Aging In Place May Not Be An Option, But A Necessity

Aging In Place May Not Be An Option, But A Necessity

Brenda Edwards, a retired nurse, and her 79-year-old husband want to stay in their four-bedroom, ranch-style home in Oakdale, California, as their mobility becomes more limited.

So, Brenda, 70, splurged and paid $20,000 for an interior designer and an extra $95,000 to renovate their home of 20 years. Brenda had the kitchen aisles enlarged in case she or her husband ever needed a wheelchair. The bathroom now features an automated toilet seat that cleans the user upon activation, as well as a walk-in steam shower.

“We felt comfortable,” Brenda told ABC News. “We have a pool. We have a spa. We just put a lot of love and effort into this yard. We want to stay.”
It would not be financially feasible for them to move even if they wanted to because their house is almost paid for, Edwards added. “It would be too hard to purchase anything else,” she said.

Edwards and her husband are like many adults 50 years old and over who will do whatever they can to live in their home as long as possible or “Age in Place.” On the other hand, some older adults who want to age in place are moving out of their homes and into what’s called Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC). NORCs provide a variety of on-site services to support aging in place.

NORCs are communities or neighborhoods with a growing population of older adults who live in a building, group of buildings, or residential areas that were not purposely designed for seniors when they were built.

In these informal “villages,” health care and support services come to seniors who no longer want to worry about making home repairs, finding transportation to medical appointments, or juggling their limited finances to make ends meet. Some larger NORCs even have a central office that coordinates home care for the residents.

It’s just as well that older adults find alternative living since studies have found that the United States is not prepared to meet the housing needs of this rapidly aging population. In 2022, about 17.3 percent of the American population was 65 years old or over, a significant increase from 1950, when only eight percent of the population was 65 or over, according to figures from Statista.

Accessible housing that is critical to an older adult’s quality of life—affordable, barrier-free, well-located, and coordinated with supports and services—is in too short supply, according to a report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and the AARP Foundation. The report also found that in 2021, 11.2 million older adults were “cost-burdened,” meaning that they spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

“As Americans age, the need for safe and affordable housing options becomes even more critical,” says Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of the AARP Foundation. “High housing costs, aging homes, and costly repairs can greatly impact those with limited incomes.”

Despite housing, health, and other challenges, AARP reports that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to age in place, while the National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 88 percent of that same age group want to stay in their homes.

Aging in place is especially important to people who have a strong attachment to a home, want to stay in familiar surroundings, and have a sense of control over their lives rather than be limited by the rules and regulations of a traditional senior residential community.

Experts Say Aging in Place Takes Advance Planning

For people over 50 who want to age in place, experts on policy and aging and advocates for seniors recommend making preparations for staying in their homes. The following are some steps adults can take to plan for their future needs.

1. Set A Budget To Modify Your Home

Think proactively by setting a budget to make home modifications, like widening doorways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs. Owen Barclay, the owner of Accessible Home & Property, based in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, says people usually do modifications piecemeal, like starting with installing a grab bar for as little as $50 and later tackling larger projects like installing an elevator for $35,000.

“Despite people’s intentions to get ready for aging, people procrastinate… we end up doing expensive renovations for people who should have started the process anywhere from five to maybe even more than ten years earlier,” Owen told Everything Zoomer.

2. Create a Home-based Support Team

Living independently does not mean doing everything on your own. Having a good support “team” is the best thing that older adults can do, said Pieta Manning, an aged care and disability support service professional in Melbourne, Australia.

“To be as independent as you can be, you need to have people around you…it may be paid support, or it may just be a neighbor…someone to take the bins out, or do a bit of cleaning,” Manning told The Senior.

The National Institute on Aging recommends talking to family, friends, and caregivers about what support you believe you may need to stay in your home.

3. Look to Professional Caregivers For Assistance

When your health condition changes and family members, friends, and neighbors can no longer provide the support you need, explore professional in-home care provided by a home care agency.

Professional caregivers provide support, such as helping with bathing, dressing, toileting, and other daily living activities. They also perform light household chores, shop for groceries, and provide transportation to medical appointments and recreational activities.

While professional caregivers work in shifts on different days of the week, some agencies provide caregivers who live with older adults. Live-in caregivers have most of the same duties as caregivers who work in shifts. However, live-in caregivers stay with their clients on a daily or indefinite basis. Hiring a live-in caregiver gives family members peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones are not alone and their needs are being met by a skilled professional.

Most importantly, experts say seniors should talk with their family members and take into consideration all of the pros and cons of aging in place, even before moving to a NORC, which has also become popular in Toronto, Canada.

“I think it just comes over you that you’ve had enough of home ownership, and looking after a big pile that you have to worry about, and go up and down stairs, and you want a more streamlined life,” Cathrin Bradbury, a Toronto-based journalist who writes about NORCs, said during an interview on The Big Story Podcast.

According to a National Institute on Aging and Canadian Medical Association survey of Canadians 65 and over, people are prepared to “do everything they can” to avoid being housed in an institutional setting.

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