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Adults living in publicly assisted housing are primarily low-income single women in their mid-70s to early 80s. Findings from a range of studies indicate that significant numbers of these people experience chronic illnesses, disabilities, or both. Left unmet, this population’s needs compromise their health and quality of life, reduce their ability to continue independent living, contribute to higher Medicare and Medicaid costs, burden housing managers, and pose a safety risk to themselves and others. Over the next 20 years, a rapidly aging population will exacerbate these challenges.
The August issue of the online American Medical Directors Association publication features an article - Making Public Housing LTC Housing - by Dr. Robyn Stone on the need for publicly assisted, service-enriched senior housing and its potential for helping older adults to age in the community. This housing model responds to the preferences of most elderly residents – and their families – that these individuals age in place even as their health declines. With an existing infrastructure (public housing) and paid service coordinators (facility managers) already working in many of these buildings, the core of a housing system that is affordable for low-income seniors yet is linked to services is already in place.
Because publicly assisted housing serves critical masses of elderly residents in discreet locations, it offers an economy of scale in organizing, delivering, and purchasing services. Such housing also makes possible on-site staff who can respond to residents’ health and other needs as they arise. Incorporating communities, including the medical community, into service-enriched housing strategies may further increase their power to improve seniors’ health while lowering medical and long-term care costs. Dr. Stone's article highlights several studies that suggest positive results with these types of models and programs.