The International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) recently reported in their 2010 Healthy Aging Trends report, "there is a new imperative to enable older adults to 'age in place' by staying in their own homes in the community." And, as research has found, most people prefer to remain in their homes and live independently, and at the same time, also have access to services and programs that allow them to live healthy.
The trend to support those who actively age at home is to develop a "center without walls", by providing older adults who live in their homes the healthy aging programming and resources normally offered only to residents at a senior living facility. Evangelical Homes of Michigan is one of the first retirement communities to successfully launch a model of community based care.
Over the past several years the desire to deliver on customers' wishes, needs and aspirations has caused our organization to not only challenge its traditional delivery mechanisms but also inspire the leadership of Evangelical Homes of Michigan to reinterpret its traditional services. That new interpretation has allowed Evangelical Homes of Michigan to transform itself from an organization defined by its compliment of physical facilities to a vibrant, ever-evolving organization focused on developing strategies that encourage continual learning and address market share maximization in today's competitive health care and housing industry.
Years of research by Evangelical Homes of Michigan's health and wellness team has led us to question the senior service industry's paradigm that health care services are the only service delivery options for older adults, assuming that all elders are automatically going to "need" medical care. The dilemma of our industry's desire to define return on investment and revenue generation solely by offering skilled nursing and rehabilitation services has caused most senior providers to ignore customers' wishes of an active and robust life in their own home. Over the past five years, Evangelical Homes of Michigan has begun to define competitive edge and market advantage not only by being there when a life altering condition exists but also by offering preventative health services that include physical fitness and whole body well-being.
Senior service providers should explore what the statistics state in terms of the types of services and supports we should be offering. The sequential learnings of Evangelical Homes of Michigan's leadership team has identified a value proposition of wellness and technology integration that has caused our organization to embrace and commit financial resources to the ongoing growth and development of home-based health and wellness solutions.
Here are a few of the alarming statistics:
More shocking than the statistics is how simple the solutions can be.
These learnings should assist in guiding our industry's mission and strategy to continue serving older adults, and at Evangelical Homes of Michigan, they have. As we continue to expand and innovate how more older adults can be touched more efficiently and in greater ways, we know much of this growth will happen in the home. In November 2009, R.A. Mashelkar introduced a wonderful concept about value proposition, "more for less for more." Think about this from a wellness and whole-being health perspective — exponentially more wellness for much less cost in order to serve more older adults.
With this challenge before us, the tools chosen and the acceptable solutions have changed. Instead of wellness existing as a robust campus amenity, it now becomes an outcome-based health program.
If senior service providers embrace this challenge, technology can take on a whole new perspective. Technology solutions now become tools to help produce health instead of "gadgets" that try to justify their cost and functionality. Researching solutions, customizing technology features and testing client acceptance all become imperative; if we embrace a discipline that believes technology decisions should be made because of technology's contribution to health and wellness outcomes. At Evangelical Homes of Michigan, we believe technology will serve three primary roles in home wellness: data collection, prompting interventions and most importantly, social connectivity.
In addition to Evangelical Homes of Michigan, other facilities such as Life Enriching Communities of Cincinnati and academic healthcare institutions are introducing similar new healthy aging programs to reach more older adults.
The primary goal of community-based healthy aging programming is to improve the health and fitness of older adults rather than continue to provide traditional "illness" or "treatment" care. Why provide home healthcare after an older adult has already become injured, ill or impaired? If we can provide a wheelchair to an older adult after they suffer a broken hip, why not instead assess their balance, prescribe a home based program to improve their overall balance, and if needed, provide exercise equipment to use in their home to "prevent" the hip fracture in the first place? This common sense approach supports our evidenced based practices, and is now being recognized by insurance companies and government agencies as a viable solution to prevent injuries, illnesses and impairments of the growing older adult population.
Implementing a program that makes sound business sense and is financially sustainable will not only improve the health, balance and fitness of the older adult, it will also help "prevent" that hip fracture and provide a higher quality of life within their own home.