Back to the Future Part 3 – Harvard Medical School Says…

This week’s “Back to the Future” blog is from 2015 when Harvard Medical School’s Health Beats included “Housing” at the top of their list for preparing to age safely. Housing isn’t often associated with healthcare even in a pandemic when many people are opting to receive healthcare in the home or via telehealth. Yet housing, the structure where this care is taking place, is vital to successful health outcomes. Housing is a social determinant of health, and the home is the number one location for falls and acquired injuries that result in hospitalizations. 

With so many stakeholders involved in aging in place, who do we need to encourage to facilitate safe aging in place? How do we go about that?  

Harvard Medical School says….
by Louis Tenenbaum on June 29, 2015

Harvard Medical School’s Health Beats lists modifying your house as the first of six ways you can prepare to age well. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing studies said about the same thing in a report I wrote about in September 2014. That was housing studies talking about housing. Not such a big deal. This is Harvard Medical School recommending a housing solution to a health problem.  We expect them to say something about eating or exercising..they mention avoiding falls second (and your house is one of the four or five factors in falls reduction, too) but housing at the top of their list is a surprise. This screams for attention. Our houses are key to aging well. Harvard Medical School says so.

This is not just a pat on the back for advocates. This is a call to individuals, leaders and policy makers to make this happen. Our health system, our federal budget, our individual retirement budgets and the burden we place on our families and the whole next generation of supporting workers depends on taking action. What leads to action?

The mortgage deduction works well, most Americans own homes. Solar tax credits had quite an impact recently.  In general, once we agree on a priority- whether it is landing on the moon, a national highway system, home weatherization, low income housing – policy approaches – incentives, subsidies, credits…motivate private investment. Since the bulk of long term care will occur in single family owner occupied homes the private investment we seek is from individual homeowners. Our task is to develop policies that motivate individuals to buy products and contract to get the work done. The result will be aging well for those who take action, as well as financial relief to our budget and health systems.

Who cares? Wrong question. Who should care? Individuals and families. Manufacturers and the design and construction industry. Organizations committed to better lives for older citizens. People concerned about the federal budget. Health insurers and providers. In short: EVERYONE.

To whom should the policies be directed? Those who own homes and have some resources – savings, equity, salaries to invest. Policies will motivate them. Their dollars will go further, revitalizing our housing infrastructure to meet current and future needs. This is not a giveaway. This is a stimulus package not very different from the policies that built the houses in the first place. And we all reap the reward and savings.

What roles must stakeholders take? Money, influence, fist pumping and flag waving. We need it all to raise the issue, build support and insist on policies to solve this national problem before it is a crisis. The homeowners who want to age in place and have the resources to invest if motivated are a huge constituency that votes!

See the new HomesRenewed Resource Center site to learn more. Get in touch to help.

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