Young Hip Austin is Getting Old: A New Experiment in Confronting the Challenge, PRP 197
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The proportion of the American population that is 65 and older is rapidly growing. By 2030, the population of seniors, which we define as individuals over the age of 65, will increase by 65 percent.1 By 2056, the Census Bureau projects that this segment of the population will outnumber the number of people under age 18 and will comprise one-fifth of U.S. residents by 2060. This trend will increase the burden on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as well as various state and local programs. Many seniors already struggle to access and pay for healthcare services, and population growth will only amplify this issue. Austin, a city with a reputation for being young and hip, is not exempt from these age-wave related challenges—its senior population growth has already outpaced the national average and is projected to continue to do so. According to Central Health’s Planning Regions Overview, Austin continues to have one of the fastest-growing senior populations in the U.S. As is common to the experience of seniors across the country, 40 percent of seniors in Central Texas as of 2013 worry about the ability to pay for healthcare expenses. Compounding the shortcomings in healthcare access and affordability, seniors and their families are faced with a shortage of supportive programs that foster independence and wellness. The expected increase in seniors makes improving the availability and quality of senior healthcare and social services a local priority, especially those that serve the most vulnerable seniors, who are low-income or have one or more disabilities. The existing service and funding gaps exceed what the public sector alone can fill. The healthcare needs of seniors going forward can be sufficiently met only through innovative solutions built on the understanding that healthy aging is about more than just going to the doctor. A comprehensive approach to wellness is required that recognizes the full range of physical, social, and economic needs of seniors. The ideal solution would place health and social services and supports nearby accessible to the homes of seniors who want to age in place, maintain a sense of belonging, and participate in an active and mutually supportive community. Our team sought to create an innovative model of care that includes the co-location of geriatric primary care, social services, and adult day services in a community health center. We have developed an integrated model for an Age-Inclusive Center (the “Center”) that serves those functions. We also considered the feasibility of establishing the Center at a specific site in Austin, the Rebekah Baines Johnson Health Center.
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