Bringing Wellness Home to Senior Living Communities

Hebrew SeniorLife launches new program aimed at enhanced health care/housing integration

Author: Kim Brooks
Male resident smiles while working out on a stationary bicycle in a gym

Mrs. B., a resident at Center Communities of Brookline (CCB), is extremely grateful for the support that is available right where she lives. The following story illustrates the difference that access to onsite health care and wellness services can make in the life of an older adult.

At CCB, one of Hebrew SeniorLife’s supportive affordable senior housing communities, residents don’t take Zumba lightly. So Sarah, the Zumba instructor, was concerned when Mrs. B. skipped a class. Sarah contacted her to see what was going on.

Mrs. B. told Sarah that her stomach was “feeling off,” so Sarah immediately contacted geriatrician Dr. Rhodes-Kropf who directs the primary care clinic located on-site at CCB. Dr. Rhodes-Kropf called Mrs. B. and urged her to come down to see her right away. Thankfully she did, as Mrs. B. was suffering from an obstructed bowel and was rushed to the hospital for surgery. Today she is fully recovered and back in her daily Zumba class.

Not all seniors are as fortunate as Mrs. B., particularly if they are low-income.

A large majority of low-income older adults have significant or chronic medical issues. Without access to coordinated services, many become disabled and then have difficulty performing many of the tasks we take for granted such as shopping, cleaning, bathing, and cooking.

Physical health is also intertwined with emotional and social needs. When it becomes difficult for older adults to take part in the activities they used to enjoy, they are at increased risk for isolation and as a result, depression. Compounding the problem, isolation can also cause seniors to neglect their health care needs and skip medications. A cascade of physical, emotional, and social decline ultimately puts older adults at risk for adverse events, including falls, which land them in emergency rooms.

Senior housing is the perfect place to provide coordinated care and services. Housing staff develop strong relationships with residents and are positioned to identify changes early on. While it would make sense that senior housing improves quality of life and reduces long-term health care spending, there has not been significant data to prove this is true.

That is why a new demonstration program that Hebrew SeniorLife is launching is so important and holds promise to enhance independence for low- and moderate-income seniors and reduce health care expenses. Funded by grants from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, Enterprise Community Partners, the Department of Housing and Community Development, MassHousing, and Beacon Communities, among others, we call the program R3 - the Right Care, Right Place, Right Time: Effectively Integrating Senior Care and Housing initiative. R3 is aimed at enhancing quality of life and decreasing unnecessary hospital visits and premature long term care placements for residents who live in affordable senior living communities. Embedded wellness teams will link housing with healthcare and focus on prevention, streamlined communications, and management of transitions.

Our vision is to create a replicable, scalable, and sustainable model of housing with supportive onsite services that enables seniors to live independently for as long as possible, while reducing health care costs. The pilot will also measure increased utilization of wellness programs, linkages to mental health services, and life satisfaction, providing needed data that will demonstrate the efficacy of programs like R3.

Hebrew SeniorLife has always focused on providing our residents with beautiful homes in vibrant settings, as well as access to a full spectrum of support and services that ensure continuity of care, encourage prevention, and emphasize wellness. We are hopeful that this demonstration program will not only allow us to enhance our existing programs, but that it will also change the way housing and health care are funded going forward for the benefit of all seniors.

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Geriatric Primary Care

As a benefit and convenience for our residents, Hebrew SeniorLife Medical Group offers on-site geriatric primary care practices at our NewBridge on the Charles and Orchard Cove communities.

Innovation at HSL

Whether we're making discoveries or developing new teaching methods, HSL continuously works to improve the lives of older adults.

An elder woman participates in Marcus Institute research by getting her brain stimulated

About Kim Brooks

Chief Operating Officer, Senior Living, Hebrew SeniorLife

Kim Brooks is the chief operating officer for senior living at Hebrew SeniorLife in Boston, Mass. She joined HSL in 2013 as a health care professional with 25 years of experience in the development, delivery, and reimbursement of innovative housing...

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