An Unprepared Housing Market and the Longevity Economy

Posted by CC Andrews

Dec 13, 2016 1:00:00 AM

We all know by nowHarvard Housing Blog post.jpg that the next two decades will bring on a surge of older adults—to the tune of nearly 79 million people over the age of 65 in the United States alone. But did you know that only 1 percent of the current U.S. housing stock offers the five design elements that would allow older adults to live comfortably? Yes, that’s 1 percent of homes that have zero-step entrances, single-floor designs, wide halls and doorways, electrical controls reachable from a wheelchair, and lever-style handles on faucets and doors, according to recently released study by Harvard University.

In other words, current available housing will not be sufficient to accommodate the aging Baby Boomer population over the next 20 years. With one in three households headed by someone over 65, more people will need to invest in accessible homes with modifications and improvements, but only a small percentage of homes offer those conveniences.

If ever there were an opportunity for enterprising and innovative aging services mavens to jump into the longevity economy, I would say this is it.

According to Chris Herbert, managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, “the housing implications are many, and innovative approaches to respond to growing needs for housing that is affordable, accessible and linked to supportive services will grow exponentially over the next two decades.”

The study, titled “Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Adults 2015-2035,” also notes that “public investment and private sector efforts to expand access to affordable in-home supportive services will be critical going forward.”

Promising pilot and small-scale programs exist, such as changes to government health insurance programs to cover the cost of in-home care, home modifications, or supportive services to remain in the community, the study notes. But the report warns that the challenge going forward will be to bring successful demonstrations to scale.

Here’s something else you may not know: By 2035, 27 million older adults will earn less than 80 percent of the median income in their area—up from 15 million in 2015. The number of households that own or rent and are severely cost-burdened—defined as paying more than half of income on housing costs—will more than double, according to the report.

Indeed, there are things that the government and the private market can do to prepare for and contribute to resolving these problems. In addition to creating more affordable and accessible housing options, the study recommends offering more assistance to older Americans who are burdened by the cost of housing, increasing subsidies to older renters, and more frequently integrating housing and health care.

It may not seem as glamorous as an HGTV reno show, but now is a perfect time for innovation, design, and aging enablement to come together to resolve the impending housing crisis. Creating and retrofitting homes that are age-friendly is now critical, so I would recommend that my aging services colleagues—as well as intrigued outsiders—take the opportunity now to learn more about it. 

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Topics: Aging, design, housing

Furnishings Combine Innovation and Person-Centered Design

Posted by CC Andrews

Sep 29, 2016 9:49:06 AM

In just a couple of weeks, Quantum Age Collaborative will head to the Aging 2.0 OPTIMIZE conference in San Francisco, where we expect to find some highly innovative individuals, organizations, and companies navigating their way through the opportunities presented by the longevity economy.

I asupply-cabinet-1-515x5611-515x561.jpgm particularly excited about one individual on the OPTIMIZE agenda, Jennie Bucove, founder and CEO of Furnished Living, a company with a new line of furniture “that addresses the needs of older adults and people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.”

What’s most intriguing about the products is that they seem to be highly person-centered. I was able to catch up with Bucove recently to get some more details about the company, as well as a sneak peek of her talk at Aging 2.0 before she gives it on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Like many entrepreneurs in the senior living space, Bucove spent much of her career climbing the corporate ladder before her father’s health began to decline and he had to move to a long-term care center. “The home was lovely and extremely helpful to my father,” says Bucove, “but when I visited him I noticed that once he sat down in the chair in his room he couldn’t get up out of it.” As a result, Bucove says she often had to help him get up.

In addition, Bucove noticed that her father’s bed was made with a plastic headboard that was not at all conducive to his mobility or safety. “His furniture looked like it belonged in a dorm room,” she says.

After talking with friends who’d had similar experiences with their parents and loved ones in long-term care communities, Bucove realized that there had to be a market for better furniture—furniture that would both optimize elders’ independence and heighten engagement with staff and family members. “It was a light-bulb moment for me,” she says.

Bucove soon began compiling a design team and launched a search for a manufacturer. The process was not an easy one, she says, but she eventually found the right group of people, which included renowned gerontologist Rosemary Bakker.

The next step was to find a place to put the furniture to use. In a serendipitous turn of events, Bucove met Mike Shmerling, founder of Abe’s Garden, a memory care community in Nashville, Tenn. Shmerling’s father had Alzheimer’s diseaAging_Optimize_logo.pngse and had lived in multiple long-term care centers. “He had been kicked out of every facility because of his disease, so Mike decided to create a community on his own,” Bucove explains.

She credits Shmerling’s entrepreneurial spirit for being open to putting her furniture designs in his building.

“So I worked with Mike and his design firm to fine-tune the furniture before putting them into Abe’s Garden,” says Bucove. Since then, she says she has learned that the furniture is helpful in improving residents’ independence, enhancing engagement with visitors, and helping staff avoid injury, among other things.

Of the eight pieces of furniture designed and produced by Furnish Living, the supply cabinet and the night stand sound most promising to me. The supply cabinet has a magnetic cover that holds cloth and magnetic frames for photos. “It’s made so family members can take them down and look at them with their loved ones,” says Bucove. The door on the supply cabinet also has no handles and it uses a magnetic lock system so that staff need carry only one key fob to disengage the lock, when necessary.nighttable1-515x5612-515x561.jpg

The nightstand has a light that illuminates the floor in front of it so the user can see the floor in the middle of the night—thus reducing fall risks—and a dimmer so that it doesn’t keep sleeping residents awake but allows for enough light for a staff member to check in.

The Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE conference, which takes place from Oct. 12 to 14 in San Francisco, brings together senior care executives, tech companies, investors, and entrepreneurs from around the globe to experience the intersection of aging and innovation.

If you are interested in attending, the Aging 2.0 folks are offering a last-minute discount for those who register with this code: A2NETWORK.

I hope to see you there!

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Topics: Aging, technology, long term care, design, innovations

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