U.S. Senior Living Model Could Use Some “Lessons from Abroad”

The U.S. may be a leader in the senior living community industry, but that doesn’t preclude it from taking some cues from other nations’ aging in place models as healthcare providers gear up for a global aging explosion.

Worldwide, 1 million people are turning 60 each month. By 2050, the 60+ population will have more than tripled to about 2 billion, according to the United Nations Population Fund. 

Some countries focus primarily on aging in place at home either independently or among family, with institutional care settings as a “last resort,” said aging expert M.C. Terry Hokenstad, PhD, social work professor in aging from the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, in a statement about the study. 

Advertisement

“My goal is to study what other countries are doing and suggest implications for the United States,” says Hokenstad, who calls his research findings “lessons from abroad” for best practices in how to care for the impending silver tsunami. 

In Norway, families receive public support that enables them to care for aging parents in their own homes and keep them out of nursing homes. The government pays adult children to provide care to their aging parents, and the country focuses on adapting houses to the needs of older people through municipal government-financed repairs and renovations. 

Older people living in the Netherlands get a full, government-paid assessment of needs to help them live as independently as possible. They are given a consumer’s choice of how to spend an allotment directed at helping them live independently.

Some models have already traveled across the pond in adapted versions. The U.S. healthcare system has adopted an English care model that features hospice care at the end of life. Great Britain also has some independent living options for seniors that might be appropriate for other nations to consider, according to Hokenstad. 

With so many older people expected to be inhabiting the world, he says, retirement needs to be redefined to include more opportunities for older workers to remain in the workforces on either a part-time or full-time basis. That could happen in the form of flexible retirement plans and more incentives for older entrepreneurs to start businesses either at home or in their communities. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace