One of life’s inevitable truths is that every day we’re getting older; what isn’t inevitable is the way in which we do so. In San Diego County, the number of seniors is expected to grow by 130 percent to almost a million people by 2030. The exponential growth of the graying of America has created an urgent need for reimagining healthcare and brings new challenges to help this generation; and many of these seniors are in our backyard.
Which is why it’s great that more than 3,000 healthcare professionals are gathering in San Diego this week for the American Society on Aging’s annual conference, “Aging in America,” where attendees will gain knowledge and new perspectives from the top thought leaders in aging. At the Gary and Mary West Health Institute, we’re also exploring ways to assist seniors become more independent and live healthier lives through one of our research projects, Passport to Health.
In fact, we recently completed a pilot study of Passport to Health at the Gary and Mary West Senior Wellness Center, located in downtown San Diego, which daily serves more than 800 seniors living below the poverty level with state-of-the-art services in computers, housing, social work, entitlement benefits, physical therapy and fitness. Over the course of 2013, we enrolled nearly 100 seniors at the Center who routinely answered questions about their health and had their vital signs monitored. This information was then made available electronically to a care coordinator. Having this information allowed the care coordinator to more effectively address the needs of the senior clients by giving them the ability to intervene before a potential health crisis and provide care when necessary.
While we’re still assessing the program’s effectiveness, both clinically and economically, and are refining the program based on the study’s outcomes, we’re encouraged by the results we’ve seen. Regardless, it’s clear that new techniques for care coordination, connecting the social and medical services, and creating technologies tailored to the senior population are essential to encouraging a healthy and independent lifestyle. And conferences like “Aging in America” are a great way to bring new ideas to the forefront. Because when it comes to aging, it’s safe to say that we’d all like to age as gracefully and as independently as possible.
Michael Casale, PhD
Manager, Clinical Research
West Health Institute