Aging in place is the No. 1 preference of many older adults — and it’s often made possible thanks to the services of home-based care providers. Despite the outside help of these and other health care professionals, aging in place is widely seen as a pipe dream.
That’s according to a recent survey conducted by SCAN Health Plan.
Founded in 1977, Long Beach, California-based SCAN Health Plan is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, serving more than 200,000 members in the Golden State.
As part of its survey, SCAN Health Plan connected with 1,000 U.S. adults ages 65 and older to find out just how many felt prepared to age in place — and for the potential impact doing so could have on their overall physical wellness and mental health.
Generally, when given the choice, more than three-quarters of adults over age 50 favor staying in their current homes, with roughly seven out of 10 hoping to live in their present communities for as long as they can, previous AARP statistics show.
Yet 62% of older adults surveyed by SCAN Health Plan said they believe their peers are unlikely to age safely in their homes. Having adequate financial resources and living close to family or friends are among the key factors that go into that perception, the survey found.
Overall, 80% of surveyed older adults said they are specifically concerned with how they will be able to afford to live in their homes, according to SCAN Health Plan. A slightly smaller percentage — 79% — considered living nearby family or friends as a barrier.
Another 66% said access to transportation is a big part of their ability to age in place.
“They are truly worried that they don’t have established caregiving support within their own homes,” Romilla Batra, chief medical officer of SCAN Health Plan, told Home Health Care News. “If you are a single person living alone, who would you depend on to take you grocery shopping if you can’t drive? Who would you depend on to take you to the doctor’s office?”
In order to address transportation challenges, several home care providers have launched partnerships with ride-hailing companies Lyft and Uber. One of the first was 24 Hour Home Care, which now provides roughly 2,000 rides per month through its RideWith24 transportation program.
Apart from affordability, proximity to loved ones and transportation, a majority of surveyed older adults also cited changes to physical health and brain health as top challenges for aging in place.
But those are also points home care providers actively work to tackle.
Last year, for example, FirstLight Home Care, a provider of non-medical home care, began offering a specialized care program with the goal of helping seniors foster neuroplasticity and overall brain health.
One of the most interesting findings from the SCAN Health Plan survey: a majority of older adults surveyed are financially unprepared for retirement. Indeed, 73% of older adults living in urban areas said they have less than $10,000 in savings. That’s compared to 52% of their counterparts in the suburbs and 63% in rural areas.
Nearly 30% of surveyed older adults said they have nothing in terms of savings, investment or retirement plans, according to SCAN Health Plan.
Some states have worked to solve the issue of affordability through legislation. Last year, a state-level proposal to create a universal home care program in Maine was on the table, though the proposal was ultimately shot down by voters.
And in May, Washington Governor Jay Inslee officially signed the Long-Term Care Trust Act into law.
The law requires state residents to pay into a long-term care program through an employee payroll tax. Eligible individuals are then able to access up to $36,500 in financial support for things like in-home care, meal deliveries and home modifications down the road.
“People are living longer than they did many years ago,” Batra said. “They have limited income to support them aging place. The money that they do have needs to go to things like food and transportation.”