Aging in Place, Better for You and Our Health Care System

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October 04, 2013

Over the summer I’ve been traveling to conferences and expos that have focused primarily on the benefits of aging in place. I don’t have to tell you that aging in place is popular among older Americans. Everyone wants to stay in their home as they grow older and the only thing keeping us from doing just that is the fact that we’re growing older. We don’t get around like we used to and need more help (I use the term ‘we’ here since I just turned 65 and can attest to the fact that I’ve slowed down). With all the advances in technology, you’d think we could easily delay the move to institutional care like assisted living or a nursing home. There are communication devices we carry that allow us to instantly contact someone if we need help, home monitors that alert people if something isn’t right in the house, video conferencing so that we can see the doctor in the comfort of our own home, even wheel chairs that can climb our stairs at home. There are also many local support services to drive us places, providers that deliver necessary health items to our door, health tests that can be done at home rather than at the doctor’s office, etc. We should be able to stay in our homes much longer than we used to, but that’s not always the case. It seems that Washington is working against aging in place.

Aging in place is good for both the physical health of older Americans and the financial health of our country’s health care system[1] . It is proven that people stay healthier and recover from sickness faster when they’re at home. We’ve all heard the adage that the worst place to go when you’re sick is to a hospital. While it would be unwise to take this adage very far, it’s proven that the sooner we can safely return home the better and faster we recover. Staying in our homes actually reduces the cost of health care in our country. Whenever a person requires institutional care, it usually costs that person money, but always costs the health care system more, which usually means it costs the government more. So, why doesn’t our government support aging in place?

The home health care industry and medical device manufacturers, key components of aging in place, have been targeted by the federal government for increases in fees and unneeded regulations. Although these industries have had more than their share of fraud and abuse, they’ve worked hard to identify and eliminate the bad players, but still remain easy targets for raising “pay for” money in support of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. It should be just the opposite; we should be granting tax breaks to encourage legitimate businesses to get into these aging in place markets to keep older Americans out of institutional care and ultimately save government money. Our government has even delayed passing the Older Americans Act which is key to providing the local services that are essential to aging in place.

It’s a shame that Washington hasn’t been working to encourage aging in place. RetireSafe will continue to champion this concept and hopes that you will tell those who represent you in Washington that aging in place benefits the health of older Americans and the financial wellbeing of America.