Senior friends cooking in kitchen

Longevity in Aging: The Need to Address Healthspan and Wealthspan

People are living longer, and that’s a good thing. It’s not unusual or uncommon for people to live into their 90s. But how is their quality of life? Are they in good health? Can they afford living expenses? As lifespan increases, it is critical we pay attention to healthspan and wealthspan. According to Nexus Fellow Ryan Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360, healthspan is “the number of years we live in good health,” and wealthspan is “the number of years we have the financial means to support our desired lifestyle.”

“Advances in longevity create the prospect of longer, healthy lives but will we be purposeful, socially connected, and financially secure over these additional years?” – Ryan Frederick

In part three of the Six Key Drivers Shaping the Future of Senior Living, Nexus Founder and NIC Co-Founder and Strategic Advisor, Bob Kramer, also remarks on the effect longevity will have in terms of where Boomers will choose to live.

“Purposeful longevity means our new customers are determined to thrive,” said Kramer. “They are looking for community and a sense of connection. I call it the ‘engagement’ concept of retirement and aging which focuses on purpose, experience, and enjoyment. Paraphrasing a report by the McKinsey Health Institute, our customers aren’t just looking to add years to their lives but add life to their years.”

So how do we improve the quality of life for older adults?

“Researchers point out that longevity is largely driven by our lifestyle rather than our DNA,” wrote Frederick in a SmartLiving 360 blog post. “By some estimates, lifestyle and our environment account for about 93% of our longevity outcomes. Therefore, we have agency over our longevity. Lifestyle decisions also impact our quality of life.”

Frederick goes on to say, the “key is making sure you are at the right place at your stage in life – and one of the reasons the average person moves a dozen times in their life. An openness to change and the ability to act – however overwhelming it can be – is critical to make sure where you live matches your needs and desires at a given time.”

Read more from Ryan Frederick on the SmartLiving 360 blog.

 

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Dr Bill Thomas 2002 PBS interview

Human Growth and Nursing Homes – a 2002 Interview with Dr. Bill Thomas

What can the United States do to make senior housing and the lives of older adults better? This is a particularly hot topic throughout the nation, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19.

A recent report with seven bold, actionable and important recommendations was recently released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. These recommendations, when implemented, will transform nursing home care, to make it person-centered, transparent, affordable, and create living situations that are good for residents, families, and staff.

Where did these revolutionary ideas come from? Let’s turn our calendar back a few decades and spotlight Dr. Bill Thomas, a physician specializing in geriatrics and a visionary ahead of his time. Thomas founded The Eden Alternative, The Green House Project, Minka and is currently the Chief Independence Officer for Lifespark as well as a Nexus Fellow. He has long been a driving force behind the vision that is transforming care for seniors. And he has been putting his vision into practice, piloting his ideas to demonstrate that nursing homes can be places for elders to thrive. We are delighted to have him on-board as a Fellow for Nexus Insights.

In a PBS interview that aired 20 years ago, Thomas said, “There has to be a commitment to ongoing growth…Even the frailest, most demented, most feeble elder can grow…And those words, human growth, nursing home, they’ve never gone together before.”

Thomas explained the inspiration for his ideas. “In the early 1990’s I took a job as a physician at a nursing home…and I fell in love with the work. And I fell in love with the people. And I came to detest the environment in which that care was being provided. The nursing home takes good loving, caring people and plugs them into an institutional factory-like arrangement. And it’s no good. I believe that, when we make a place that’s worthy of our elders, we make a place that enriches all of our lives, caregiver, family member and elder alike.”

“He was right and ahead of his time 20 years ago. He’s still right today. Unfortunately, the tragedy of COVID has revealed how much we devalue the lives of our older adults,” said Bob Kramer, Founder and Fellow at Nexus Insights.

“We need to be concrete about it. If we want to improve life for everybody in our society, one of the very best places to begin is changing how we think about, care for and honor our elders,” said Thomas.

Read the full interview.
See a clip from the PBS 2002 broadcast.

 

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Eco friendly housing for seniors

Two Challenges. One Solution. Age-Friendly and Climate-Friendly Housing.

Our growing population of older adults is facing housing challenges. Creative solutions are beginning to find a foothold. Ryan Frederick, an expert on housing and the role of place in healthy aging, looks at how those solutions could be used to simultaneously address issues of climate change in a Generations Journal article, published by the American Society on Aging.

“As a real estate developer and advisor to real estate developers, I see a valuable opportunity to rise to this challenge by developing communities that appeal to the needs and desires of older adults and incorporate design that is eco-friendly and climate change resilient,” said Frederick, CEO of SmartLiving 360 and a Nexus Insights Fellow. “As a concerned citizen, I know this challenge is urgent.”

Where people live has a big impact on their well-being, according to Frederick. “The best place elevates purpose, social connection, physical well-being, and financial well-being. Place can be designed to support our needs as we age and help insulate us from the perils of climate change.”

But he pointed to a variety of issues that make it difficult for people to age in place, including:

  • Housing that is designed for younger people without mobility issues. The statistics are striking. According to Frederick, “Only about 4% of all housing stock in the United States is suitable for people with moderate mobility difficulties.”
  • Single-use neighborhoods without convenient access to needed services and amenities. “Too much housing requires transportation to get to services and a lack of density makes it inefficient for services to come to the home.”
  • Social disconnectedness. “About half of older adults don’t know any of their neighbors,” he said.

In the article, Frederick offered actionable ideas to help communities address these issues, including:

  • Incentives for incorporating universal design principles in all new housing, which both emphasize the use of eco-friendly materials, and reduce the need for retrofitting as residents in the home age.
  • Housing developments that work for people of all ages, to help foster intergenerational connections, and reduce loneliness across all ages. Frederick pointed out the cost incentive for landlords: vacancies are reduced when older adults can remain in their housing even as their physical needs change.
  • Housing design that reflects the role of the home as a place where people increasingly receive their health care.
  • Choosing locations for housing that are less prone to disasters such as flooding and wildfires and therefore are more resilient to climate change.
  • Designing neighborhoods for walkability. Reducing the need for car travel is both age-friendly and eco-friendly.

“Ultimately, as a society and as individuals, we will be defined by our legacy,” Frederick observed. “How did we positively impact the generations following us?”

Read the full article in Generations by the American Society on Aging.

 

Ryan Frederick, MBA, is the CEO of SmartLiving 360, an Austin, Texas–based strategy consulting and real estate development firm focused on the intersection of successful aging and the built environment. He is the author of Right Place, Right Time: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Home for the Second Half of Life. He is an Encore Public Voices Fellow, a Nexus Insights Fellow and National Advisory Board Member for Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.

 

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