According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans age 55 and older number 60 million today. By 2030, the aging of baby boomers will boost this group to 107.6 million – 31 percent of the population. Adults entering retirement are expected to both live longer and have the desire to live more independently than earlier generations. Yet, as the mid-life stage approaches, these baby boomers are both balancing the competing demands of spouse and partner; employee and employer; parent and caregiver; friend and community citizen; and trying to shape a fulfilling retirement. While staying healthy is essential to their quality of life, by the time they reach their sixth decade, 70 percent will have been diagnosed with one or more chronic health conditions and nearly half will have two or more.
In response to these changing demographics, the Morehouse School of Medicine based in Atlanta, has joined forces with Mercy Housing’s Atrium at CollegeTown to bring preventive health care as close to residents’ front door as possible. Recognized for its dedication to improving the health and well-being of both the underserved individual and community, the Morehouse Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine is focusing on helping Atrium residents improve their function and quality of life by incorporating preventive activities into routine care. Dr. Ayanna Buckner, associate director of the Morehouse’s Preventive Medicine and Public Health Residency Program and liaison to the Atrium spearheads the program.
During the wellness visit, Buckner can develop and/or update a personalized prevention plan that takes into account the resident’s medical and family history, detection of any cognitive impairment, potential risk factors for depression and review of the individual’s functional ability and level of safety. By doing so Buckner and the Morehouse School of Medicine team can help create a personalized health program and referrals, to education or preventive counseling services.
“With a preventive program like the Atriums’, we are making preventive services more accessible to residents and at the same time decreasing the burden on our health care system. In fact, studies show that chronic diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, and kidney disease, account for an increasing share of Medicare and Medicaid’s costs, ” acknowledged Buckner.
While the on-site wellness clinic finishes construction, Buckner continues to go door-to-door. “It’s great for residents to get to know me and look at me as part of the Atrium family.”
According to Buckner, “the likelihood of illness and chronic diseases multiplies with age, but the incidence and severity of disease in older adults can be reduced with more attention to preventive health care practices.”