Age your way during Older Americans Month
Older adults play an important role in our communities. They are family members, friends, neighbors, mentors and volunteers. Just as every person is unique, so too is how each of us ages and where we choose to do it. That’s why the U.S. Administration for Community Living (ACL) chose the theme “Age My Way” for this year’s Older Americans Month.
According to a recent AARP survey, 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes and live independently in their communities for as long as possible. However, this means making lifestyle choices, home modifications, maintaining social connections and staying active. Regence recognizes the importance of all these activities and offers health plan benefits to support older adults, both during the month of May and year-round.
“We all have a role in connecting our older members with resources to help them maximize independence, function well, and age in place,” says Kathleen Faulk, senior vice president and general manager of Government Programs at Regence. “It’s about providing meaningful support to help everyone live healthier, more active lives.”
Safety first: Home modifications and assistive technologies
Creating safer homes often includes making some changes. Every second of every day, an older adult suffers a fall in the U.S.—making falls a leading cause of injury. Many falls can be prevented. You can lower your chances of falling by removing things you can trip over (like small rugs and electric cords) from stairs and places where you walk.
While we don’t usually think of our bathrooms as a dangerous place, the combination of slippery surfaces and hard floors can cause severe injury. Some Medicare Advantage plans support members’ safety by offering an annual allowance to install bathroom safety equipment. Items like grab bars and elevated toilet seats help prevent falls by making it easier and safer to move around at home.
Another safety benefit to consider is a personal emergency response system (PERS). These devices come with built-in fall detection technology, allowing you to live independently—yet with peace of mind knowing that family members will be notified in an emergency. Regence member Eileen Featherstone shares her experience with using a PERS device.
“My daughter encouraged me to get this device after I had a fall that landed me in the emergency room. I’ve used it a couple of times and it has put me in touch with my daughter right away,” says Featherstone. “You never know when you’ll need help. If and when you do need it, it’s great to have. Now I refuse to go anywhere without it. It fits great around my neck and has been the perfect safety net that allows me to remain independent.”
Loneliness and social isolation are serious public health risks affecting a significant number of older adults in the United States and puts them at risk for serious medical conditions such as dementia.
Fortunately, services like Papa Pals provides ways to stay healthy and connected. Papa Pals is a program that pairs qualified Regence members with ‘pals’—non-clinical, trained companions who are often college students—to provide companionship and assistance with everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, pharmacy pickup and technology support.
Although COVID-19 forced this program to operate virtually, more than half of our members who used Papa Pals in 2021 reported feeling less lonely than before they used the program.
We are here for you
The pandemic has changed the conversation about aging in place by bringing the pros and cons of living in nursing homes vs. living at home into the spotlight. More than ever, people value independent living, and Regence can help. While aging your way will be different for each person, Older Americans Month reminds us that we deserve to age with grace in the setting of our choosing.
Regence members can sign in to their online account at regence.com to learn about their health plan benefits or call us at the number on the back of their member ID card. We’re here to help.