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New Research Examines Community Supports for Older Ohioans

Many older adults prefer to age in place in their own home and community rather than an assisted-living facility or nursing home. (rawpixel/Pixabay)
Many older adults prefer to age in place in their own home and community rather than an assisted-living facility or nursing home. (rawpixel/Pixabay)
July 22, 2019

COLUMBUS, Ohio — New research provides insight into how Ohio communities can ensure they're capable of responding to the needs of an aging population.

The Center for Community Solutions examined all the programs, services and supports available in Cleveland to older adults as they age.

Research Fellow Emily Mutillo said there's a good match between the number of older people and the number of beds available in long-term care facilities. However, assisted-living facilities and nursing homes tend to be clustered in certain areas, which Matillo said means some people will need to leave their neighborhood to get the care they need.

"Now that may not seem like a huge deal, but oftentimes, people's network of support is geographically close to them,” Matillo said. “And so, if they're leaving everything they know and all the people they know, that network of support may not be as supportive if they're not within their communities."

The analysis found more than half of the city's older adults said they were unsure if they could find a suitable provider if health or mobility issues forced them to move out of their homes. It's estimated nationally, the number of Americans who use paid long-term care will double by 2050.

The research also found many older adults and caregivers are frustrated with the lack of information about aging options. Mutillo said a better understanding would help reduce stress, improve health outcomes and lower the need for more costly levels of care.

"Oftentimes, people aren't looking into long-term care until they need it – and that is usually, for many people, at a crisis point,” she said. “And so, they're not able to gather the information in a way that they would if they weren't in crisis."

Mutillo said the trend toward aging in place, with more services available for people in communities rather than in group-care settings, has been positive for many older adults. She added the entire community needs to examine how to best support an aging population.

"The food pantry and hot-meal kitchen need to be continually thinking about, how do we serve older adults; recreation centers: Is the programming appropriate for older adults? Arts and entertainment: If somebody wants to go to a theater show, is there enough accessible seating and accessible parking?" Mutillo said.

She noted family caregivers also need support, as they're often overlooked as a crucial component of the long-term care continuum. The research suggests organizations create better resources for caregivers, and work to improve people's understanding of what they'll need as they age, from finances to services.

Disclosure: The Center for Community Solutions contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Poverty Issues, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH