While there are many options in senior living communities, most older people prefer the home where they have been living. Staying in one’s home and one’s community as one ages is often referred to as “aging in place.”
When seniors choose to age in place, they keep the sense of familiarity, attachment and security they associate with their home and neighbors while retaining a strong sense of independence. But it also requires making smart decisions about their home and lifestyle in order to stay safe and comfortable.
While the majority of Americans age in place, it is not meant for everyone. Before you or your loved one comes to a decision, it’s important to consider the benefits and potential problems of committing to an aging in place lifestyle for the foreseeable future.
Advantages of Aging in Place
Many seniors enjoy aging in place, for the reasons listed below.
- Cost: An assisted living community or retirement home can cost upwards of $3,000 per month. Even if you haven’t paid off your mortgage by the time you hit the golden years, living at home can be decidedly cheaper.
- Familiarity: Friends, clubs, groups, activities and connection with one’s community are common reasons for wanting to age in place.
- Comfort: It’s your home—you know every crack, creak and trick about it. The rooms, yards and gardens are all set up exactly how you want them to be.
Disadvantages of Aging in Place
Aging in place can come with its own hurdles as well.
- It’s not always cheap. Certain modifications—like installing wheelchair ramps or needed bathroom renovations—can be expensive. Similarly, the added expense for seniors who need daily assisted living help or in-home care can be costly.
- Some locations can lack the necessary provisions or social opportunities an elderly person requires.
- Home upkeep can be increasingly difficult.
- Some home layouts can become increasingly difficult to navigate, even with modifications.
Risks of Aging in Place
Some seniors may become too attached to an area and refuse to move even though it would be in their best interest to do so. For example, seniors who cannot keep their home in good order or who can’t afford necessary repairs and safety modifications are at a high risk of injuring themselves.
If friends and family are far away, isolation can be a serious issue—remember, staying social is an integral part of being both emotionally and physically healthy.
Seniors with serious physical or memory problems, like Alzheimer’s, should not live alone.
Tips for Aging in Place Smoothly
Certain things can make the aging in place process more comfortable.
- Keep the property clutter-free. Falls are the primary reason for older people’s emergency room visits, so keep the house free of additional clutter. Store or sell unused items.
- Check local resources: The community should have senior programs in place. This could range from daily check-in calls for seniors living alone to shuttle services for seniors who can’t drive. Contact town hall or a local Administration on Aging branch to see what is available.
- Be financially aware: Seniors who need financial help modifying their homes should look into government aid programs for doing so. Using the community’s food pantry and meals-on-wheels services can also help. If finances are a serious issue, consider downsizing to a smaller home or an apartment within the community.
- Make modifications: There are several easy modifications to make a home safer for seniors, like replacing old doorknobs with levers and installing handrails in key areas.
- Stay social: Participating in social activities is important. If you feel your loved one is becoming isolated, consider the services provided by an adult day care facility.
Remember, as time goes by, more assistance and care may be needed. Being aware of and addressing these changing needs is an important part of aging in place safely.