Why An ‘Age in Place’ Policy Is Being Embraced by A New Generation of Retirees

Why An ‘Age in Place’ Policy Is Being Embraced by A New Generation of Retirees

People are living longer than before but we can’t outrun the health risks associated with ageing forever. The elderly are the demographic most likely to have a chronic illness, with 80% of over-65s  having at least one chronic illness according to the National Council on Aging.

However, while the likelihood of developing health complications as a person ages remains high, our way of managing these complications is evolving.

Care on your terms

An increasing number of over-65s are opting for an ‘age in place’ policy in retirement villages rather than entering frail care or assisted living to manage their health needs. This ‘best of both worlds’ option appeals to those who are conscious that their health needs monitoring but have been resistant to the idea of entering a senior living community if it means losing some of their independence.

 Explains Gus van der Spek, owner of life rights company Manor Life:  “An ‘age in place’ policy – also known as home-based care – means that if you’re living in a retirement village or estate, we’ll bring care services like nursing to you instead of you going to a frail care facility.”

Van der Spek, who is in the process of building retirement lifestyle village Wytham Estate in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, says that his decision to implement an age in place policy at Wytham was motivated by a global trend towards this model, as well as feedback he received from senior health care specialists and future residents of the estate.

“Many retirees now opt to live in retirement villages because of the emphasis that these villages place on lifestyle, quality of life and independence. People are living longer and they’re looking to live independently for longer – ‘age in place’ helps to facilitate this with residents enjoying more freedom in their golden years.”

‘Age in place’ vs Frail care

Frail care is often associated with nursing homes – a single building where residents have their own room and shared communal facilities. However, some retirement villages have a frail care centre on site in addition to individual homes/units.

Frail care is a specialised medical care requirement, and is usually provided when an individual has mentally or physically deteriorated to the point where they need constant supervision.

Advantages of frail care facilities: 

  • 24-hour nursing care
  • All-inclusive services
  • Safe and secure environment with regular monitoring
  • Specialised medical practitioners on call

Disadvantages of frail care facilities: 

  • Residents have very little independence
  • Can become costly as you are paying for round-the-clock care
  • Not in the familiar environment of your home
  • Potentially separated from friends and family

“The ‘age in place’ model is suitable for our clients from assisted living care, right through to palliative 24-hour medical supervision, enabling residents to access health services when they need them and as they need them, with an emphasis on primary or preventative care,” explains van der Spek.

Primary care is general medical care that includes check-ups with your GP, the writing and monitoring of prescriptions and regular health assessments. Primary care is preventative as it can help to diagnose health complications before they escalate.

Dr Martin De Villiers, Medical Director of Medwell South Africa (Wytham Estate’s age in place service provider), explains that primary care is essential in the context of a retirement village. “As there is an elderly population with an increased risk of chronic disease, regular assessments can help to maintain a good health status and identify where care is needed.”

Advantages of an ‘age in place’ model 

  • Level of care is tailored specifically to your needs, from check-ups to palliative (end of life) care
  • Able to maintain a high level of independence
  • Able to rest and recuperate in the comfort of your home
  • Only pay for what you need
  • Regular monitoring of health status
  • Surrounded by friends and family
  • Emergency care on call 24/7

Disadvantages of a retirement village with an age in place model 

  • Specialised medical and memory care is difficult to provide outside of institutional care
  • Medical emergencies need to be treated off site

While age in place models are not equipped for the same levels of care as frail care facilities or hospitals, Dr De Villiers says that “the services provided by primary care at home often prevent you from needing to go to hospital in the first place. In retirement villages with age in place and primary care, I typically see that less than 5% of the population will require institutional care such as that provided in a frail care centre.”

Van der Spek adds that above all, the ‘age in place’ model promotes a patient-centred approach. “I believe that the new generation of retirees are looking for the best of both worlds – access to care in a manner that still respects their needs and desires as an individual.”

“The age in place model recognises the importance of bringing a resident’s family into the decision making as they shouldn’t be isolated towards the end of their lives, they need comfort and dignity now more than ever,” he concludes.