ITHACA, N.Y. -- Up to half of older Americans could postpone going into nursing homes if more group housing options were available, say two Cornell University researchers. Although group living offers seniors lower-cost housing, independence, social interaction and a wide range of household and health services, fewer than 1 percent of the elderly live in such housing.
That's according to a new study by Peter Chi, professor of policy analysis and management, and Joseph Laquatra, associate professor of design and environmental analysis.
From 10 to 50 percent of the country's nursing home population is institutionalized unnecessarily, Chi says. However, more than half of men and women 65 or older have at least one disability. Many, he says, would benefit from group housing.
Group housing includes shared residences; so-called congregate housing, in which residents have their own living quarters but share at least one meal a day and may have access to organized social activities; assisted-living arrangements, in which residents might have some supervision, housekeeping services, meal preparation and intermittent personal care services; and personal care assisted-living facilities, which offer private living quarters, meals, housekeeping and continuous personal care services.
"Group housing offers tremendous advantages to older Americans, from companionship and affordability to assistance in daily living chores," says Chi. Although very few older Americans live in such settings, the researchers found that in counties where group housing is available, fewer seniors choose to live in nursing homes.
"Since the size of the elderly population is going to increase dramatically in coming decades, more group housing options are urgently needed in American communities to minimize the inappropriate placement of older persons in nursing homes that are too intensive and too expensive for them," he says.