Programs team up to help low-income seniors

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: SalFalko via Flickr

Habitat for Humanity and Johns Hopkins have teamed up to implement the CAPABLE program, in six new areas across the United States. The goal is to improve the lives of low-income older adults.

Community Aging in Place — Advancing Better Living for Elders, was co-developed by Sarah L. Szanton, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON) professor for health equity and social justice to support aging-in-place services for this vulnerable, high-risk, high-needs population. This research-based intervention helps increase strength, mobility, and safety of older adults through home visits from a nurse, occupational therapist and handyman. The program lets patients set their own functional goals, like bathing or walking to church, while improving their living environment through renovations like installing hand rails or lowering shelves.

The partnership will expand Habitat’s work of improving a home’s overall condition to include collaboration with health professionals to address the home’s usability and safety and the health of its owner — cornerstones of the CAPABLE program. According to Habitat for Humanity, the communities benefitting from the initiative include Metro Denver, Twin Cities, Philadelphia, Metro Maryland and Susquehanna.

The partnership will help bring more services to low-income older adults, who often have reduced access to primary care and little financial means to provide necessary updates that can make their homes safer, according to Szanton. Within the selected cities, JHSON and Habitat will measure improvement and analyze results of the implementation. The partnership was made possible through a philanthropic donation of $1.25 million from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in support of aging-in-place services for low-income older adults.

The vast majority of older adults want to age in place, as this CityLab article describes. Efforts to help older adults do so are happening throughout the U.S. and globally. This NPR report looks at one effort in Chicago. Alaska Public Media reported on a program that helps older homeowners in that state. However, it isn’t the right option for every older person, as this Forbes article points out.

CAPABLE is used in 22 cities in 11 states and Australia. Szanton’s research has shown it decreases disability and depression, improves self-care among participants and provides a tenfold return on investment.

Journalists: If your community is among those with an active Habitat/CAPABLE partnership, how is it going? If not, what programs are underway to help older adults age in place?

More information:

  • Listen to this April 2018 interview with Sarah Szanton on HealthCetera. [full disclosure: I am a co-producer of this podcast]
  • This article in Chicago’s Daily Herald looks at the CAPABLE program in action.
  • This story from NextAvenue describes some of the key features of CAPABLE which allow elders to age at home rather than in an institutional setting.
  • AHCJ reported previously on CAPABLE and other home-based aging in place efforts here.

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