Wellness programs are emerging as a promising way to turn the tide of poor health trends among older adults.
They’re also a powerful reminder that we alone have the ability to take control over our own health and wellbeing, with community resources standing by to help.
Chronic disease threatens to overwhelm Medicare resources
Chronic disease has become an epidemic in our country, with more than 80 percent of the older adult population dealing with at least one chronic disease, and 68 percent impacted by two or more.
Eighty percent. That’s almost everyone.
Consider a married couple. Older adults in the immediate family might include the wife’s parents, her two in-laws and six living grandparents…out of those ten loved ones, EIGHT relatives are dealing a chronic disease or condition that impacts their quality of life daily, perhaps shortening their lives and requiring significant caregiving. Eight of them.
With that high of a percentage, it’s no wonder a mind-boggling 95 percent of Medicare spending for older adults is attributed to chronic conditions.
Diabetes tops the list of common (expensive!) conditions, with one out of four adults living with diabetes unaware of it.
The health care costs of those with diabetes alone are conservatively estimated to be as much as 32 percent of total Medicare spending. Not only is the population of retirees continuing to grow, but the percentage of those with diabetes continues to rise–and the spending right along with it.
Without making a substantial reduction in these costs and chronic conditions moving forward, the research posits that Medicare will be insolvent by 2029.
Not only that, but out-of-pocket costs now average 19 percent of the total health spending for older adults… something many can’t afford. That amount is rising along with everything else.
We need solutions to reduce costs and improve health. If most of us are stressed and ill dealing with these chronic conditions, how can we expect to remain able to live independently? How can we have a retirement lifestyle that is focused on active living and a full life?
Wellness programs are stepping in to help, and they’re making a difference.
What are wellness programs and where are they available?
Intended to help those with a chronic condition manage or improve their health, wellness programs often tackle the most common health issues for seniors, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and dementia.
Some programs revolve around a specific health condition, like the Diabetes Prevention Program recently approved as a Medicare benefit, and others around a more holistic approach to health, wellbeing and aging that includes fall prevention, depression, diet, fitness and lifestyle topics.
They’re typically offered to individuals or in a group classroom setting, often by independent program providers, medical centers, wellness centers (including our very own Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing).
More immersive wellness opportunities
For those looking for a wellness program that runs deeper than classes or coaching, many independent living retirement communities offer them as an in-house benefit for residents, who are immersed in a lifestyle of health and wellness.
For those who prefer to remain in their own home, Arizona’s first continuing care at home program can be ideal. Called Sun Health at Home, the nonprofit continuing care program offers personalized support, coordinated services and a wellness coordinator tasked with helping the member remain in their home and able to care for themselves. The coordinator gets to know the member on a personal level to create a plan that works, keeping them on track and accountable for reaching their goals.
Continuing care at home offers a wide variety of non-medical benefits similar to a retirement community, and will coordinate and pay for any future long-term care needs of the member.
Far beyond a wellness program, it’s a lifestyle.
Continuing care at home plans combine a proactive independent living lifestyle in your own home with resources to obtain and pay for long-term care, should it become eventually necessary. Even if you move or travel, the plan follows you. To learn more, attend an upcoming discovery seminar near you or visit https://sunhealthathome.org/.
Sun Health at Home is the first CCaH program in the southwestern United States and the only one available in Arizona.
(Originally published May 16, 2018; last updated Jan. 11, 2019.)