As of 2017, the life expectancy is 78.8 years, nearly a decade and a half longer than it was in the early 1900’s.
Our longer lives are a testament to the rapid advances in public health, nutrition and medicine over the last century. Yet, so often our longer lives are blighted by financial and nutritional insecurity, ill-health and loss of independence. However, so much progress has been made in developing programs that afford older adults the opportunity to age well, increasing their independence and dignity.
There are currently 46 million people aged 65+, projected to rise to over 98 million by 2060. Seventy percent of people turning 65 will likely need some form of long-term care during their lives. This bonus of time must be maximized by striving to optimize health over the years. There are now more Americans 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. So, what must we do as a society, and as individuals, to ensure that our longer lives are a boon to our existence, not a burden?
New Ideas in Aging and Care
Here are just three of the innovations emerging that have made improvements to the way we think about the process of aging and care for our older adult population:
- Person-centered Care – Person-centered care “values individuals” quality of life outcomes, not just the technical quality of medicine. The passing of The Affordable Care Act ushered in new opportunities to replace fee-for-service models with bundled payments that have encouraged better coordinated care, helped cut down on unwarranted and invasive tests and procedures and have been demonstrated to significantly improve patient health outcomes and experience.
- Post-Acute Care – This person-centered shift has also created far greater efficiencies and effectiveness in providing post-acute care. Care Transitions programs connect health coaches from community-based organizations with high-risk patients recently discharged from the hospital. They help build health self-management skills, review medication use and identify the red flags of a worsening condition. That has dramatically reduced 30-day hospital readmissions, ER visits and the associated distress for patients and their families.
- Health Self-Management Programs – Roughly 91 percent of older adults have a least one chronic condition and 73 percent have at least two. Empowering these people with the skills to prevent those types of conditions and to stabilize and improve their health is emerging as one of the most powerful strategies for improving quality of life and thus controlling health care expenditures.
So much progress has been made in developing programs that afford older adults the opportunity to age well thus increasing their independence and dignity. We have unprecedented opportunities to redefine the aging experience — through prevention, through more coordinated, person-centered care that respects the uniqueness of aging and through personal empowerment to take greater responsibility for our own health.