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Cruise ships -- An alternative to assisted living facilities for the elderly?


Living on a cruise ship is a feasible and cost-effective option to assisted living facilities, and the services offered on a cruise ship parallel -- even surpass -- what is provided in senior care facilities, according to a study in the November issue of the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.

"Offering many amenities, such as three meals a day with escorts to meals, physicians on site and housekeeping/laundry services, cruise ship could be considered a floating assisted living facility," said Lee Lindquist, M.D., instructor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "Seniors who enjoy travel, have good or excellent cognitive function and require some assistance with activities of daily living are the ideal candidates for cruise ship care," Lindquist said.

Lindquist, who is also an attending physician in the divisions of geriatric and general internal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, compared costs over a 20-year life expectancy after moving to assisted living facilities, nursing homes and a cruise ship, including costs of treating acute illness, Medicare reimbursement and other factors.

She found that the net costs of cruise ship living were only about $2,000 higher ($230,000 vs. $228,000) than those associated with the assisted living facilities but resulted in higher quality over the 20-year period. Lindquist’s plan would include integration with regular passengers, with seniors selecting a cabin to inhabit as home during their prolonged cruise, whereas other passengers would disembark as usual.

The change in passengers would also afford seniors more stimulation and multiple interactions wit new people, she said. Lindquist also interviewed a group of non-bedbound, cognitively intact, community-dwelling seniors aged 65 to 85 for their response to possible cruise ship living. The seniors routinely rated the utility for cruise ship care higher than for traditional options and agreed that a market exists for cruise ship living as an alternative to traditional assisted living or nursing home care.

Younger older populations and retiring baby-boomers whom Lindquist queried felt that this idea would be a valuable option for their future. "If this option succeeds, seniors could have much more enjoyable assisted living experience and, for a change, look forward to a time when they become less independent," Lindquist said.

Elizabeth Crown | EurekAlert!
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