Aging in Place! Yes, It Is Possible!
The aging in place movement has grown so strong that older adults are finding more local and national support to help them maintain their independence. Studies are finding that seniors who age in place in familiar environments stay active and engaged in their community, which promotes quality of life, life satisfaction, and self-esteem.
Recently, AARP and the Lowe’s home improvement chain announced a two-year collaboration to offer information and guidance on how to improve an existing home or design a home for seniors who want to age in place.
“People are living longer and they want to live their best lives at every age,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins said in an announcement about the collaboration with Lowe’s. “The best way to continue living in the home you love is to make healthy aging improvements today that will benefit you tomorrow.”
Nearly 90 percent of people over 65 say they want to stay in their home as long as possible, according to an AARP study. What’s more, 4 out of 5 people in that age group believe their current home is where they want to live.
While seniors may want to age in place, there are many questions surrounding the plan, but the most commonly asked questions are what exactly is aging in place and does it actually work?
What Does “Aging in Place” Mean?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “aging in place” as: “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
In other words, aging in place means staying in your home for as long as possible, and not having to move into an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or the home of an adult child.
Seniors want to live independently for several reasons, one of which is financial. Some seniors believe staying home is more affordable than moving into a senior residential community. For instance, in 2020, the national median cost of an assisted living facility was $51,600 a year. A private room in a nursing home was more than double, with a median national cost of $105,850 per year.
Aging in place also means seniors can stay in the community where they go shopping, eat out with friends, and visit their doctor, with whom they are familiar and have established a relationship.
Is It Possible To Age in Place?
Aging in place is possible as long as seniors have the support and resources they need to manage their daily living activities. Over time, seniors who develop health challenges may need professional caregivers to help them bathe, dress, and groom themselves or visiting nurses to provide medical-related assistance.
Seniors may also need to make home repairs, purchase new appliances, and do yard work. However, elderly homeowners who cannot do these services themselves can hire others to do this work for them.
Transportation must also be taken into consideration for seniors who do not drive and live in rural communities where there is no public transportation.
With a home maintenance budget and a support system in place, it is possible for seniors to live independently.
What Is An Aging in Place Design?
An aging-in-place design is an open floor plan that makes a house accessible, comfortable, and safe for seniors to move around. This type of design is associated with what’s called a “universal design” which removes barriers in a house so that anyone, regardless of age or physical ability, can use the spaces.
A universal design works in favor of older adults since it involves having more open spaces, wider doors, and hallways to accommodate a wheelchair, a scooter, other medical equipment.
Since smart technology has become a popular way to enhance seniors’ security and well-being, an aging-in-place design might include setting up Internet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth so that smartphones or tablets can connect to smart devices. For example, seniors can turn on their ovens, a washing machine, or lights, or adjust the thermostat just by touching a button on a smartphone or another smart device. Adult children or caregivers can monitor seniors with motion sensors that track movement and detect falls.
What Would Be An Example Of Aging in Place?
An example of aging in place would be a couple 65 years old and over who decide to stay in their home even though they have ongoing health concerns. To make their home better fit their needs, the couple might:
- Install a chairlift (or stairlifts) to navigate a staircase or remove the staircase altogether.
- Construct a bedroom on the main level of the home or convert open space into a bedroom.
- Install a walk-in tub or walk-in shower with grab bars and grips.
- Install levers to replace doorknobs (that may be hard to grip for seniors with arthritis in their hands or fingers).
- Install non-slip flooring or carpeting. Area rugs are a hazard for seniors because of the risk of tripping over them.
If caregivers are needed, family members are usually the first ones contacted for care. However, a couple aging in place may consider hiring a professional live-in caregiver provider or an agency that provides a home health aide to visit a few days out of the week.
Aging in place means doing whatever is necessary to stay in your home for as long as possible.
Planning Ahead to Age in Place
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends seniors make plans to age in place by first talking with their family, friends, and neighbors—the biggest source of help for seniors—about the best way to get what they need.
There are also costs involved with aging in place. However, paying for a few services out of pocket may be less expensive than moving into an assisted living facility or a nursing home, according to the NIA. Depending on the type of services or personal care needed, seniors may be able to find assistance from:
- The local Area Agency on Aging
- Local and state offices on aging
- Social Services
- Resources like benefits.gov to find possible benefits that seniors may qualify for
The NIA further suggests talking to professional geriatric care managers who are trained to help find resources and services for seniors. More information on geriatric care managers can be found at www.aginglifecare.org.
While there may be challenges; overall, health experts and senior advocates say that older adults who age in place are more satisfied with life because they feel more comfortable in their own homes and are near family and friends.