Much has been made of the aging in place movement and the benefits it can bestow upon America’s elderly.
Peter J. Burns III, who launched a new venture supporting that notion, doesn’t disagree. He praised the recent announcement that the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has awarded $3.9 million to fund research by Northwestern Medicine to better “understand how older adult aging-in-place and long-term care decision making” is made.
“Many times, seniors will delay making a decision about their long-term care needs because of the lack of good options out there,” said Burns, a serial startup entrepreneur (www.peterjburnsiii.com) who has launched close to 150 businesses in his life. “They have heard sad stories about assisted living complexes, where they are sometimes treated like a number in an antiseptic environment.”
But delaying the decision making is not a good decision either, according to Northwestern Medicine. It noted in its announcement that many seniors wait until they “experience a health crisis, (when) loved ones often must step in as surrogates to make emergent decisions about their medical care and living situation.”
Principal investigator Lee Lindquist, MD, MPH, MBA, chief of geriatrics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, reinforced that belief. “We know that the majority of seniors do not want to leave their home as they age, yet very few people plan for their home-based needs required to safely age-in-place,” he said. “The most important decision that most people navigate is how to balance age-related changes, such as worsening cognition and decreasing mobility with their needs. Many older adults underestimate how much support they’ll need as they age, while others outright dismiss planning for home support. Without planning, aging-in-place is not a safe option for many older adults.”
New Group Home Concept Offers Perfect Solution to Elderly
Burns says that his group home concept, Boutique Group Homes, will help resolve the aforementioned problem.
“The group industry is fragmented, with many owners and operators offering the bare minimum in terms of comfort and ease of living,” said Burns. “The elderly deserve and want a better alternative in their golden years. We believe that the industry is in need of a higher end group home, and we’re prepared to deliver on that promise.” “The other problem is that many group homes are clustered in the same area, which is far away from where the elderly live. We believe it is important that the elderly can stay in their same neighborhood, where they have a great deal of familiarity. Studies show that it can be very disruptive to our psyche to take us out of our environment.”
Burns said his solution is the best alternative when aging in place is not possible.
“We have bought residential homes and retrofitted them in the neighborhoods were the elderly live. Combine that with giving them an environment that includes the creature comforts of their own home and you have a successful formula where everyone wins.”
Group Homes Are Preferred Over Assisted Living Complexes
Finally, notes Burns, you have the overwhelming benefits of moving into a group home as opposed to an assisted living complex.
“First, the ratio of caregivers to residents is much lower at a group home. That means residents typically receive prompt attention as opposed to waiting in line. Second, group homes are more flexible. Whether it means accommodating a loved one, or a visit with a pet, the decision typically rests with the person in charge of the group home, rather than some corporation, which is usually the case with an assisted living complex.”
Candace Kemp, associate professor in the Gerontology Institute and Department of Sociology at Georgia State University, echoes Burns’ assessment.
“The nice thing about these communal settings is there are a lot of widowed, divorced and never married people, and there is an opportunity to develop relationships,” Kemp said. “It makes a huge difference in the quality of life and the day-to-day life experience to have that intimate connection with somebody else. These were probably unexpected relationships for the unmarried couples, but very fulfilling relationships for those who manage to find a partner.”
Burns, who has three homes operational in Phoenix with more on the way, believes that this compelling formula will be “the way of the future.” However, he’s not resting on the current concept, he also has purchased a mansion in Phoenix, which is being retrofitted. Similar to the concept above, he believes upscale group homes in the neighborhoods of the wealthy will be much more attractive to well-to-do seniors, rather than moving away from their neighborhood.
“Stand in place too long and you’ll get run over,” said Burns, highlighting his philosophy as an entrepreneur. “Ideas need to constantly evolve to meet the needs of the marketplace.”