The Facts About Aging In Place

The Facts About Aging In Place

The Facts About Aging In Place

Older adults’ desire to stay in their current homes as they age is not waning but seemingly increasing. Many seniors are already making preparations to age in place, and those who have yet to start modifying their homes or their lifestyles already plan to do this in the future.

Aging in place refers to the ability of adults 60 and older to remain in their homes and communities as long as possible. The movement among seniors to live independently is so popular that Forbes Health dedicated an article on statistics and facts for 2024 to help inform older adults and their loved ones as they make decisions surrounding home modifications and lifestyle choices.

Why is the trend of aging in place so popular in the United States? It’s primarily due to the growth of the older adult population in the country. For instance, between 2010 and 2020, the number of Americans age 60 and older increased by 33 percent, from 57.5 million to 76.5 million, according to the Administration for Community Living’s 2021 Profile of Older Americans report. Within that same period, the number of Americans aged 45-64 (who will reach age 65 over the next two decades) increased by 1 percent, from 81.8 million to 82.8 million.

Forbes Health suggests that when planning to age in place, individuals should consider several factors, including:

  • Any chronic conditions they or a spouse may have, such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia, to understand and plan for necessary health care needs.
  • The potential help they may need with daily living activities, such as bathing, eating, dressing, using the toilet, or moving from a bed to a chair. This care can be provided by paid caregivers, family members, or both.
  • Whether they will have support from family members and local resources to help them meet their various needs.
  • Whether they can afford to pay for help with household chores, grocery shopping, personal care, as well as managing finances and other issues involved with living independently.

While aging in place is ideal, the challenges to living independently are expected to grow exponentially over the next two decades as the baby boomer generation retires and moves toward the need for in-home support and greater health care needs, according to Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a geriatrician and founder of “Dr. Liz Geriatrics,” an online support and education website for dementia caregivers.

The Necessity of Making Homes “Aging Ready”

Although older adults want to age in place, many seniors say their homes are not currently designed to meet their future needs. For instance, a 2020 report by the U.S. Census Bureau estimates only 10 percent of American homes are “aging ready,” meaning they feature a step-free entryway, a bedroom, and bathroom on the first floor, and at least one bathroom accessibility feature.

In addition, the 2019 Census on the American House Survey reported that nearly 52 percent of homes with two or more floors do not have an entry-level bedroom, while nearly 39 percent of homes with two or more floors do not have an entry-level bathroom.

However, the University of Michigan’s (UM) 2023 National Poll on Healthy Aging found older adults had some common accessibility features already installed in their homes, such as:

  • Door frames that are wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through
  • Lever-style door handles
  • Home entrances with ramps or no stairs
  • Shower chairs or benches
  • Raised-height toilet seats
  • Grab bars
  • Barrier-free showers

Homeowners already know that modifications to their homes will be necessary if they want to age in place. In fact, one-third of participants in a 2021 AARP survey said modifications would be necessary in their homes should they have physical limitations in the future.

According to Forbes Health, some home modifications and safety features that would make a home more accessible for aging in place include:

  • Walk-in tubs
  • Motorized stairlifts that enable residents to ride in a seated position up and down the stairs.
  • Home elevators
  • Medical alert systems
  • Motorized lift chairs that gently move a person from a seated to a standing position or sit the person down easily and safely.

Generally, senior-friendly home modifications can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on what homeowners choose to install.
Older adults who want to stay in their homes as long as possible or their adult children are willing to pay for remodeling projects.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) 2023 Remodeling Market Index survey, 76 percent of remodelers said they have received more requests for aging-in-place-related features over the past five years.

“As the average age of homeowners rises, we are seeing that more and more people are understanding the benefits of remodeling to handle the needs of aging in place,” Alan Archuleta, NAHB Remodelers Council Chair, said in a news release. “This awareness is driven by technology, the cost of elder care, and the idea of staying in the homes they love!”

Living in Urban and Rural Communities

Older adults who live in urban areas have more access to resources that help them age in place than people who live in rural areas. For instance, seniors residing in largely populated areas have access to senior centers, health and wellness programs, regular social events, and other activities.

On the other hand, older adults living in rural areas have fewer local options, which is concerning, Dr. Landsverk said. For one, there is a greater potential for isolation, particularly for those who have problems with transportation challenges. This can lead to changes in lifestyle, Dr. Landsverk added.

Older adults in rural areas are not the only ones in jeopardy of isolation. The results of UM’s healthy aging poll found that more than one in three older adults ages 50-80, or 34 percent of the respondents, reported feeling isolated (29 percent some of the time and 5 percent often). And for some, social isolation can lead to loneliness. In addition, lifestyle changes such as living alone, hearing loss, chronic illness, and loss of family and friends can increase loneliness among seniors.

Because isolation and loneliness can negatively impact both physical and mental health, Dr. Landsverk recommends that older adults try to stay involved in local activities, such as sports, arts, and religious community groups, instead of staying home.

Staying In Control

Older adults have different reasons for wanting to age in place, but Forbes Health reports that one of the top reasons is a desire to be independent and maintain control of their personal lives and space.

“Many older adults fear someone else taking control and putting them in a nursing home,” Dr. Landsverk says. Staying active and connected to community and family is key to successful aging.”

It’s possible that many people can realize their goal of aging in place, but Dr. Landsverk added that doing so takes planning, financial stability, and “clear-eyed recognition of the realities of aging,” including the possibility of dementia.

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