Aging in place is the ability to remain in the living environment of your choice, safely and comfortably, as you grow older.
Most adults would prefer to stay in their own home as they age. I don’t know many people who are interested in leaving their family home to move into an assisted living facility or nursing home. Fortunately, there are many accommodations that can make the dream of aging in place a reality.
The concept of Aging in place has been growing in popularity over the last decade. The influx of Baby Boomers reaching the over 60 milestone has certainly had an impact on that. One third of American households have at least one member that is over the age of 60 and most of them intend to stay in their current home as they age. They are choosing to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
Planning to Age in Place can start at any time. I like to think of it as Aging with Intent. As you go about living your life, you can make intentional choices that will set you up to be able to Age In Place.
One of the best ways to ensure you will be able to remain as safe and independent as possible in your home as you age is to think of the issues you may encounter in the future when you make changes to your home now.
Some home modifications that could help you in future years are: Increased lighting, including brighter bulbs and placing switches at both ends of hallways and stairways, additional railings and grab bars, picking up throw rugs and decluttering walking paths, non-skid flooring, hand held shower heads, walk in shower or tub, entrance ramps instead of stairs, wide stairs to allow for stair lift installation, wide doorways. Slide-out shelving, replacing knobs with door levers and drawer pulls and purchasing easier to use appliances such as a microwave drawer or an oven with a side-hinged door.
The cost of these modifications can range from free (decluttering) to many thousands of dollars (stair lifts or new appliances). Planning can help spread the cost out over many years as you consider possible future needs whenever you make changes to your home.
When making potentially expensive renovations to your home it is helpful to realize that the cost of nearly any renovation you make is going to be less expensive than the cost of transitioning to an assisted living or nursing facility, which can range from tens of thousand of dollars annually to over one hundred thousand dollars for one year. That knowledge can help put any renovation costs into perspective.
Whether you are developing your own aging in place plan or you are a caregiver or family member of an older person who is aging in place, technology can be very helpful.
The technology available to help people live safely and independently in their home as they age ranges widely. You can purchase large button telephones and easy to use cell phones for less than one hundred dollars. On the other end of the spectrum, costing a little more, are devices that monitor movement to detect falls and automatically call for help.
Other technology options include: ovens that turn off after a period of time, faucets that control water temperatures to eliminate the possibility of scalding, voice assistants that can tell you the weather or make phone calls or play music by voice command, home security systems that monitor temperature and CO2 levels and can call for help if needed.
Incorporating technology into your home may feel like a luxury or convenience right now, however in the future it may be something you rely on. Today it might be convenient to use an intelligent cloud based personal assistant device to build your shopping list or ask about the weather. A few years from now, if vision problems arise and you are having trouble making calls to friends and family or the doctors office, you will appreciate your personal assistant even more when they can just ask her to make calls for you.
Smart homes and other technological advances are definitely beneficial for any aging in place plan and getting used to them before you actually need them is a good idea.
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Invite your family and friends to help you plan. Your loved ones can help you brainstorm ways to stay active, vital and independent throughout your aging process. They know you well and will be excited to help you age in place.
A good plan will help limit the amount of caregivers you will need in the future and help you enjoy family and not feel like you are burdening them with care needs.
There are also community supports that help people remain in their own homes even as certain tasks become more challenging. Local senior centers are a great resource. They will be able to connect you with Meals on Wheels, so you can get a well-balanced meal delivered right to your door once a day. You can get help to grocery shop or get a ride to appointments. Your senior center can tell you more about the services available in your community.
Visiting nurses can make it possible to stay at home even with significant health concerns. Your Doctor can connect you with a home health organization if he or she feels you could benefit from nursing care in your home.
Choosing to Age in Place
Planning to Age in Place is not just for “old” people. It is for any person who wants to take responsibility for how well they live as they age.
When you think of your golden years what do they look like? Do you want to live in your own home and community, safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of your age or ability level? If the answer is yes, then you are choosing to age in place.
Live intentionally so that you can ensure you have the quality of life you want as you age. Right now is the best time to start developing your plan for Aging In Place. If you are still working or raising a family, now is the time to think about your plan. If you have already retired, now is the time to start planning. Start aging with intent today so you can age in place in the future.