A move to a care facility may be the most disruptive and stressful event of a senior’s life. Senior health specialists say that the many changes a later-in-life move imposes on living and social engagement patterns can make such a move even more stressful overall than the death of a spouse.
And such stress, clearly takes its toll on mortality. According to the National Center for Assisted Living (US), the first-year mortality rate of those who move into a skilled nursing facility can be as high as 50% to 60%, and for those who move into an Alzheimer’s care unit, greater than 50%.
It is therefore essential for insurers focusing on the elder market to understand the relationship between mortality and social patterns, how changes in the degree of social engagement over time can affect longevity, and ultimately, how to provide the cover and services that can mitigate the stress and improve longevity.
Decentralised and personalised elderly care
Most older adults are determined to age in place – to live as independently as they can for as long as possible at their homes, near their families and where the care and services they need are affordable and accessible. A distinct and widening gap, however, has been emerging between what seniors need to age in place comfortably and what is available.
Many older people struggle with chronic illnesses associated with age as well as with age-related physical infirmities such as reduced vision, hearing, and tactile sensitivity. And although they might not yet be experiencing a reduction in their ability to perform the basic activities of daily living (ADLs), they may still need some help managing aspects of their daily lives.
In several major US and European cities, the determination of older people to stay near family, friends, and known environments and routines has resulted in what are known as naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs).
Most NORCs – communities where at least 40% of the population is over age 60 – already have much of the basic infrastructures that can support ageing in place, including readily available public transportation, nearby pharmacies and supermarkets (and/or delivery services), and easily accessible venues for entertainment (movie theatres, concert halls, sports stadiums and the like).
Asia’s emerging needs for innovative product bundles
For elders in Asian countries, ageing in place effectively will require far more than just money to pay for care: Seniors will also need ready access to targeted medical and non-medical services, including NORC-style services as well as integrated prescription and medication management, and specialised care services for specific needs such as wound care related to diabetes and cancer, eyesight care, physical therapists and/or fitness coaching and monitoring, biometric monitoring and tracking, and periodic cognitive assessments. Necessary non-medical services might include home retrofits to make it simpler for elders to continue to age in place.
The need also includes access to qualified and knowledgeable providers of senior health care – doctors, nurses, home health care aids and other health professionals who specialise in their needs. And currently, especially in Asia, the need is far outstripping supply.
An insurer opportunity: the Designer and the Bundler
Long-term care (LTC) policies currently available in Asia are geared primarily towards providing lump sums to pay for facility- or home-based care. Few insurers now provide such products, especially in rapidly ageing Japan, Korea and China, making LTC a cover with substantial market potential.
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