Disability and Aging, Cutler Institute, USM Aging Initiative, Policy
Older adults want to live at home and in their community as independently as possible for as long as possible (Bayer & Harper L, 2000). The housing and service needs of older adults vary greatly by age, by condition, by setting, by geographic region, and over time. Some older adults do not require any supportive services; others need services that may range from assistance with shopping to extensive need for nursing care. Needs also fluctuate in response to acute events (often requiring hospitalizations), or other temporary changes in health status. The challenge is to have a mix of private and publicly funded housing and service options available that can meet the variety and changing needs of older adults.
Certain groups have special needs. Meeting the needs of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, for example, is particularly challenging due to the duration and complexity of the disease process. In some instances these needs can successfully be met at home, and in other instances the needs are best met in an alternate setting e.g. residential or nursing facility with specially trained staff. People at the end of life also have special needs such as pain management and emotional or spiritual support. In all instances, caregivers and family members are integral to successfully meeting the needs of older adults.
Many factors influence the supply and the demand for housing, services, and supports. In the last decade, the demand for institutional long term care has remained stagnant as other community based options have developed (Kochera, Straight, & Guterbock, 2005). The supply of independent and assisted living options has grown significantly to meet the increased demand. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that older adults are healthier and have fewer disabilities than in prior decades (Spillman, 2004) (Waidmann & Liu, 2000). The implications of a healthier older population that lives longer and the impact on housing and services needs are not fully known.
Fralich, J., & Maggioncalda, K. (2006). Housing and service options for older adults in Maine. Portland, ME: University of Southern Maine, Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service, Institute for Health Policy.