With 25% of COVID-19 related deaths occurring in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs), including residents and staff, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the viability of nursing facilities and seniors’ living facilities have lost appeal for almost everyone. Concentrating high risk adults might have efficiencies of scale but also significantly increases risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Even for the healthy, COVID-19 has seen residents under lockdown for months, separated from loved ones and escalating the biggest aging risk of all, isolation.
A recent poll by the National Institute on Ageing in Canada revealed “almost 70% of Canadians 65 years of age and older, report that COVID-19 has changed their opinion on whether or not they’d arrange for themselves or an older loved one to live in a nursing or retirement home.” Even more enlightening, “91% of Canadians of all ages – and almost 100% of Canadians 65 years of age and older report that they plan on supporting themselves to live safely and independently in their own home as long as possible.”
The pendulum was already swinging toward more adults preferring to age in place for a number of reasons. As more facilities are being built by large corporations to resort hotel models, the increasing cost has outpaced what might have been affordable just 5 or 10 years ago. Even for those who can afford the resort lifestyle, resorts can be fun for a vacation but we all like coming home.
While none of this should come as a surprise, our aging in place experts have been echoing an important message for years, “Adults spend more time planning their vacation than making aging in place a sustainable option.” Most tend to put off doing real planning at their own demise. Waiting until a home upgrade or services is needed is always too late. The need suddenly becomes acute and they simply run out of time for something that takes weeks or months to do well, that could have been done more easily 5 years sooner.
The decision to age in place is a decision that brings new and unexpected opportunities. Taking early action to do proactive, thorough planning can push the need for facility living out by years, if at all. Most of what facilities offer can be provided at home, once the home is set up correctly and support services are planned in advance. Done well, the planning is empowering, the home improvements add curb appeal, the support is minimized and the whole family is positioned for success.
Chair, National Aging in Place Council, Founder, Home Ideations LLC (Longevity Advantage)
Member, American College of Lifestyle Medicine and National Health Association