SmartLife care is changing the way long term care looks

There is now such a variety of long-term care/senior living options; how do you help people find what will work best, especially if they’re planning in advance?  

The best practice for anyone exploring options for their future is education. When it comes to long-term care planning, the more proactive you can be, the better. Central Pa. offers a lot in terms of senior living options. The more knowledge a person can accumulate regarding available options, the more informed decisions they can make. In terms of helping people find what will work best for them, messaging is equally paramount. A clear message with easy to digest language reduces confusion, leading to a more quality conversation. In one sentence, my intention is to lay out a clear message that SmartLife is for individuals who do not want to leave their home, but also want a plan in place for their future. To stay independent, planning ahead is essential. Be proactive. Explore options. And don’t hesitate to ask questions. 

Where do you see “aging-in-place” options like SmartLife going in the future?   

Growing and expanding, without a doubt. Statistics show nearly 90 percent of older adults want to stay in their own home. Sadly, less than half have prepared or given much thought to the steps they would need to take so they could remain safely and comfortably at home as they age. There is a strong desire from those who want to age in place, without always a great answer. We are seeking to change that. 

Continuing care at home (or life plan at home) programs are proving older adults can stay in their own home, yet enjoy peace of mind knowing they have a plan in place should their needs change.  

There are currently around 36 (of these) programs across the country. (A recent) actuary report stated the amount of “at-home” programs will triple within the next 10 years. I am working with several other continuing care at home programs to help create national education to better inform older adults who are looking for a plan to help protect them without having to move from the homes they love. This will help speak to a broader demographic and serve as a catalyst for “at-home” programs to be as well known, and in the same conversation as, traditional senior-living communities. All these programs seek to innovate and continually expand options.   

There has been a lot of focus on the baby boomers, but now the earliest GenXers are approaching 60, so are they starting to prepare for later in life as well? Are you seeing differing ideas or needs from that cohort? 

There appears to be greater understanding regarding the importance of pre-planning. Specifically, for an “at-home” program, realizing the necessity of joining before you need it. I am increasingly meeting with individuals who watched a friend or family member go through the ongoing difficulties of securing and paying for long-term care. (They) are quicker to understand the importance of having a plan in place before you need it. Additionally, I often speak with children of prospects looking into SmartLife as an option for their future. This is exactly why we now boast a few younger members who signed on after seeing the value their parents enjoy as members of the program.  

Increasing flexibility for the future continues to be important. Flexibility in fees, including how payments are made, have proven useful. Allowing members to break membership fees into installments has provided greater options in taking advantage of the fact that SmartLife’s fees fully qualify as a medical deduction come tax time. We continue to monitor the use of technology, smart home features and wearables for ongoing health monitoring. Simple smart lighting features can help reduce the risk of falls. Movement monitoring wearables are able to detect ECG and heart rate. Even AI has started addressing isolation and the importance of companionship. These features will continue to show their growing importance for younger generations.  

What does your dream senior living situation look like?   

My dream senior living situation is access to safe, quality care for all at a practical cost. Healthcare is  expensive. Long-term care is no exception. My personal dream senior living situation includes intergenerational living, along with the warmth of a sunny sky. I would love to have my kids — and at that time, hopefully grandkids — nearby. Their youth will help keep me young at heart. Surrounded by family, we would overlook the ocean with sand between our toes and enjoy the sun on our faces with a cool breeze cascading in off the waves. Our surrounding environment can so easily dictate our choices, mood and overall health. Be somewhere you can smile and continue to do so for as long as possible.   

By freelance writer Jennifer Botchie Deinlein  

About Andrew Solodky  

Andrew Solodky, 40, joined SmartLife VIA Willow Valley in 2015 as a sales advisor, later becoming sales supervisor and then manager of marketing and sales, which he has held for the past five years. He previously worked in the field with HCR ManorCare and Clipper Magazine. 

Solodky earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies, with honors, from Temple University.  

He lives in Lancaster with his wife and three children. 

Responding to those who choose to ‘age in place’

“Aging in place” has casually come to mean staying in your home as you move into old age. 


A whopping 90% of those over age 65 surveyed in an AARP study, found respondents do in fact want to stay in their own homes as long as possible. 


For many that could mean hiring a contractor to remodel or make home modifications, while for others it could mean building a first floor addition. 


Those considering an addition will likely request a master bedroom suite, walk-in closets, an aging-friendly bathroom and laundry set ups, according to Steven Dormann, president and owner of S&D Renovations, Inc., in Upper Macungie Township.  


“In the entire construction [industry] I’d say the aging in place piece is a small portion of it, [but] as more people are aging and don’t want to move out of their homes, it is a growing area of opportunity,” said Greg Harris, founder and owner of GP Harris Renovations and Remodeling in Jonestown, Lebanon County. 


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as the ability of a person to live safely and comfortably in their home, “regardless of age, income, or ability level.”  


Dormann said moving the master bedroom to the first floor, ensuring an accessible Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant first floor bathroom and bringing laundry facilities from the basement to the first floor were the most common changes client’s request.  


He said about 30% of his business is tied to aging in place home construction modifications. 


“One of our biggest requests – and majority of our addition projects – is a master suite on the first floor,” he said. 


Harris advises clients – regardless of their current age – to think about the long haul and how functional their current home and property will be as they age. 


“As humans, we don’t want to admit we’re getting older and need grab bars and wider doors,” Harris said.  


“I gently explain while they don’t [need grab bars] today, in the future someone in the family will need them. Make accommodations for the future, even if we don’t install the grab bar now,” Harris said 


For those planning to stay at least 10 years or longer in the home Frank Morici, a Realtor at Morganelli Properties in Hellertown, said investing in aging in place remodeling projects makes sense.  


While current construction material costs are high, Morici said markets tend to stabilize over time. How long the property owner stays will determine the ultimate return on an aging in place investment, he said. 


“We are finding a lot of multigenerational families looking for properties with an in-law suite, and they are hard to find,” Morici said.  


The small but sudden uptick in interest for properties that can easily accommodate aging parents is another element in the home buying market.  


Weighing the cost of selling and moving to an assisted living facility versus modifying a home that may not have a mortgage could help some property owners opt to think about an age in place plan. 


“Adding resale value to the house, which can accommodate wheelchairs rolling into a shower and being able to get through doorways and get to master bath and bedroom,” were positive elements to a first floor living plan, Harris said. 


Assisted Living.org estimated the average monthly cost at $3,750 in Pennsylvania to pay for assisted living care.  


Dormann said uncomplicated doorway widening – to provide access for wheelchairs and walkers – can cost from $2,000 to $5,000. Extensive or large additions or adding an elevator to access multiple floors of a home can cost upwards of $500,000 or more. 


He estimated the cost for a master suite, full bathroom, walk in closets and first floor laundry could run to $140,000.  


Clients beginning home renovation projects should continue to expect long lead times and delays, thanks to pandemic related supply chain and logistics interruptions. Stubborn skilled trade shortages continue to plague the construction sector, too, he said. 


“Set realistic expectations…and plan ahead,” Dormann said. 


As home smart technology continues to evolve, there are several applications – from lighting to starting the shower and adjusting water temperature – which can work in aging in place projects, and make the living easier. 


Dormann said everything is gravitating toward voice commands in the home.  


“We’ve starting doing remote controlled showers, [so] you can turn the shower own and set the temperature using a keypad,” he said. 


Sarah Thew, showroom manager and interior designer at Schuler Kitchen & Bath in Allentown, said more clients are asking about walk in tubs for their homes, which can cost from $5,200 or more for product before installation. 


“Bathing benches and fold down shower seats, hand held bars and grab bars [which have] come a long way and are prettier than they used to be” are among requested items to modify the bathroom, she said. 


Thew said requests for chromatherapy with walk in bathtub installations, is another trend, aimed at promoting wellness.  


Chromatherapy uses light spectrum colors in the bath or shower to help alleviate conditions like anxiety, for pain relief or to enhance mood and overall well being.  


Angela Carroll Ast, owner and creative director of ABCA Design with Decorating Den in Milford Township, in Bucks County recommends looking around the home and making the big decision about staying or selling before considering home remodeling modifications. 


“That’s the first decision. I have clients in their late 50s, and they are already thinking about this issue,” Ast said. 


From the type of modifications like laundry, bedrooms and baths to rethinking how existing rooms are being used, Ast said it’s important to look at things like steps into rooms – even a few steps can spell access trouble – garage access and flooring choices, too. 


“Sunken living room situations are a big red flag. It’s the one step that is the most dangerous step you can have in your house,” Ast explained. 


Is it easier to stay or leave is another question she recommends clients consider. 


“What are the challenges in front of you, [and] how do you want to use the space. Editing is an important aspect of aging in place,” Ast said. 


Melinda Rizzo is a freelance writer