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Though everyone’s aging process is unique, many older adults are deciding whether to remain in their homes or move to an environment like an assisted living community — whichever best caters to their well-being and supports healthy aging.
Research suggests that many older adults want to remain in their homes while surrounded by loved ones and the community they’re used to until it becomes difficult to do so.
In addition, a 2021 Home and Community Preferences survey by AARP of 2,826 U.S. adults found that about 75% of people over age 50 want to stay in their homes or communities for as long as possible.
Choosing to live in your home or the community you’re familiar with as an older adult is known as aging in place. Here, we deep dive into what it is and how you can age in place.
Simply put, aging in place means choosing to stay in your home with family, friends, and neighbors — instead of moving to a residential facility designed to support long-term care, such as an assisted living facility — as you grow older.
Many people prefer to age in place because it enables them to better manage their lives and stay connected to loved ones. It can also be more cost-effective than moving to a retirement home or assisted living community.
However, older adults with physical conditions or cognitive disorders may benefit from living in a more supportive environment, such as an assisted living facility, if their home stops accommodating their needs or becomes a safety concern.
Many adults want to age in place but haven’t yet taken steps to do so.
A National Poll on Healthy Aging, based on a survey of 2,277 adults ages 50 to 80, found that many older adults who wish to age in place need to improve their homes and plan for services like housekeeping, meal planning, and laundry.
About 88% said they want to avoid moving away from their homes for as long as possible. However, only 15% had considered what changes to make to their homes and living circumstances as they grow older. Your needs and living situation will likely change as you get older, so knowing when to start preparing your home for aging is important. It’s never too early to start planning for aging in place.
To start, consider what your ideal living situation looks like. For instance, if you want to maintain a strong support system in old age, you may invite loved ones to live with you if they already don’t, plan for regular visits, or relocate to be closer to them.
If you have a chronic health condition, discuss it with your doctor. They can share tips for the future and provide recommendations for a healthy diet and helpful devices, technology, or tools, like medication reminders, condition-monitoring devices, and wearable devices.
In general, people can successfully age in place when they have resources that provide them access to timely and adequate healthcare, housekeeping services, company, transportation, safety, and social and physical activities.
Age-related conditions like hearing and vision loss, sleeping difficulties, bone and muscle loss, diabetes, hypertension, and decline in physical and mental function can all affect a person’s ability to age in place.
Technology can help in this case. Wearable devices that monitor heart rate, body temperature, blood oxygen levels, sleep, blood pressure, physical activity levels, and more may help you better manage your health and even indicate when you may require medical attention. Some wearable devices can detect falls and contact emergency services.
Medication reminders and other devices can help remind you to take your medication and supplements or even drink water.
You can also get in-person support from healthcare professionals who may regularly visit to check up on you and address any health concerns.
Consider working with a company that offers regular housekeeping services — including general cleaning, changing your beddings, meal preparation, grocery shopping, laundry and pressing clothes, organizing your wardrobe, and so on — on a subscription model. You may also hire a personal housekeeper to do these chores for you.
Having regular company can support your emotional and social needs as you age. Connect with your loved ones as often as comfortable. You can talk with them virtually through Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, or any other video calling app you’re comfortable using, or meet up a few times a week for an in-person chat.
Host celebrations like Thanksgiving or birthdays in your home so you get to see and spend time with your family, friends, and other loved ones on important days.
You may also consider getting a pet to keep you company.
Physical and social activities
Try to be intentional with engaging in physical and social activities to support healthy and active aging in place.
You can meet these exercise requirements by walking around your house, taking evening strolls or jogging, playing with a pet, or taking the stairs whenever possible.
You can also create opportunities for social activities by joining groups with similar hobbies or interests, such as a tennis club, a book club, a dance class, or a cooking class, volunteering in your community, and regularly visiting your local library and museum.
While age-related health concerns like hearing loss, fatigue, limited mobility, or loss of coordination may affect your ability to drive, consider taking a bus, shuttle, taxi, Uber, or Lyft instead. Or sign up for a paratransit vehicle designed for people with physical disabilities.
Remodel home structures and replace home items as needed to make your home safer and more accessible. Consider investing in accessibility-friendly items, such as like nonslip bathtubs, grab bars, shower chairs, adjustable beds, toilet seat risers, and more.
Aging in place comes with movement, safety, health, social support, and well-being concerns that may make anyone who desires to live independently carefully consider their decision.
If you have a physical disability or limited mobility, you might be concerned about movement limitations around the house or outside.
In addition, you may worry about experiencing loneliness when living alone. In general, older adults may be prone to loneliness or social isolation due to factors like the loss of loved ones or living with health conditions like hearing issues, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. You may worry about growing or maintaining your social network, staying socially active, and meeting other social needs while living independently.
You may also be concerned about how to keep your environment secure and safe, or you may worry about becoming sick unexpectedly and getting medical care right away.
These concerns are all valid, and you’ll want to be sure to think through them when deciding whether you want to live independently as you age. Should you decide to age in place, know that there are many tools, such as medical alert systems and other technology, available to help you feel safe and secure in your home.
How aging in place affects loved ones
Aging in place may mean loved ones will help dedicate time, effort, finances, or other resources to ensure you get the help and support you need to live comfortably at home.
Some may help by being around on a particular day to do house chores, or they may visit you more often to keep you company and help you navigate any new challenges.
They may be able to show you how to use technology that can make aging in place easier, such as a smartwatch or a grocery shopping or mobility service app.
In addition, they may be able to help take or accompany you to doctor’s appointments, make transportation arrangements, or set up your internet and computer for virtual appointments when available.
What’s the average cost of aging in place?
According to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey, the monthly median cost for in-home care is about $5,000.
Does insurance cover aging-in-place costs?
Private insurance or Medicare covers some aging-in-place costs. Contact your insurance company to see what aging-in-place care costs your plan covers.
Is aging in place a good idea?
Aging in place may be a good idea for older adults who, with appropriate home and lifestyle modifications, can live independently. People with physical conditions or cognitive disorders may benefit from moving to an assisted living facility.
What is the most important part of aging in place?
Aging in place allows you to remain in the most comfortable environment, with the people you love and your treasured possessions in your later years.
How do I know I need to start thinking about aging in place?
The earlier you start thinking about aging in place, the better. You can begin aging in place as soon as you can afford to modify your environment and circumstances to support living independently in your home.
Many people want to age in place, as it allows them to better manage their lives and aging journey. However, many people aren’t sure where to start.
Setting up systems that ensure your home is safe and easy to navigate and making sure you have access to housekeeping, meal preparation and planning, healthcare, transportation, social support, and more can help you successfully age in place.
Frances Gatta is a freelance healthcare writer with experience writing on general health, women’s health, healthcare technology, mental health, and personalized nutrition. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.