Older Americans 2008: Key Indicators of Well-Being is a wide-reaching data compendium which paints a current profile on aging in America through 38 measures that depict the well-being of older Americans. Measures include demographics, economics, health status, health risks and behaviors, and the cost and use of health services. The Chartbook is well worth reviewing to gain insights into this fast-growing population segment.
The Chartbook reveals that the average life expectancy in the U.S. continues to increase. Older Americans enjoy more health and financial security than any generation in the past. However, disparities persist between men and women, across age cohorts, income levels, and races.
One of the positive trends in the report is the fact that the quality of life for older Americans appears to be improving: 42% of people 65 and over had a functional limitation in 2005, compared to 49% in 1992.
After adjusting for inflation, health care costs have increased substantially among older Americans from $8,644 in 1992 to $13,052 in 2004.
Two additional complementary portraits of older Americans come from the AARP and the CAST project which find that older people want to use technology to remain at home. The HealthyatHome report was commissioned by AARP and the Blue Shield of California Foundation. The report’s data reveals that the vast majority of people age 65 and over would be willing to use new technologies to maintain social contact, gather information, ensure safety at home, and promote their personal health.
While the study found that many older people are not aware of many of the new technologies for home/health use, willingness to adopt exceeds awareness.
The third study is from CAST, the Center for Aging Services Technologies, a coalition of 400 organizations working through the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA). The study identifies several technologies that can help in caregiving, including:
– Sensors, to detect and notify a caregiver if a person being cared for does not get out of his chair or turn off the stove
– Monitors, for blood pressure, respiration and other conditions in real time while the person is at home, reducing the need for doctor’s visits and notifying caregivers immediately of significant changes
– Medication dispensers, which provide appropriate meds at appropriate times
– Computer games, for social networking and mental stimulation.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Greatest Generation of WWII veterans and their mates are in the oldest cohort in the Older Americans analysis. These are also the Greatest Consumers of health care services and costs. Understanding these consumption patterns now, and developing innovative services and financing mechanisms that change this aging/consumption trend will help the U.S. better manage scarce health resources and budgets. “The sheer size of the baby boom cohorts is certain to affect our health, long-term care and pension systems,” Benjamin E. Sasse, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health and Human Services, says in the report. “As we look ahead, it is imperative that we collect and analyze quality data to help policymakers plan for the future of these programs so important to aging Americans.”
Money makes this world go around. The AARP/Blue Shield Foundation study learned that, while older Americans may well be willing to adopt technologies to remain at home, cost remains an obstacle. 75% caregivers and 80% of those 65+ are willing to pay $50.00 or less per month for the service.
This means that payment systems for home health need to adapt to the new technologies that can keep people well and safe at home. Call the new generation of these Healthy @ Home services. By shaping payment systems in this way, people can remain home longer and avoid expensive hospital stays. At the same time, resources allocated to institutional LTC can be freed to provide these services.