Older Baby Boomers Favor Staffed Settings to Aging in Place When Mental Health Deteriorates

Despite home-based care providers’ efforts to implement specialized care programs for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the majority of older baby boomers say they would rather move to a place that’s staffed 24/7 than stay home if their memory and brain health deteriorated.

What’s more, another large portion of older baby boomers say they would rather live somewhere other than their current home or apartment if they had a physical disability that required them to need help with daily activities.

The latest insights into where and how older adults want to age come from a new survey jointly compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based aging services association LeadingAge and independent research organization NORC. Unveiled Monday at the LeadingAge Leadership Summit, the survey included responses from 1,200 older adults between ages 60 and 72.


Overall, findings from the survey are somewhat unexpected, Ruth Katz, senior vice president for public policy at LeadingAge, told Home Health Care News.

Indeed, past studies have widely found that older adults see the home as their preferred setting — a point that home-based care providers frequently point to when they talk about the future of their businesses.

“We were looking to understand how people envision what their quality of life would be if they became users of long-term care,” Katz said. “We were pretty surprised with the findings.”


Specifically, 40% of older baby boomers surveyed by LeadingAge and NORC said they wanted to live somewhere other than the place they currently call home if they had a physical disability impacting their day-to-day lives.

Less than 30% of respondents said they would want to remain at home if they had dementia and needed help with daily activities.

In contrast, about 42% of those surveyed said they’d prefer to move to a place that’s staffed to provide health care plus assistance with daily activities if they had dementia.

“I kind of figured based on everything we have learned before that everybody would tenaciously say, ‘I want to stay home. I’m not moving,’” Katz said. “This was pretty darn shocking to us.”

LeadingAge and NORC chose to focus on older baby boomers in the survey because they’re more likely to have peers who may already be experiencing the need for help with activities of daily living or can more easily imagine themselves living with a cognitive impairment.

“These older boomers have a very real sense that this could actually happen to them,” Katz said.

Survey respondents were 53% male and 47% female with an average household income of $68,336, according to LeadingAge. About 80% of the respondents reported owning their own home.

Additional findings

In general, older baby boomers who participated in the survey said that safety was their top priority when help with daily activities is needed, followed by being around their family members and having access to the outdoors.

Affordability was viewed as a major challenge to gaining access to long-term services and supports among all respondents, regardless of demographics or income levels.

“We’re happy to see the long-term care provisions that are in the Medicare-for-All proposal, but we’re going to have to see something that substantially, really addresses this need and figures out how to pay for these services,” Katz said.

Although nursing homes are often criticized, according to Katz, many older adults are not concerned about possibly ending up in the setting depending on their health needs.

Only 10% of respondents said they were worried about not being able to stay in their community — and only 11% said they were worried about having to live in a nursing home.

“Even though there’s all this bad press out in the world about nursing homes — and there’s all this nursing home bashing and demonizing — of this population, this is not the thing that keeps them awake at night,” she said.

LeadingAge — which recently announced an intent to affiliate with Visiting Nurse Association of America (VNAA) and its spinoff organization ElevatingHome — plans to release additional information from the survey in the months to come.

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