A Pragmatic Solution for Eldercare in the US—Designed by Elders for Elders

Posted Friday, June 14, 2013 in Innovation by Patricia Seybold

As many of you know, I now live year round on the coast of Maine. One of my local heroes is Chip Teel, who has been pioneering in eldercare for over two decades. He’s a local M.D., with a family practice of seven professionals. A large proportion of their clientele are elderly people. Chip, who has a specialty in geriatrics, served as director of the local nursing home. He has also been very involved as the Medical Director of a nearby retirement community.

Alone and Invisible No More: How Grassroots Community Action and 21st Century Technologies Can Empower Elders to Stay in Their Homes and Lead Healthier, Happier LivesOver the years, Chip’s elderly clients have been very clear with him about one thing: they don’t want to move out of their homes, no matter how frail they become. When their declining health and fragile mental states made it necessary for them to move out of their homes, they were often unhappy, and their conditions worsened. When Teel could figure out ways to keep them at home and provide the supplemental services they needed, they thrived. So he engaged with a group of his clients to try a couple of experiments.

The first experiment, the ElderCare Network, involved letting elders help design and run their own assisted-living group homes. Soon there were seven such group homes—all were homey, less institutional, and much more relaxed than conventional assisted living settings. They were staffed in part by elder volunteers. But moving into a group home still meant leaving “my” home. And, although inexpensive, they were still more expensive for the state of Maine and the clients than if people just stayed in their own homes.

So, undaunted, and building on what they had already learned from this ElderCare Network (in existence since 1995), Teel and his colleagues recruited a new group of 40 clients to help design the services they would need to age gracefully at home. Chip Teel’s book, Alone and Invisible No More: How Grassroots Community Action and 21st Century Technologies Can Empower Elders to Stay in Their Homes and Lead Healthier, Happier Lives, describes this amazing journey. You’ll meet many of these independent-minded seniors. They’ll probably remind you of people in your own family and circle of friends. Most of all, you’ll learn about an innovative new customer ecosystem that is slowly spreading from midcoast Maine across the country, as community after community adopts the practices pioneered by these feisty nonagenarians.

Customer Co-Design for Elder Independence
Revolutionary Approach for Elders to Age Gracefully in Their Homes
By Patricia B. Seybold, CEO & Sr. Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group

There are currently 5 million people in the U.S. over the age of 85. By 2050, there will be 21 million of us. Life expectancies are also increasing. There isn’t enough money, time, or people to build and staff enough nursing homes and retirement communities. But we can use high tech and high touch to empower people to live full lives at home until they die. Dr. Allan “Chip” Teel’s book, Alone and Invisible No More, tells us how.

(Download the full article in PDF.)


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