Senior housing may keep older adults out of hospital

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People who live in senior housing communities are less likely to face high levels of hospitalization over time, a new study shows.

“Our findings suggest that the positive effects from the various support services available in the senior housing environment accrue over time in helping vulnerable elders better manage their health conditions,” says Sojung Park, assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and lead author of the study, which appears in the Gerontologist.

The study focused on vulnerable seniors (those with moderate or low incomes who live alone) and examined to what extent a senior housing environment might moderate the effects of multiple chronic conditions on hospitalization over time.

Data came from the 2002-2012 Health Retirement Study. Senior housing residency was measured with the question “Is your home part of a retirement community, senior citizens’ housing, or other type of housing that offers services for older adults or someone with a disability?”

Vulnerable older adults with multiple chronic conditions were more likely face hospitalization at both moderate and heavy levels at baseline. However, older individuals with those conditions who lived in a senior housing environment had few hospitalizations over time.

“It might be that the services provided in senior housing, such as health education, help people identify warning signs and seek treatment sooner, leading to more health care use,” Park says.

“Our findings really underscore the importance of continued research into these housing environments as a possible alternative to existing housing for lower-income seniors.”

Source: Washington University in St. Louis