Living Together to Live Independently: How Assisted Living Communities Can Promote Aging In Place

Given the natural decline in health that comes with aging, some older adults eventually require additional care provided by nursing homes or assisted living facilities. As such, the common desire of staying at home and living independently as you age is often considered a luxury afforded only to the healthiest. In response to this discrepancy in being able to live independently, researchers have been interested in helping older adults maintain their independence by living at home, a concept known as “aging in place.”

To further explore how to foster aging in place, researchers at the University of Missouri longitudinally examined data collected between 2011 and 2019 from 190 residents within TigerPlace, a partnering senior living community that conveniently provides residents with individual apartments in addition to social opportunities like games, fitness, and religious groups. Every six months, residents at TigerPlace received health assessments from support staff examining cognitive function, depression, physical functioning, fall risk, and ability to complete daily tasks. Some residents additionally chose to receive more extensive assessments that used noninvasive bed sensors to examine level of activity, respiratory and heart rate, and fall detection.

Researchers found that because residents at TigerPlace were monitored by registered nurse care coordinators who could identify illnesses early and quickly, residents were also quick to receive the appropriate care and services needed to stay healthier longer. Consequently, residents were able to “age in place” longer, reducing their need to be transferred to a nursing home for more intensive care. Researchers also found that the exercise and social opportunities available at TigerPlace benefited residents both mentally and physically. For instance, residents who engaged in these opportunities exhibited better muscle mass and strength that reduced the risk of falls.

By examining the same residents over time, this research stands apart from past studies that may have elicited similar findings, because it clarifies that the social opportunities and care afforded by the senior living community directly caused residents to age in place longer. For those interested in finding ways to age in place, the data examining the residents of TigerPlace speaks for itself.

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Popejoy, L., Zaniletti, I., Lane, K., Anderson, L., Miller, S., & Rantz, M. (2022). Longitudinal analysis of aging in place at TigerPlace: Resident function and well-being. Geriatric Nursing45, 47-54.

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