Over the past several years, many not for profit organizations across the United States have begun to evaluate varied opportunities to deliver services to older adults who wish to remain in their homes surrounded by lifelong neighbors and friends. The desires voiced by the next generation of seniors who would prefer to call themselves, “active older adults” is that they prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible but recognize that in order to remain in their home they will need to be to able to access an array of care services and concierge and home management services. Most importantly, of primary interest to older adults who wish to remain at home is their desire to remain healthy and active.
Oftentimes, the most frustrating and challenging aspects of remaining in one’s home as we grow older is the time commitment necessary to decipher and evaluate the services available, the ability to “shop” for the most cost effective service, and the time to explore the quality of the service provider through consumer information or through “word of mouth” referrals from end users/consumers. Home repairs, transportation, housekeeping, and grocery shopping and meal preparation are some of the services that cause older adults to explore moving into a retirement community before they feel comfortable or ready to do so. Senior service providers are now recognizing that campus living is not for everyone and that perhaps a true senior service provider of the future will have to be “nimble” enough to provide a diverse and varied array of services wherever the older adult calls home.
To date, many continuing care retirement communities across the country have been developed as an entrance fee product; and with the challenges facing our country in terms of economic stability, many older adults and seniors cannot “afford” to surrender their lifetime assets. Therefore, many elders are struggling to survive at home without the needed services at their disposal. In addition, traditional long-term care insurance contains significant qualifiers and no protection from inflationary increases year after year.
Recently, journals have begun to highlight innovative programs across the country that have formed networks between the individual seeking services to remain in their home and senior service providers. Nearly 25 years ago, the first “at home” program launched called Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill is a program set in a neighbor much like the neighborhoods that you and I live. However, the Beacon Hill neighborhood has “aged in place” along with the home owners living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The aging neighborhood is full of stately homes filled with older adults who desire to “stay put” but recognizing that they can not do so without help. The Beacon Hill Project was developed by a group of neighbors that decided to form their own “association” (actually a not for profit organization) and began to charge membership fees to the neighbors in this two or three block neighborhood. The fees allowed the neighborhood to purchase the services of an individual who acts as a liaison of sorts to the services available in the greater community surrounding the Beacon Hill neighborhood. The liaison then negotiates with vendors and contractors reduced fees and evaluates the quality of the services through a pre screening process. The membership assures quality, a variety of services, and neighborhood discounts to the seniors living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. In fact, some of the neighbors themselves have begun helping each other and providing service exchange programs. For example, one neighbor will drive a neighbor to the doctor if the other neighbor cooks a meal and goes to the grocery store. It is a wonderful statement about what has been lost in a modern society.
What the concept behind Beacon Hill accomplished is to challenge senior providers like Evangelical Homes of Michigan (“EHM”) to think differently about future options for seniors who wish to remain at home for life.
In 2010, Evangelical Homes of Michigan launched its continuing care at home program and today has 60 members (and another 50 members interested in joining) living across Southeastern Michigan, primarily in Washtenaw, Macomb, and Oakland Counties. LifeChoices®, Inc. allows an individual 50 years of age or older to pay a one-time “membership fee” based on an individual’s age, and a small monthly fee in order to receive services and health and wellness coaching for life with a primary focus on keeping the individual in their home. Better than a traditional long term care insurance plan that begins delivering benefits after a waiting period and only when you are ill; LifeChoices® benefits to a member begin immediately. The home becomes the sacred space, and the advocate and wellness coach begin to immediately address further health decline, safety, fitness, and other key reasons older individuals are forced to move.
After years of operating the program for several years, in April 2015 Governor Engler signed documents to revise the public health code allowing for programs like LifeChoices®, Inc. to exist in Michigan.
LifeChoices®, Inc. is the first of its kind in Michigan to be recognized and registered. For more information, visit www.lifechoicesathome.org.