Aging In Place: Healthier Life; Latest Trend
The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, which keeps track of the housing trends in the country, has set its sights on the older adult population. The federally backed home mortgage company, better known as Freddie Mac, conducted two surveys within five years to determine the attitudes and perceptions adults 55 years old and older have toward housing.
One sentiment that has not changed since the first survey was taken in 2016: Older adults are not in a hurry to move out of their homes. Of the 2,249 older adults who took the 2021 survey, 66 percent said they plan to age in place, a 3 percent increase from the 2016 survey. Only 27 percent of respondents felt confident they would move again.
The Freddie Mac survey responses reflect the sentiments of many seniors nationwide who say they want to live in their current home and not move into a nursing home or assisted living facility. Now, more older adults feel confident that they can do so. For instance, 34 percent of the 2021 respondents felt very confident they will have a financially comfortable retirement, compared to 24 percent in 2016.
According to Freddie Mac, when and how older adults choose to sell their homes has implications on housing supply and demand because they hold the majority of real estate wealth in the United States, and the nation’s housing supply has fallen to record lows in the past two years.
Survey respondents have plans for their current homes. Not only do they plan to stay in their homes, but 70 percent of the homeowners said they plan to leave their current home, or money from the sale of their home, to their children or family members. In addition, 24 percent of people who rent said they did not believe they will be able to leave anything to their family at all, compared to 3 percent of homeowners.
According to the Freddie Mac survey, this divide between renters and homeowners shows that homeowners are significantly more likely than renters to feel more comfortable aging in place.
The Changing Meaning of “Aging in Place”
Most people understand the term “aging in place” to mean people 55 years old and older staying in their homes as they age rather than selling their homes and moving into a senior living facility.
While this is the definition that is generally used now, the term has held several definitions over the past four decades, according to Elizabeth Bauer, who writes about retirement policy and discussed aging in place in a June 5 article in Forbes.com.
For instance, an October 1978 article in The Geographical Review, used aging-in-place to describe a disproportionate share of older adults who stayed in certain regions of the country while younger people left for better economic opportunities.
In addition, Bauer also mentioned a 1982 dissertation, “Aging in Place: An Investigation of the Housing Consumption and Residential Mobility of the Elderly,” by James David Reschovsky. In his dissertation, Reschovsky noted that many older adults cannot move, for various reasons, even if leaving their homes would be more beneficial for them. The inability to move away from housing that does not meet the needs of older adults prompts concerns over their welfare.
More recent academic literature points to the World Health Organization’s broader definition of aging in place as referring to older adults living relatively independently in their current home or an “appropriate level of housing.”
Currently, AARP presents the clearest definition of aging in place as staying in one’s current home forever or for as long as possible. And, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and policymakers who accept AARP’s definition are doing whatever they can to make this happen for older adults.
Study: Aging in Place With Support Leads To Longer, Healthier Life
Harvard Health defines aging in place as “living safely and independently for as long as possible—wherever you choose to live.” To do this successfully, however, means that older adults will need resources and personal services that promote a healthy, safe, and comfortable lifestyle.
A team of researchers at the University of Missouri (MU) wanted to examine aging in place and how having support and resources allow older to adults live independently as long as possible. To do this, the team of investigators analyzed health data from 2011 to 2019 of more than 190 residents at TigerPlace, a senior living facility developed in partnership between the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and Americare Senior Living.
Located in Columbia, Missouri, TigerPlace has one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, a dining area, a movie theater, a coffee bar, an exercise center, group activities, and pet therapy visits. The study found that older adults were able to stay healthier longer because registered nurse care coordinators were able to identify illnesses early and quickly in residents and provide them with appropriate care and services.
For example, registered nurse care coordinators assessed TigerPlace residents every six months for such issues as depression, risk of falling, and physical condition. What’s more, some older adults chose to use noninvasive motion, bed, and depth sensors that helped to track their level of activity, respiratory rate, heart rate, and fall detection. Any changes in activity, new or increased falls, and the assessment were used to identify illnesses, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection, as early as possible so interventions could be provided quickly.
“The goal is to identify slight declines in health as early as possible so the right services can be put into place, whether it is connecting them with a doctor, beginning therapy or starting treatment to depression, whatever is needed based off the assessments,” Lori Popejoy, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, said in a news release about the study.
According to the study, residents maintained function in the environment of their choice longer at a cost less than in nursing homes, and just above residential care costs.
The key to older adults’ healthy living at TigerPlace was having personal support when needed, and opportunities to socialize and exercise.
“For older adults that are still living at home and maybe starting to notice increased difficulty completing daily activities, or for those who are struggling with social isolation, moving to a facility like TigerPlace can be very helpful for living a healthier life longer and possibly avoiding the need to ever move to a nursing home,” Popejoy said.
The study was published in the May-June 2022 issue of the journal, Geriatric Nursing.