12/04/2012 07:00 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2013

Why the Time Is Right for Housing Plus Services

As executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Applied Research, I regularly have the pleasure of meeting with aging experts across the country and around the world to discuss issues that are important to older people.

I've noticed that a growing number of these meeting are beginning to center on our global challenge to find better ways to help older people age in place.

So far this fall, for example, I've attended three meetings focusing on Housing Plus Services models that bring community-based services into affordable housing properties so that older adults may remain healthy and independent for as long as possible.

New York: Affirming the Role of Community

In mid-October, I traveled to Stony Brook University in New York for an international conference on aging in place. Representatives from the United States, Sweden, Germany and China presented their work.

We all agreed that the local community -- whether it is a city, town, county or neighborhood -- plays a major role in allowing seniors to remain independent. We affirmed the need to create age-friendly communities with good transportation systems, senior-friendly infrastructures and robust social networks so aging citizens can get around easily and safely and so they don't feel isolated or alone.

We also agreed that successful Housing Plus Services programs require a coordinated health care system and integrated funding for health care and home and community-based services. That way, older adults have access to a team of caregivers and housing managers who work together to make sure that every senior gets all the services and supports they need.

Denver: The Housing Plus Services Learning Collaborative

At the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in late October, I had the pleasure of meeting with 12 teams of housing properties and service providers that make up our new Housing Plus Services Learning Collaborative.

Collaborative members will spend the next two years supporting one another as they develop strategies to coordinate and deliver health and supportive services to older adults living in affordable independent senior housing communities.

I am very excited about the potential these teams have to improve the lives of older adults while saving health care dollars.

Paris: Developing Global Housing Plus Services Policies

At the beginning of November, I participated in an expert "consultation" sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris.

The OECD helps its 34 member nations -- including the United States -- establish policies to improve the economic and social wellbeing of people around the world.

Fifty experts representing 15 countries came together for 2 days to discuss how the nations of the world might integrate services into housing for vulnerable populations. These populations include the homeless, individuals and families at risk for homelessness, younger people with mental health and substance abuse issues and the elderly.

During a session on the needs of older adults, we talked a great deal about the Housing Plus Services models that are beginning to take root in the United States.

Housing Plus Services: The Time is Right

OECD has done significant work in health, human services and long-term care over the past five decades. But this is the first time it has focused on the intersection between housing and services.

This is a monumental step forward. An OECD policy on Housing Plus Services could go a long way toward influencing policy and practice around the world.

A confluence of factors -- including global economic pressures and the aging of the world's population -- are providing the opportunity we need to promote Housing Plus Services models worldwide.

More and more people are seeing these models as a way to provide services and supports that are integrated, person-centered, effective and efficient.

I'm truly honored and excited to be part of what is quickly becoming an international movement to promote Housing Plus Services.