The Bipartisan Policy Center, founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, today announced a new Health and Housing Task Force that seeks to help address the needs of an aging US population. The one-year initiative is to be led by former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, former Senator and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez and former Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.
In echoing research and observations made in the recently released report, Housing America’s Older Adults: Meeting the Needs of An Aging Population, prepared by Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Foundation, the BPC notes the glaring disconnect between forecasted housing, services and care needs as compared to our current ability to meet that demand.
In explaining the task force’s direction Mr. Cisneros noted that, “our aim is to call attention to this emerging challenge facing our nation. This challenge offers incredible opportunity in the near-term, yet is on track to become a major crisis in the coming years if left unaddressed.” Specific goals outlined by the task force include:
Find cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors safe and viable. Identifying potential funding sources will be critical.
Highlight best practices from states and localities for integrating housing, health care, and long-term services and supports. The task force will seek out programs that work and investigate how they can be replicated elsewhere.
Identify barriers to offering home-and community-based services and supports through Medicaid.
Seek opportunities for further collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.
The fourth goal is something that I have been scratching my head about for more than a decade now. I once even had the chance to personally ask a former HHS Secretary why the two departments couldn’t find more ways to collaborate, and that person was surprisingly candid in not knowing why either.
I know it may seem intuitive to those working in senior housing and care, but still much of the healthcare industry is only starting to recognize and understand that if services and care need to be provided “long-term,” then those individuals requiring such care need a place to live – they need a home. Further, we are learning more every day that underscores how important it is to have hospitality services provided in coordination with that care in order to achieve a beneficially holistic approach to health and wellness. Thus I believe any successful delivery model that addresses the crisis this task force sets out to address must reflect a deep understanding of four core areas:
Real estate – a place that can be called home wherever that may be
Operational & clinical performance: consistently safe and high quality services that are unique to the populations being served
Hospitality: recognizing and respecting the human spirit’s desire to live a fulfilling life
Underwriting: understanding the unique financial challenges of providing extended services and care
I would encourage the task force – and any other organizations involved in assessing and contributing to the knowledgebase that increases access and affordability of senior housing and care – to adopt these as the four pillars of any successful delivery model.