Aging in place is when a senior continues to live independently or semi-independently in their own home or community.
According to a 2016 Aging in Place report by HomeAdvisor, 61 percent of Americans 55 and older plan to age in place in their current home because it’s convenient, they want to retain their independence or because it will allow them to be close to family.
Often you have to make some changes so that a senior’s home is as safe as possible and can meet a one’s physical needs as he or she gets older. It’s also important that your loved one is in a community that is accessible to the services and support he or she needs.
Modifying your home
Several physical changes make it important to modify the home as seniors age. Seniors are more at risk for falls because of balance issues and they may experience reduced mobility, vision loss and deal with chronic health conditions.
To make the home more comfortable and safer, consider widening doorways, adding more lighting, changing your flooring to prevent trip hazards, changing all door knobs to easy-to-use handles, adding handrails near your bed and getting chairs that have an armrest. In the kitchen, raising the height of appliances, installing pull-out shelves or a small kitchen island with seating can offer a safe workspace to prepare meals.
In the bathroom, add an elevated toilet seat and grab bars to make getting in and out of the tub easier. If you need help remodeling, consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), a contractor who has undergone special training to help homeowners make age-related home modifications.
Sometimes aging in place also may mean finding another home in your current community. If your current home is multiple levels with lots of stairs, you may want to opt for one-level living instead in a ranch home or an apartment. Housing affordability will play a huge role in this. Some communities have set aside affordable housing for those 55 and older or other people whose income qualifies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also sponsors several subsidized housing programs. It’s also worth checking with your state’s housing department to see if it offers rental assistance, vouchers or other subsidized programs for senior housing.
Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care at Care.com, mentions the option of moving into a senior “village” in her book My Parent’s Keeper.
“Consider the Village movement, a growing option for seniors who want to ‘age in place,’ staying in their homes and communities. Members of the ‘Village’ pay an annual fee, ranging from $150 to over $500, for access to discount services such as transportation, home modification and repair, in-home care, and meal delivery. Villages don’t deliver the services themselves; they work with pre-screened providers that offer preferred rates. Since the majority of seniors want to age in place, the Village concept allows them easy access to supports that help them do just that. Go to the Village to Village Network website to find out if there is a village near you.”
Hiring a caregiver
Whether you choose to remain in your current home or purchase a new one, you may need help with caregiving. Many agencies offer these services, but you also can find an in-home caregiver by searching vetted, secure databases online.
Even if you do hire an in-home caregiver, consider installing a sensor-based remote monitoring or personal emergency alert system so that you can easily access help if you ever need it and so that your loved one’s or caregivers can make sure you’re safe.
However, in some cases, you may have to age in place in the home of an adult child or another family member. Caregiving can be a challenge even if a loved one lives 30 minutes away, so moving in with a relative — where you have your own dedicated space — may be a good compromise, especially if your family cannot afford assisted living.
But before this happens, have a discussion with your family and set the proper boundaries. Even if a senior ends up living with a family member, he or she still will want some independence. Openly communicate your expectations so that everyone has the same understanding.
Everyone wants to grow old with dignity, and for many seniors that means aging in place in surroundings in which you’re comfortable. However, even though you have your mind set on doing this, you need to make plans for aging in place now — before you actually need to. Work with your family and friends or seek the necessary support services to make modifications to your home, to line up affordable or subsidized housing and to research in-home caregivers. Preparing for this transition now will make things a lot easier later on, and help you feel more in control of how you age and where you do it.