Thank you for your interest in our paper,
“2023 Top Trends in Aging Services.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the well-wish of “stay healthy,” or the question of “are you healthy?” often referred to the absence of COVID-19 infection. As we know, many who did not have COVID-19 were struggling with health issues from other diseases or illnesses, or from new or exacerbated symptoms of mental health—especially ones driven by isolation and fear.
As we emerge from the pandemic, those of us serving seniors—the demographic most impacted—return to serving our residents with a more holistic definition of health. We need to commit to making sure our programs encompass approaches beyond physical health. While many of our residents come to us with physical health concerns, there are non-physical factors we can address and improve on.
In addition to holistic health being the right thing for those we serve, we also have a responsibility as a key member of the healthcare continuum to improve both outcomes and expenses that are trending in the wrong direction. Research clearly shows that addressing health and quality of life (QOL) more holistically from birth to aging can improve outcomes and reduce costs.
Health has been defined for almost 75 years as being broader than physical health, including how we describe it in language, research, and policy:
Using 2019 (pre-pandemic) data, it is clear to see that while health care expenses in the United States have increased, it has not driven a correlated increase in overall health.
There have been several health measurement tools developed that bring both value for research and evidence for improvement—from very simple and real time to longer-term and more detailed analyses:
One of the simpler methods is the CDC’s “Healthy Days Measure,” which provides a small sample of questions that can be summarized into three states of health: healthy day, unhealthy day (physical), and unhealthy day (mental).
The more complex The World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) has six domains, with each having several metrics and broader overall quality of life and general health perceptions that can be measured over time with more specificity or by looking at bigger data sets.
Social determinants of health (SDOH) are defined as conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality of life risks and outcomes. SDOHs have a major impact on people’s health, well-being, and quality of life. Examples of SDOH, per the CDC and health.gov, include education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.
The specific goals set out by the CDC for the Healthy People 2020 initiatives sadly culminated with a pandemic. Healthy People 2020 approached the measurement of health-related quality of life and well-being from a multidisciplinary perspective that encompassed three complementary and related domains, including self-rated physical and mental health, overall well-being, and participation in society.
Healthy People 2023 goals include the following goals:
Another framework related to senior services is the International Council on Active Aging® Dimensions of Wellness. Wellness is derived from our ability to understand, accept, and act upon our capacity to lead a purpose-filled and engaged life. In doing so, we can embrace our potential (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental, vocational) to pursue and optimize life’s possibilities. The wellness dimensions overlap and coordinate to provide rich environments for living. Wellness becomes a framework that is valuable for serving the wants and needs of a person engaged in life.
In 2022, we challenge our peers in senior care to refresh our focus on health beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Our focus over the last few years has been where it was most critical: infection control and saving our residents. As we move forward, we can make lives better through approaching our operations, systems, and programs from a holistic health and wellness approach that improves satisfaction, drives better outcomes, and helps us support the broader healthcare system.
As you evaluate these focus areas and programs, we look forward to hearing from you on your successes and challenges. We are ready to assist you wherever needed. We understand the challenges as operators in making this pivot, but we also know that as consultants we can support your vision and planning.
As a national leader in senior care and living management and consulting services, Health Dimensions Group is uniquely positioned to assist organizations with improving the holistic health of its residents. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 763.537.5700.
Authored by: Erin Shvetzoff Hennessey
 CDC and World Health Organization.