Many people begin to develop multiple health conditions as they age, making hospitalization more likely. Researchers have investigated various factors that increase one’s chances of being hospitalized, but little research has focused on characteristics of one’s environment that may help prevent hospitalization. To this end, a recent study investigated the role senior housing plays in hospitalizations of older adults.
The researchers were interested in what environmental factors influence how often older adults with multiple chronic conditions are hospitalized. They examined data from the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study, focusing on adults who live alone, are economically vulnerable, and are age 75 or better. They examined participants’ answers to questions concerning how frequently they stayed overnight in a hospital in the past year, how many chronic conditions they had, and if they lived in any form of senior housing.
Unsurprisingly, older adults with multiple chronic conditions were more likely to report frequent hospitalizations. However, among those who had multiple chronic conditions, individuals who lived in senior housing were hospitalized less often than those who lived in traditional housing. This suggests that there is a significant health benefit to living in senior housing, particularly for older adults who have multiple chronic conditions.
It was not clear which specific factors of senior housing were related to less frequent hospitalization, but the researchers noted it is most likely due to the supportive services available.
While these results sound promising, there are some limitations to the study. First, specific reasons for hospitalization were not available in the dataset, so there could be other factors that would better explain this finding. Second, the type of senior housing was not specified in the Health and Retirement Study, so future research should examine how different types of housing and services influence health.
Park, Sojung, BoRin Kim, and Eunsun Kwon. The role of senior housing in hospitalizations among vulnerable older adults with multiple chronic conditions: a longitudinal perspective. The Gerontologist. (2017). DOI:10.1093/geront/gnx046