Four Trends to Color the 2020 Senior Services Landscape

Author: Louis J. Woolf
A Hebrew SeniorLife doctor puts her arm around a woman as she stands and talks with her

Several trends will be increasingly important on the senior services landscape in 2020. Progress is being made on several fronts, such as value-based care, affordable housing with supports, innovative treatments and care for people living with Alzheimer’s, and tackling other hard issues like ensuring we have a diverse and trained workforce to care for the growing number of seniors who need our help. Here’s more detail on the four trends that I think we’ll see in 2020:

  1. Value-based care and new integrated care models: Will 2020 be the year of more value-based care across the full continuum from senior living, to health care, to what matters most at end of life? While we’re making very good progress, we’re not quite there yet. Recognizing the power of this entire continuum in value-based care will move slowly in 2020. Providers will continue to shift focus from fee-for-service to outcomes and patient-centered care within traditional health care services, with increasing focus on prevention. But incorporating both ends of the spectrum - optimizing where seniors live and how they receive end-of-life care - is another level of inclusion and it’s still in its early stages of formulation. It’s been said that value-based care takes a community. However, health care organizations continue to primarily look inward, and are not yet optimally integrating with non-traditional partners. A positive sign is that one large hospital in Massachusetts is piloting an in-house program offering rent support to patients at risk of homelessness. This is a terrific way to deliver better health, better quality of life, and lower costs.
  2. More affordable supportive housing solutions: A major contributor to extending the continuum would be recognizing that affordability, accessibility, and supportive services are critical needs in senior housing. They can’t come fast enough. HSL is working closely with the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission to demonstrate the health, satisfaction, and cost benefits of supportive services in senior affordable housing, and in 2020 we hope to develop replicable models of care and payment for this most vulnerable population in these much-needed settings. For example, when people decide to live at HSL’s Center Communities of Brookline, they gain access on campus to a wellness nurse, a care coordinator, and a variety of other health and social services. These health services provide specialized care to keep residents healthy and independent.
  3. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias: Awareness of Alzheimer’s disease is at an all-time high, as sadly, more older adults are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias on a daily basis. This attention has resulted in more organizations working on the diagnosis and management of the disease, as well as treatment protocols that hopefully will lead to a cure. Recently, the National Institute on Aging awarded a $53.4M grant to Hebrew SeniorLife and Brown University to form a research incubator with more than 30 top research organizations to fund and provide expert assistance for pilot trials and evaluate interventions for Alzheimer’s and dementia care. As this “collaboratory” proceeds, it’ll lead a nationwide effort to improve health care and quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as their caregivers.
  4. Workforce shortages: Workforce shortages challenge the health care industry across the nation. In senior services, the situation is acute. At a time when we have a growing number of seniors, with more chronic conditions and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other dementias, we’re at the same time faced with fewer geriatricians, nurses, and direct care professionals embarking on senior services career paths. Jobs in senior care are demanding and emotionally hard due to chronic conditions, behaviors seniors can exhibit, and end of life.  In 2020, senior services organizations will focus more attention and respect on direct care staff and there will emerge public/private partnerships enacting real change, leveraging opportunities and removing barriers in recruiting and retaining the best care workers possible. 

Here’s to making good progress as we move through 2020!

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Lou Woolf

About Louis J. Woolf

Former president and CEO, Hebrew SeniorLife

Louis J. Woolf served as president and CEO of Harvard Medical School affiliate Hebrew SeniorLife from 2009 until his retirement in 2023. During his tenure, Woolf oversaw a period of steady revenue growth that supported an array of new clinical...

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