LeadingAge and its Massachusetts Partners Design Housing Plus Services Study

CHPS | September 21, 2016 | by Geralyn Magan

The LeadingAge Center for Housing Plus Services is working with several partners in Massachusetts to design a new study that will assess the impact of housing plus services programs on residents living in some of the state’s affordable senior housing properties.

The LeadingAge Center for Housing Plus Services is working with several partners in Massachusetts to design a new study that will assess the impact of housing plus services programs on residents living in some of the state’s affordable senior housing properties.

Partners in the project include Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly (JCHE), a LeadingAge member in Brighton, MA, and Commonwealth Medicine, the policy and research arm of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.

The study’s planning process was funded by a grant to JCHE from the Tufts Health Foundation. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation is supporting the study, which will begin after JCHE identifies additional funders.

Ultimately, positive findings from the Massachusetts study would put JCHE and other housing providers in a much better position to convince health entities, payers, and policy makers to invest in their housing plus services initiatives.

In addition, LeadingAge Massachusetts hopes to use the study’s findings to help it pursue a new strategic objective to foster support for housing plus services models throughout the state, says President Elissa Sherman.

Study Design

LeadingAge and Commonwealth Medicine have planned a cross-sectional study that will link multiple federal and state data sets to analyze how the availability of services at multiple Massachusetts housing properties affects residents’ health care utilization and health outcomes.

Data for that evaluation will come from Medicare, Medicaid, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Massachusetts home care database, says Alisha Sanders, managing director of the LeadingAge Center for Housing Plus Services.

Researchers will use these data sources to answer the study’s 2 primary questions:

  • Is there an association between the availability of onsite services staff and services in affordable senior housing properties and residents’ health and long-term care services utilization and expenditures in 2013?
  • Do individuals who live in affordable senior housing settings and use Medicaid and/or state-funded home care services have different characteristics, service utilization, or outcomes compared to individuals using these services and not living in affordable senior housing settings? 


Making Use of Survey Findings

JCHE first envisioned the housing plus services study as a way to evaluate the supportive services programs it delivers in its 8 housing properties in and around Brighton. Over the past 2 years, that initial plan has slowly evolved into a larger scale study of affordable housing properties managed by 10 providers, including LeadingAge members, in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.

“We have a strong intuitive sense that combining affordable housing with robust supports and services supports happy, healthy aging and also generates savings on the health care side of the equation,” says Lizbeth Heyer, JCHE’s chief of real estate.

JCHE hopes the study will yield hard evidence to support these observations, says Heyer. The organization plans to use that evidence to convince potential health care partners to invest in supportive housing communities, and to advocate for funding to replicate supportive housing models, she says.

“We want to prove our impact,” says Heyer. “We needed this research to help us make the case.”

Supporting Strategic Goals at the State Level

JCHE isn’t the only organization anxiously awaiting findings from the JCHE study.

Members of the new Housing and Health Care Task Force at LeadingAge Massachusetts are hoping to use those findings to raise awareness about supportive housing models among health entities, payers, and housing providers.

The task force, which includes several of the housing organizations participating in the JCHE research project, is currently planning a forum that will bring stakeholders together to learn more about housing plus services models and explore opportunities for housing-health collaborations.

“We want to make sure that folks in the health care world, as well as payers, are aware of the evidence base that is starting to build around housing plus services,” says Sherman. “We’re also interested in building a better understanding among housing providers about the needs of health care organizations and how housing organizations can help meet those needs.”

Sherman is also hopeful that the LeadingAge Massachusetts task force will succeed in focusing the attention of state policy makers on the potential role that housing plus services models can play in keeping older adults independent while saving health care dollars.

It appears that this message is already getting through to the state’s Executive Office for Elder Affairs, which participated in the study’s planning stage and will support researchers in gaining access to needed data.

“Secretary Alice Bonner is very interested in how housing potentially facilitates better care for residents who are receiving Medicaid or state-funded home care services,” says Sanders. “So while our project will be adding to the evidence base on the national stage, we’ll also be looking specifically at how housing can help facilitate or support the state’s goals as it works with low-income elders.”