Aging In Place

Aging In Place

Aging In Place

Some older adults in North Carolina who want to age in place are becoming members of a “pod”—a care pod, that is—to get the services that they need to stay in their homes.

CarePods, a Charlotte-based company, is transforming the way seniors age in place in the greater Charlotte area, as well as in Fort Mill and Rock Hill. Described as “the first senior care service of its kind in the country,”

CarePods groups seniors who live within 15 miles of each other into 25-member “pods,” according to CarePods Founder and CEO Katie Davis.

A dedicated registered nurse case manager oversees each pod and coordinates health-related services, which includes arranging for transportation to doctor appointments, connecting pod members with a geriatric pharmacist or a physical therapist. The company also works with local home care agencies to vet and schedule caregivers for pod members who need daily support in their homes, Davis said.

Seniors—particularly those without family and friends nearby—are willing to do whatever they can to get the support they need to remain independent.

If there was one thing that the COVID-19 pandemic did, it was further the desire of many older adults to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Seniors who lived in their own homes had family and neighbors to watch out for them, as opposed to those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that restricted visits or banned visitors altogether to reduce the risk of residents’ exposure to the coronavirus disease.

A growing number of studies and surveys are showing that adults 65 years old and older want to have a say in how they live their lives as they age. For example, a survey by the American Advisors Group (AAG) found that more than 90 percent of seniors prefer to remain in their homes rather than move into an assisted living facility.

Canadian Seniors Plan To Stay In Place, Too

Seniors in the United States are not the only ones who want to age in place. Canada’s older adult population wants to stay in their own homes, too. In fact, a survey from the National Institute of Ageing and Telus Health found that 91 percent of Canadians of all ages, and almost 100 percent of Canadians 65 years of age, said they plan to support themselves to live safely and independently in their own home as long as possible.

To that end, 35 percent of working adults and 40 percent of retirees who participated in a March of Dimes study said they plan to modify their homes for care-related reasons. This group represents “a sizable proportion of the Canadian population who have or will address disability- or aging-related concerns through modifying their homes,” according to a news release on the study.

What’s more, 55 percent of working-age adults and 64 percent of seniors said they have already modified their homes so that an individual with a disability can live at home.

Richard Dutchak and his spouse hired an occupational therapist to help his mother-in-law remain in her home as long as possible. Dutchak, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, said this started him to think about their future.

Dutchak, who recently retired, said he and his spouse are “psyching ourselves up and convincing ourselves” for the time when it gets challenging going up and down stairs. He said they will more than likely downsize from their custom-built multi-level home.

Dutchak said that had they known 30 years ago what they know now, “we would have built a bungalow and included an easy path to make it friendly for aging.”

Among the common modifications, people are making now are adding a master bathroom and a full bathroom to the main floor of a two-story home, according to Marnie Courage, founder of Enabling Access Inc., a Winnipeg-based company that provides home assessments for aging in place. The changes are made to “improve safety, participation, and function for people.”

Contractor Ryan Johnson, a partner with Alair Homes in Barrie, Ontario, said he has seen an increase in the number of retired Canadians turning their cottages into permanent homes and adding master bedrooms on the main floor, which is more accessible, while adult children and grandkids have rooms on the second floor.

Legislation Warranted to Help Seniors Age in Place

While people may want to age in place, the fact remains that many will face challenges in actually carrying out that goal. For instance, seniors in urban areas who no longer drive will need access to transportation. In addition, modifying a home for safety purposes can be costly, depending on the changes needed.

The seniors’ desire to age in place and the uphill battles some face have not gone completely unnoticed by state policymakers. Without intervention, however, many seniors might have to consider institutional care, which could mean an increase in costs for the state, according to a new research report by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the AARP Public Policy Institute.

The report found three specific areas in which states can help seniors realize their goal of aging in place:

  • Land use policies that can help seniors live closer to or within walking distance of the services that they need.
  • Providing more transportation options to reduce the reliance on having to use a personal car.
  • Providing affordable and accessible housing to meet consumer demand and decrease institutionalization.

Some states already have statutes in place to improve these areas, according to the report. For instance, 25 states, along with Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have “complete street” policies, 16 of which were enacted by state legislatures. Complete Streets are streets that are easier for everyone, including seniors, people with disabilities, to cross the streets, bicycle, move actively with assistive devices, and walk to and from train stations.

In North Carolina, CarePods arranges transportation for pod members through the Lyft ride-hailing platform, delivers meals two times a week, as well as helps them find a handyman to make home repairs—something else that comes along with homeownership.

The AAG survey, in which over 1,500 people between the ages of 60 and 75 participated, was designed to gather information on how meaningful “the home” is to seniors in the United States. For 82 percent of the respondents, “the home” is something that they have no plans to sell or move away from, according to the survey.

“For seniors, the comfort, safety, and independence of their home outweigh the desire to move,” Martin Lenoir, chief marketing officer at AAG, said in a press release.

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