Over time, older individuals who live in senior housing communities were found to be less likely to have high levels of hospitalization, according to a new study from the Washington University in St. Louis – Brown School Public Health Programs.
The study focused on seniors with moderate or low incomes who live alone and examined to what extent a senior housing environment might moderate the effects of multiple chronic conditions on hospitalization over time.
Data came from the 2002-2012 Health Retirement Study. Senior housing residency was measured with the question “Is your home part of a retirement community, senior citizens’ housing or other type of housing that offers services for older adults or someone with a disability?”
“Our findings suggest that the positive effects from the various support services available in the senior housing environment accrue over time in helping vulnerable elders better manage their health conditions,” said Dr. Sojung Park, assistant professor at the Brown School and lead author of the study, which was published in the October issue of the journal The Gerontologist.
The study showed that vulnerable older adults with multiple chronic conditions were more likely to be hospitalized at both moderate and heavy levels at baseline. However, older individuals with those conditions who lived in a senior housing environment had few hospitalizations over time.
“It might be that the services provided in senior housing, such as health education, help people identify warning signs and seek treatment sooner, leading to more health care use,” Dr. Park said.
“Our findings really underscore the importance of continued research into these housing environments as a possible alternative to existing housing for lower-income seniors.”