Expert Panel Brings New Approach to Challenges of Aging in Rural America
“Collaboration” emerges as central theme to help older adults live better, not just longer
WASHINGTON, D.C. – (January 25, 2018) – Academic, business, and healthcare leaders from across the country gathered today at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to bring focus to a new approach to solving the challenges facing those aging in rural communities. Tivity Health convened the event, in collaboration with the MIT AgeLab, the Jefferson College of Population Health, and Health eVillages, with support from the National Rural Health Association.
The discussion comes at an important time. Each day more than 10,000 Americans are turning 65, and the total number of adults over 65 is increasing more rapidly in rural areas than in the nation overall. Today one in four older adults lives in a small town or other rural area.
“The challenges of getting older and social isolation in America are often exacerbated in rural settings,” said Donato Tramuto, CEO, Tivity Health. “Tivity Health is proud to be leading a movement of diverse voices to find collaborative solutions to one of the nation’s biggest challenges – fundamentally improving the quality of life of aging adults in rural America. Our success will be defined by our outcomes and ensuring every aging adult has access to the care and services needed to age with vitality.”
Older Americans often face more acute challenges in rural communities. Panelists emphasized problems such as lack of transportation, sparser healthcare services, minimal access to high-speed broadband service, social isolation, and the macro impact of these barriers on health and quality of life.
Dr. Joe Coughlin, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab and author of The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market, emphasized the challenge of building an age-ready nation. “From transportation, to infrastructure, to housing, all must be re-engineered to be ready to accommodate this massive aging population. Though many sectors of our economy will be seeing waves of retirements, this should be seen as an opportunity for workplaces to utilize the unique skills and institutional knowledge of older workers. In addition, companies from all sectors have an opportunity to introduce innovative products and services that will support the desire of this demographic to age in place in their community, whether that is in New York City or small-town America.”
Rural communities also have a higher prevalence of chronic disease, a higher disability rate, a lower prevalence of healthy behavior, and a widening gap in life expectancy.
“A central point to remember in the crisis facing rural-dwelling older adults is that access to quality care, close to home, must be addressed to truly achieve better health outcomes,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “Rural hospitals play a crucial role in delivering that care. Providing concrete solutions to healthcare workforce shortages is absolutely necessary for the health and economic vitality of rural communities.”
Dr. David Nash, Dean of the Jefferson College of Population Health of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, moderated the panel and emphasized the importance of sharing best practices that may be replicated around the country to address rural aging issues. “The Medicare Advantage program is a great example of how small changes can improve the quality of life for seniors. These healthcare plans often provide free fitness classes and activities that not only help seniors stay active but also provide much-needed social interaction.”
The initiative on rural aging was born out of the inaugural Connectivity Summit on Rural Aging last year in Portsmouth, NH, where more than 80 experts from academia, business, government, non-profit, healthcare, and community organizations attended. Today’s event reviewed many of the findings captured in “Rural Aging in America: Proceedings of the 2017 Connectivity Summit,” published in a special supplement to the December 2017 issue of Population Health Management.
Panelists at today’s event in Washington, D.C. stressed the importance of increasing awareness to build a movement that improves rural aging through collaboration. Together the diverse group has established a commitment to help rural seniors live better, not just longer.
About Tivity Health
Tivity Health, Inc. is a leading provider of fitness and health improvement programs, with strong capabilities in developing and managing network solutions. Through its existing three networks, SilverSneakers® – the nation’s leading community fitness program for older adults, Prime® Fitness and WholeHealth Living™, Tivity Health is focused on targeted population health for those 50 and over. With more than 15.8 million Americans eligible for SilverSneakers, over 10,000 fitness centers in the Prime Fitness Network, and more than 25 years of clinical and operational expertise in managing specialty health benefits and networks, including chiropractic services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, acupuncture, massage and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services, the Company touches millions of consumers across the country and works directly with hundreds of healthcare practitioners and many of the nation’s largest payers and employers. Learn more at www.tivityhealth.com.
About Health eVillages
Health eVillages collaborates to advance healthcare access and improve the quality of care by providing state-of-the-art mobile health technology including medical reference and clinical decision support tools, as well as other community-focused resources, to medical and public health professionals in the most challenging clinical environments around the world. Our partners include Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Tivity Health, Sharecare, the Tramuto Foundation, Skyscape, PCS Wireless, Global Impact, the Maternity Foundation, Medical Aid Films, and more. You can find more information at www.healthevillages.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Jefferson College of Population Health of Thomas Jefferson University
The Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH) is the first college of its kind in the country. Established in 2008, it is part of Thomas Jefferson University, a leading academic health center founded in Philadelphia in 1824 as Jefferson Medical College (now Sidney Kimmel Medical College). The College is dedicated to exploring the policies and forces that define the health and well-being of populations. Its mission is to prepare leaders with global vision to examine the social determinants of health and to evaluate, develop and implement health policies and systems that will improve the health of populations and thereby enhance the quality of life. Jefferson College of Population Health provides exemplary graduate academic programming in population health, public health, health policy, healthcare quality and safety, and applied health economics and outcomes research. Its educational offerings are enhanced by research, publications and continuing education and professional development offerings in these areas.
About Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab is a multidisciplinary research program working with global industry leaders to explore the future of longevity and to develop new ideas, technologies and experiences to improve the wellbeing of older adults and those that care for them. Our work is inspired by the belief that the creative application of technology and innovative services can invent a better life tomorrow. Learn more about the MIT AgeLab at agelab.mit.edu.
CONTACT: Jill Meyer, Tivity Health