With the population in the United States aging at a rapid clip, we are seeing more home and community supports and services. Older adults have an increasing ability to remain in their homes and communities as they age. Not surprisingly, an AARP survey found that almost 90 percent of older adults want to remain in their homes as they grow older, and the aging in place concept is growing in popularity. But, aging in place is not right for everyone.
Here, we’ll discuss what aging in place is all about—and how to determine if it’s a realistic and right option for you.
What Is Aging in Place?
Aging in place refers to the decision that people make to remain in their homes or communities as they age, for as long as they can. In order to age in place, older adults need access to whatever services and supports will ensure them a good quality of life over time.
Of course, as we age, we must address an evolving array of issues related to our health, mobility, nutrition, self-care, and home safety. In addition, many older adults also face challenges related to memory and cognition. The possibility of multiple challenges means that in order to age in place, we should plan ahead—before the need for additional services and supports arises.
What Services and Supports May be Needed?
Each person’s individual situation will vary, but needed resources often include those related to mobility and activities of daily living, shopping and errands, meal preparation, social activities, finances, and health care. It also can be important to have a relative or close friend nearby and available to help you and provide support on a consistent basis.
Some of the most common barriers that individuals face when it comes to aging in place relate to the structure and layout of their homes. It’s really important to adapt your home to meet future needs and to avoid major challenges later on. You want to be able to get in and out of your home without climbing stairs if at all possible. Ideally, your bedroom should be on the first floor. Doorways and passageways should accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. And, door and faucet handles should be levers, rather than knobs. A small amount of home modification work early on can go a long way to allowing you to remain in your home.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center that published the report, America’s Growing Senior Population, five universal design features can help ensure homes safety for older adults:
- No-step entries
- Single-floor living
- Switches and outlets accessible at any height
- Extra-wide hallways and doors to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs
- Lever-style door and faucet handles
The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s consumer guide for home improvements provides a concise list of both simple and more involved improvements that you can start making to your home now and integrate into home updates in the years ahead.
Before deciding to age in place, consider these five things:
- What modifications to your home do you need?
- Can you cover the cost of these home modifications?
- Who will care for you if you remain in your home? Is a local relative or close friend able to provide consistent help and support?
- Can you afford to hire additional help, if needed?
- Will you be able to socialize and get together with friends?
As University of Florida professor and gerontologist Stephen M. Golant, the author of Aging in the Right Place notes, remaining at home as you age may not always be the best option: “Aging in place is not for everyone and may not be the right place, but there are alternatives that they should consider as ways to improve quality of life.” Some older adults might also want to consider aging in place villages.
Golant says that the key to knowing if aging in place is right for you is to know yourself and what your needs are for maintaining your quality of life as you grow older.
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