My sense is that it’s time for aging in place to take a leap. And NAIPC has some of the tools to help make that happen.
Aging in place continues to become a more widely used term in the American conversation, but beyond that, what is it? People tend to toss the term around carelessly as a Frisbee, and as if it is the answer to all aging issues. But as far as I’m concerned, right now, aging in place is still ether. It means one thing to most aging Americans: you won’t have to live out the rest of your days in a medical facility. Thus it addresses and mollifies but one fear of aging.
From observing the options for aging over the past six years, it seems to me that the most consistently successful aging in America is systematized. As we age, almost all of us are going to need assistance of some kind. Assistance can be care, it can be help, or it can simply be advice. When various kinds of assistance have been organized and made easily accessible, whether under the roof of a CCRC or within a senior housing complex or by a community that forms a Village, a system has been created. The most frequently asked question we hear from aging persons is some form of, “How do I find the assistance I need?” Systemized aging can answer that question.
What aging in place must be is not just living in your own home, but assisted living in your own home. It needs to make access to the services provided by an assisted living facility available without the steady high costs of a full-service venue. And we can do that.
Over the past few years, we have begun to organize that system. We have:
- Brought together providers of a variety of in-home services in communities around the country into a unit (a chapter) to share ideas and educate the residents of their location about aging in place;
- Brought together thought leaders from around the country to identify the specific areas in which seniors who remain in their own homes are most likely to need assistance;
- Started discussions between our chapters of service providers and the management and staffs of buildings or communities that need to provide these services.
Our next step needs to be organizing the system, making it consistent in various locations, and providing evidence that an aging in place system works.
Minimum Service Menu
To organize the system and make it consistent in various locations, we need each chapter to strive for a minimum menu of services. This concept drew support amongst our Council of Chapters during our last meeting.
Here, for example, is a list of services available from our Great Charleston chapter:
In order to form ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships with senior housing facilities, each chapter is going to have to have a lengthy and varied menu of services. I would suggest a minimum of 30, and we will discuss this on next week’s Council of Chapter calls.
Filling Out Your Menu
We suggest that each chapter use the following process to fill out your menu:
Ask each member of your chapter to pick one category on the Menu of Services that is not yet represented in your group. Then it is the responsibility of that member to recruit a representative of a local business to fill that category.
If you now have 15 categories filled—which almost every chapter does—you can soon have 30.
We suggest you try to accomplish this on a schedule. Let’s say by Labor Day we expect each chapter to have a menu of at least 30 services.
In some chapter locations, we have begun the process of forming partnerships between chapters and senior residences or communities.
The methodology for how accessibility will work is still under discussion. Eventually this will need to be more sophisticated. For now we want to create models that we can monitor so we can show results. So this is what we are now discussing:
- A chapter will appoint one Service Coordinator. This can be a member or an intern from a local university. (National will work with you to find a student who needs an internship as part of their curriculum.)
- Once a chapter has a thorough menu of services and a Service Coordinator, National will work with you to form relationships with senior residences or communities.
- The senior residence or community will also have one coordinator—a Resident Services Manager or Executive Director.
- All communication will be between the chapter Service Coordinator and the residence representative, primarily via email.
- When a senior has a request, the residence representative will contact the chapter Service Coordinator. The chapter Service coordinator will then contact chapter members who can fulfill the request and check availability.
- The Chapter Service coordinator and the residence representative will then either arrange an appointment or get the service provider and the resident in contact with each other.
- The Service Provider/Chapter Member will then fill out a form we provide describing the experience with the resident. These forms will be the information we need to write a report on a working model of Aging in Place.
And then we have created the Aging in Place system.
We are interested in hearing from members about this proposal and the systemization of aging in place.
By Marty Bell, Executive Director