How to Age in Place
For seniors and folks looking to age in place, making long-term plans can seem overwhelming. When looking towards the future there is one thing guaranteed: change will be taking place. But that doesn't mean you have to change your long-term living arrangements. While many people assume that part of aging is moving, more and more of today's seniors are instead choosing to "age in place." Loved ones and technology are playing a big role in helping seniors age in place. Here is an in-depth guide on what that means and how to most effectively carry it out, from family support to necessary preparation, here is how to age in place:
What Does it Mean to Age in Place?
To age in place means that rather than move into a smaller home, an assisted living facility, or a senior community a person instead chooses to live out their senior years in their same home. This is not the same as saying that no changes are made. Rather, as a person ages, they will need to make changes to their home as well as to have scheduled assistance.
How to Age in Place at Home Alone?
While aging in place may be the desired course of action for the majority of seniors, that doesn't mean it is right for everyone. It's important to determine if it's right for you by asking yourself a few questions.
There are three major aspects of your life you'll need to examine:
- What kind of support network do you have in place or can you put it into place? As you age it's important to have both strong social connections as well as the ability to have help. People who plan to age in place need to have both formal and informal help. How will you get around when you are no longer able to drive, for instance?
- Will the place where you live work for aging in place? This includes determining if you'll be able to make the necessary modifications to your home as you age. Is it in the kind of community that is supportive of those who age in place?
- Finally, it's important to examine whether aging in place is right for you as an individual. Some of the things you'll need to consider include looking at your financial picture to decide if it will work with aging in place. Additionally, you need to consider your health. Another important consideration is your personality and state of mind. Ask yourself how well-suited you are to living at home? How will this change when your mobility changes?
How to Help Family Age in Place at Home?
If the person considering aging in place is a family member, it is common to feel some stress and anxiety. You may worry about your loved one being alone, especially if an accident should occur. But by supporting your family member in their choice to age in place you can make success that much easier.
It is true that aging in place is not the best option for everyone. It's important to help your family member determine if this is the right choice for them by having conversations, some of which are going to be tough discussions. This sometimes means learning to have conversations with your parents about the realities of aging. Some family members are not ready to accept the changes that are part of the process.
It is important to have these open discussions with the family member in order for aging in place to succeed. While some people may prefer their privacy respected than to have these discussions, even with family, this is fine so long as their needs are being met. Ideally, the family member will share what parts of aging in place have become difficult. This could be physical, like going down the basement steps, or emotional, like regularly eating alone. It could be difficult with a chore that previously was no problem. Remember these can be hard conversations for the family member as well, so you may both have to learn how to have these conversations together.
In trying to help your family member determine if aging in place is the right choice for them, here are some important things to consider:
- What kind of in-person care and time will family members be able to devote to helping their relative age in place. For those seniors who only have long-distance family, or whose families are all busy with intensive work schedules, aging in place may not be the best option.
- How realistic is it that you and your family member will be able to build a strong support network? Are there friends and neighbors in the area that can be relied on for help?
- Will the financial situation be able to pay for hired help and the modifications the house may need?
- Will the house be able to have the necessary modifications to accommodate your relative as they age?
- What kind of transportation options will be available when unable to drive?
- Will your family member accept paid home caregivers' help?
- Does your family member tend towards loneliness or isolation, or are they social?
What are the Benefits of Aging in Place?
The fact is, the vast majority of people prefer to stay living in their same homes. In fact, an AARP survey found that 76% of the respondents over 50 said that they would rather remain in their own homes as long as possible This strong preference is a major benefit. There are several other benefits as well:
- Aging in place gives seniors a sense of independence that other options can fail to provide.
- By remaining at home a senior is able to continue their regular routines in a familiar place and in the community where they have lived for years. They can easily maintain old relationships.
- The stress of having to downsize or having to get rid of possessions is eliminated.
- Financial costs for home care are often lower than in a dedicated facility (but not always).
How Do You Prepare for Aging?
There are some steps that you can take to best prepare for aging in place.
Conduct a Home Safety Check
This will serve two purposes. First, off it will make the current set-up of your home as safe as possible, minimizing falls and other kinds of accidents. This is so important for an older person who is living alone. Your home safety check will also allow you to do a safety audit. What accommodations are you likely to need as you age? How practical and affordable will these be?
More people than ever before are aging in place, and that is being assisted by new technology that is opening up possibilities that have previously only ever been imagined. Assistive technology is allowing people who are differently-abled due to illness or age to continue living active lives on their own. Smart devices in your home are great for assisting people who want to age in place.
Technology can also prove invaluable for keeping in touch and staying social. As the coronavirus epidemic showed, there are numerous ways to use technology to feel close to friends and loved ones and connect. Technology can also make important tasks that can become difficult with aging as easy as tapping a screen, from ordering groceries to be delivered to summoning a ride, technology means there are a lot of resources at your fingertips.
Be Mindful of Your Health
Aging in place is that much easier when you remain in good health. If you have a chronic health condition it's important to consider what kind of accommodations you will need for that as you age. It is important to keep regular check-ups and screenings and to engage in preventative medicine. Remember, one of the best ways to do this is to stay physically active and maintain a nutritious diet.
Have a Care Plan
One of the most important things to remember about aging in place is that although your place of residence won't change, many other things will. It's important to make a plan for when many of these eventualities will come to occur, such as when you can no longer walk up the stairs, when you can no longer drive, and when you need around-the-clock care.
Why do Seniors Want to Age in Place?
Many seniors feel a greater sense of autonomy when they stay living in their own homes. For many the idea of downsizing and having to part with many of their treasured possessions is unpleasant. Many people prefer to remain in homes where they have created many memories over the years, where everything is familiar.
What Are the Most Important Aspects of Aging in Place?
It is important to remember that a good aging-in-place plan must have several critical components. These include a strong support network, a realistic care plan, an individual committed to the challenges that can come with aging in place, and ideally a supportive family who can offer some caregiving as well. We have put together a great resource for anyone looking for housing resources for people with disabilities.
Help at Home for the Elderly
Aging in place requires help. And there is support out there. Here is where you can get started finding it in order to help you set up a support network:
Caregiver.org can help you find local caregiver help from government agencies, as well as non-profits and private businesses.
lotsahelpinghands.com provides a forum for those who want to help a hand to offer one to the community while giving seniors a place to request some help.
Eldercare.gov lets you search for resources by zip code.
Resources for Aging in Place
There are numerous websites that can be helpful in finding resources about aging in place. These include:
The National Institute of Aging, underneath the National Institute of health, put out a comprehensive guide to aging in place.
The AARP is chock full of helpful information for every aspect of aging.
This can be an invaluable resource in creating a support network.
Learn more about ways you can modify your home for aging in place.
Hi there! My name is Ryan Fitzgerald, and I am a REALTOR®. My goal is to help you learn more about real estate through our Real Estate Blog! Hopefully, you enjoyed the above blog post and it found a way to provide help or value to you. When you're ready to buy or sell a home of your own let us know here. Please feel free to join the conversation by dropping us a comment below.