Transforming What it Means to Age in Place
PAMF internal medicine physician and Chief Innovation and Technology Officer Paul Tang would like to see health systems respond differently to older adults and their caregivers.
"The major risk factor for deteriorating health as people age is not disease but the perception older people often have of being socially isolated," says Dr. Tang. "You retire, your spouse dies, you can no longer drive. Physicians cannot see loneliness on an X-ray or cure it with a pill, but it does affect the health and well-being—not just of seniors but of the whole extended family."
It also drives up health care costs, tears families apart and deprives communities of the wisdom that comes with age.
Dr. Tang leads PAMF’s David Druker Center for Health Systems Innovation (Innovation Center), created in 2010 to address what he calls "Society’s Grand Challenges." Aging tops the list of problems to solve, especially now, as the oldest baby boomers approach their 70s.
"The best way to address this feeling of social isolation is for health care providers such as PAMF to partner with the community in recreating and strengthening social connections," says Dr. Tang.
After distilling ideas from hundreds of PAMF employees and physicians, the Innovation Center team, with supporting funds from a Sutter Health challenge grant, developed the comprehensive Successful Aging System, the Center’s first community action project. LinkAges, the system’s inaugural initiative, offers several innovations:
- Personal profiles that contain information about the social determinants of individual health
- A community-based TimeBank for exchanging neighborly services and extending social connectedness
- Signal Detection for monitoring well-being at home
- A Yelp-type system for rating services of interest to seniors
Mountain View was chosen as the linkAges pilot community because of its diversity, network of community organizations and commitment to supporting aging in place.
"LinkAges was named for our desire to link across generations," Dr. Tang says. "Individuals of all ages and walks of life are coming to our orientations and signing up. They want to help rebuild community by becoming a part of linkAges."
Once the Mountain View pilot is well under way and evaluated, the Innovation Center will work with its partners to make linkAges available to other communities, including those served by PAMF and Sutter Health and ultimately nationwide. Other solutions that address broad population health challenges will come next. No doubt they too will involve "connecting people and communities," says Dr. Tang. "So we can all help care for one another."