole patient, taking into account their life context and other needs.
- Modern solutions involve multiple professional perspectives.
According to the New York Times, the most successful adaptation solutions came from the work of occupational therapists collaborating with builders. Their complementary skillsets created the most practical solutions. Of course, telemedicine-based care coordination facilitates this kind of collaboration across the medical system -- with the most practical solutions as outcomes.
- Key improvements don’t have to be expensive.
So many of the Aging in Place modifications can be accomplished for just hundreds of dollars. In healthcare, as costs balloon, we get used to "if it's more expensive, it's probably better" models. Low-cost telemedicine implementations, that don't require expensive hardware, are more proof that key improvements don't always cost more.
- Good design is good design.
One of the key tenants in the Aging in Place model is that good design for older people is actually just good design for all people (usually termed "universal design.") For instance, the ramp for a wheelchair is also better for the mom pushing a stroller full of kids and groceries. This is one of the foundactions of iClickCare's design -- it's made to be so easy to use that everyone, even providers that are rushed or at different levels of training, can benefit from it without a lot of stress.
We applaud each and every one of the CAPS graduates and look forward to seeing more results of their work. We're proud to be on the journey with them.
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