16 May 2009

Growing Popularity of Aging in Place

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Aging Evolution: Seniors want to age at home, but will builders adapt?
Unobtrusive technology lets children monitor parents

Sacramento Business Journal - by Michael Shaw Staff writer


If Wes Justyn’s 91-year-old mother forgets to measure her blood pressure, he gets an e-mail alert.

If she’s inactive, lying in bed for half a day, or hasn’t opened the refrigerator, another e-mail arrives in his inbox.

More alarming behavior could trigger phone calls from the in-home monitoring system that Justyn, an insurance broker from El Dorado Hills, had installed in his mother Nettie’s home 18 months ago.

He is one of the few people using new technologies to allow a parent to “age in place” and avoid the often disruptive or costly relocation into assisted-living facilities or nursing homes.

“I’m very passionate about this,” Justyn said. “This is unobtrusive and it gives our seniors some dignity.”

Senior advocates say 85 percent of the elderly want to remain at home as they age as opposed to moving into care facilities. Emerging technologies that are still not widely known could help them do just that. There are systems available to test cognitive abilities daily, track vital signs and plot their movements by using motion detectors and pressure pads. The results can be continuously uploaded to the Internet and sent to children, physicians or caregivers.

The question is whether builders and the nation’s older homebuyers are catching on to these technologies, which can be hard to retrofit to existing homes but could be easily and cheaply accommodated in newly constructed ones as part of the design process.

Some homebuilders who concentrate on “active adult” communities de-emphasize features related to age and health issues — largely because their buyers don’t want to think about them. Instead, they hype bigger great rooms for entertaining guests and amenity-packed clubhouses.

“Baby boomers are never going to get old,” joked Edward Johanson, a boomer himself and president of Lakemont Homes. The Roseville company partners with Eskaton, a provider of senior housing and services. The partnership is building homes in Roseville and Placerville aimed at 65-year-olds and above, and buyers in this group are more attuned to health needs than the slightly younger boomers.

The homes Johanson is building include the physical characteristics residents will need later in life, such as wheelchair access to all areas. The effort adds about $6,000 to $8,000 per home, including wiring for advanced technologies.

But while they also include technological upgrades, such as more wiring capacity, he said many of the new technologies are too new to generate much interest.

“We are not rolling that out in a comprehensive fashion,” he said. “We do anticipate, like many technologies, that it will grow very fast.”

The next age demographic that homebuilders cater to is the 55-and-older, or “active adult,” crowd. They may eventually need health-related technology, but it isn’t something they’re thinking about.

“Items preferred by 55-and-over buyers do not meet the old-fashioned stereotype,” said Jacque Petroulakis, a spokeswoman for Del Webb Communities, which builds homes aimed at empty-nesters and active adults close to retirement.

She said buyers want more bedrooms to allow for in-home offices, and larger garages and cabinet spaces for keepsakes accumulated over the years. Those who are taking care of parents, or siblings or friends who are buying a home together want split plans with bedrooms and bathrooms on both sides of the house (see related story, this page).

What they don’t want is to feel old.

“While we do not get considerable demand from buyers for specific items such as wheelchair roll-in showers, our homes are designed with the future in mind,” she said.

Seniors are eventually going to need help if they want to remain independent.

“People want to remain in their homes and we have to make that a reality,” said Scott Peifer, an associate director of the Center for Aging Services Technologies in Washington, D.C. Peifer, who lives in the Sacramento region, ran down an impressive list of available gadgets beyond those already mentioned: Software that tests cognitive fitness, breathalyzer-like contraptions that check whether medication is being taken, wearable equipment that monitors heart rate and body temperature, accelerometers that can tell when a person has fallen, and tech that promotes social connection, such as two-way video visits.

A variety of well-known manufacturers, such as Intel Corp. and GE Health Care, are now offering such products.

Many of these technologies are on display at the Eskaton National Demonstration Home in Roseville, built by Lakemont, one of the only demo homes to feature the latest technology.

The cost for these systems can vary between $1,000 and $5,000 and some come with monthly charges, Peifer said.

But it could be much more expensive to retrofit an older home that can’t handle these systems, said Justyn, who along with his wife designed the 1,200-square-foot guest house where his parents moved eight years ago. They put in an electrical system that can handle additional burdens, and more conduit tubing for wires, long before many of these technologies were available.

“If you do it at the time, it really isn’t any more expensive,” said Justyn, 62, who’s also a member of the Eskaton board of directors. He said he paid about $3,000 for the system in his mom’s home, which is made by GrandCare Systems LLC of West Bend, Wis. It uses 11 monitors, most of them invisible to the casual eye, and other gadgets that report her blood pressure and weight.

But no cameras.

“She said, ‘I don’t want any damn cameras in my house,’ ” Justyn said, adding that his mother knows the system is there to monitor her health, even if she’s not clear how it works.

He said there has been only one glitch, when a piece of hardware malfunctioned. It was replaced within a day.

“I like the peace of mind,” he said, adding that he often checks on his mother through his personal digital assistant. He also likes being able to show physicians his mother’s long-term health trends. He told the story of charting the decrease in her mobility after a doctor prescribed a blood pressure medicine and showing the results to the doctor.

“He was blown away,” he said.


04 May 2009

Newest research and statistics on Retirement and Active Adult Housing

Metlife and the National Association of Home Builders puts out a report each year with the latest trends and figures affecting active adult housing. Although industry-based, it's definitely worth a read.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart takes on Elder Sex

New Stats on the Age-Segregated Housing Market

Family matters -- When older Americans move, family is big reason why

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch
May 1, 2009

CHICAGO -- One of the most common reasons people ages 55 and older decide to move is to be closer to family and friends, according to an analysis released this week by the National Association of Home Builders and the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

According to 2007 data, about 40% of people in this demographic who moved into age-qualified active-adult communities did so to be close to friends and/or relatives, compared with 20% who said the same in 2001. And 31% of those who moved into other 55-and-older owner-occupied communities said the proximity of friends and/or relatives was a reason why, compared with 25% who said the same in 2001.

Experts recommend people set aside an emergency fund equal to about six months of income -- a steep figure for those who struggle to save. The solution is to start small and make it fun, says Mackey McNeill, a personal financial specialist and founder of Mackey Advisors. MarketWatch's Andrea Coombes reports.

The report, "Housing for the 55+ Market: Trends and Insights on Boomers and Beyond," was an analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey data.

Other reasons that drove housing choices: quality, design and layout of the residences.

One possibility of why being close to family has become a motivator for this group might be related to their experiences with their own parents, said John Migliaccio, director of research at the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

"Baby boomers have had more care-giving responsibility for their older parents," he said, and many learned how challenging it can be to care for a parent who lives in Florida when offspring live in the Midwest, for example. As a result, they might choose to live nearer to family.

Builders already have responded to this desire, he said, building communities to suit this segment of the population throughout the country -- not only in traditional retirement hot spots, he added.

While the NAHB has tracked the 55 and up market for decades, the data in the analysis "gives us our first look at specific consumer behaviors and preferences -- what they look for in a home, the reasons why they move, the characteristics of the communities they choose -- over an extended period of time, said David Crowe, NAHB's chief economist, in a news release.

Other findings

The majority of 55 and older households do not live in age-restrictive or age-qualified communities, but the number is going up. In 2007, 3% of those 55 and older said they lived in age-restricted communities designed for active adults; that's up from 2.2% in 2001

Most consumers of this age were happy with their current homes, but residents of age-restricted active-adult communities had the highest satisfaction rates

Of baby boomers close to 65 years old, the traditional retirement age, many say they aren't planning on retiring just yet. If they move, they want to end up in a community that would be closer to work or one that would allow them to transition into a work-from-home setup

"Some findings, such as the tendency for buyers in 55+ communities to continue to work in greater numbers and for longer periods of time, show us that this group is redefining the traditional notion of retirement," said Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in a news release. Of those 55 and older who chose to move into a single-family detached home, 17% said proximity to work was a reason in 2007's data, compared with 11% in 2001.

To accommodate seniors intending on working from home, new homes are built with flexibility in mind, Migliaccio said. A room may be used as an office initially, but can be converted into a second bedroom, for example, he said.

And when people in this age group make a purchase, they're also thinking of how they'd be able to age in place -- selecting layouts that will enable them to live in the home for years to come, he added.
Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.

First Grandmother loving her family time in White House

An In-Law Is Finding Washington to Her Liking

New York Times
May 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — Marian Robinson, President Obama’s mother-in-law, moved into the White House “kicking and screaming,” said her son, Craig Robinson. She had never lived outside of Chicago and was reluctant to leave her beloved bungalow, her friends and family, her weekly yoga class and her familiar routines.

But after three months in the Executive Mansion, Mrs. Robinson is unexpectedly and decidedly savoring her new life.

She entertains visitors from Chicago. She attends White House dinners and concerts hosted by her daughter, the first lady, Michelle Obama. She dines at local restaurants and delights in events at the Kennedy Center, where she often sits in the president’s box and chats with performers.

In fact, Mrs. Robinson, 71, is so busy these days that the Obamas hired a baby sitter to watch their two daughters one evening because the nation’s first grandmother had plans.

“She has a very full social life, so much so that sometimes we have to plan our schedule around her schedule,” Mrs. Obama said jokingly last week during a lunch she hosted for Congressional spouses.

Mrs. Robinson still spends much of her time tending to the Obama girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. She shuttles them to and from school most days and accompanies them to some play dates, the first lady said. She attends class presentations, helps with homework and baby-sits when the president and first lady need extra help.

And with her plain-spoken, matter-of-fact manner, Mrs. Robinson helps keep the girls grounded amid the gilded trappings of their new lives.

But Mrs. Robinson has also managed to carve out her own space in the White House and to build a satisfying private life, according to Obama administration officials who know the family. Her bedroom sits on the third floor, just above the Obamas’ residential quarters. (The first lady told Oprah Winfrey recently that her mother often announced, “I’m going home,” as she headed upstairs.)

And because she remains a private citizen and still has something of an unfamiliar face, Mrs. Robinson can travel around Washington without being trailed by television cameras or recognized by the public even as she enjoys the perks of living at the White House. (Administration officials do not inform the news media about her comings and goings as they do with the president and first lady.)

For the first time in her adult life, she no longer has to cook or clean, unless she wants to. She participates in White House events; she sat alongside Malia and Sasha at a Black History Month performance of the a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, and joined Mrs. Obama in reading a story to schoolchildren at the Easter egg roll.

She has also become a familiar figure at the Kennedy Center, where she has watched performances by the Alvin Ailey dance troupe, the choreographer Debbie Allen and the jazz singer Kurt Elling, among others. (Mrs. Obama likes to joke that her mother has been to the theater more than she has.)

And she joined her daughter for lunch in March at the home of Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

“There’s no standoffishness,” said Judith Jamison, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey troupe, who was invited to the president’s box at the Kennedy Center to meet Mrs. Robinson. “She’s very open.”

Sally Quinn, a Washington writer and socialite, who met Mrs. Robinson at the lunch hosted by Mrs. Heinz Kerry, described her as “the perfect grandmother you’d kill for: cozy, nice, sweet, friendly, dear.”

“It seemed to me that she’s perfectly comfortable in her new life,” Ms. Quinn said.

That may come as a relief to the Obamas, who relied on Mrs. Robinson to help care for their children during the presidential campaign. They did not want to move into the White House without her, Craig Robinson said.

In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Robinson, the men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University, laughed as he described how Mrs. Obama pleaded with him to help lobby their mother, who was refusing to move from Chicago.

“My sister said, ‘You’ve got to talk to Mom; she’s not moving,’ ” Mr. Robinson recalled. He said his mother was utterly unswayed by Mrs. Obama’s description of the exciting new life they would all lead in Washington.

Mrs. Robinson, a retired bank secretary who ran the 50- and 100-yard dashes in the Illinois senior games well into her 60s, has always prized her independence.

“She doesn’t want grand; she doesn’t want great,” Mr. Robinson said. “She would much rather stay home.”

But Mrs. Robinson eventually decided to move in, at least for a while, to help her granddaughters get settled. If she stays through Mr. Obama’s term, she will be the first mother-in-law to live in the White House full time since the Truman presidency, historians say. She declined to comment for this article, but when asked recently by Essence magazine whether she was enjoying her new life, she answered in the affirmative.

“I really am,” she said. “You want to know why? Because my children are good parents. It makes it very easy to be a grandmother when your children are good parents.”

Last week, Mrs. Obama returned the compliment.

In her chat with Congressional spouses, she suggested that her mother helped bring something precious to the White House, a sense of normalcy in extraordinary times.

“I feel like I’ve never left Chicago,” the first lady said. “Soccer on Saturday — yes, I’m on a soccer field all day, just like many of you. Slumber parties — we had about seven girls over, screaming and yelling.

“And we’re shuttling kids back and forth to play dates, just like usual, although now my mom does a little more of the shuttling than I do. I’m glad to have her here.”

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company