Opinion

Living in a community that values seniors | GUEST OPINION

BY DR. GREGORY KEYES

A large number of baby boomers reached age 65 in 2011, launching an unparalleled phenomenon in the United States. Since Jan. 1, 2011, and each and every day for the next 20 years, roughly 10,000 Americans will celebrate their 65th birthdays.

In 2030, when the last baby boomer turns 65, the demographic landscape of our nation will have changed significantly. One of every five Americans — about 72 million people — will be an older adult.

The aging of our population has wide-ranging implications for every town in America, including Kitsap County. As a family doctor practicing on Bainbridge Island for 30 years, I have seen firsthand how important it is for seniors to have access to health care and a happy, safe, and comfortable place to call home. In the past, many longtime residents have had to leave the island when their care needs outgrew the services that were available to them, and were forced to move away from family, friends, and the town they love. Our older residents are a vital part of our community and our history, and it saddened me to see this happening.

The good news is as of October 2013, Kitsap County now has more senior housing options with the opening of the new Madrona House, an innovative assisted living and memory care community. The Madrona House was designed with care by local architect Cihan Anisoglu, whose late father suffered from dementia. The entire design was created with his father in mind.

Madrona House meets the highest standards in healthcare and serves a wide range of seniors, from those who need only a little daily assistance to those who require full-time memory care support. The facility is modern and comfortable, with a full-time executive chef, 24/7 round-the-clock nursing care. The two uppermost floors of Madrona House are reserved for residents who require memory care support. These floors are designed to help residents feel safe and build a sense of community. The floors are divided into four unique neighborhoods with only 10-14 residents living in each community. Each neighborhood has a private dining room and living areas for greater comfort and security. The neighborhood model places a high emphasis on dignity and independence. The Agency for Healthcare and Research has found that the neighborhood model results in a higher quality of life with residents who are more engaged and more active resulting in the need for less medication.

This specialized high-quality care is already translating into better outcomes for seniors who live at Madrona House. One woman in particular comes to mind for me; in October 2013 she arrived at the Madrona House. She was extremely frail and was unable to walk, talk or feed herself. Now, only four months later, she is walking, talking, gained weight and able to eat on her own, and her medications have been cut in half. By making a move, she was able to get back on her feet and regain her quality of life.

The combination of assisted living and memory care also means that couples where one partner is suffering from dementia can remain close to each other, which makes a world of difference.

The opening of Madrona House represents an important increase in the number of local, close-to-home living options available to seniors in Kitsap County. Madrona House joins a growing number of quality Bainbridge Senior Living communities, which include Winslow Manor, Madison Avenue House, and the Wyatt House. Having these facilities available to the older members of our community is about much more than just having a place to live; it means that they can remain in the place they call home, closer to children, grandchildren, and friends, while still getting the care they need. This equals significantly more autonomy, more time together, and a higher quality of life.

Poor health is not an inevitable consequence of aging. With the right support, older adults can remain independent longer and enjoy a good quality of life. I’m proud to live in a community that values our seniors.

Dr. Gregory Keyes is a Bainbridge Island physician.

 

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