You’ve heard the saying: “There’s no place like home.” And although Dorothy was talking about Kansas, we can all relate to the comfort we feel when we step through our own front door. For many older adults, staying at home for as long as possible is the ultimate goal. However, when does staying at home shift from comforting to dangerous, and how can family members advocate for their loved one’s wishes while still providing a safe environment?
Aging in Place
There is a term for seniors staying at home for as long as possible. It’s called aging in place, and according to the AARP, 77 percent of older adults want to make it happen as they grow older. Aging in place certainly has its perks. Along with the feelings of comfort that a familiar home provides, seniors living at home may already have a strong network of neighbors and friends right in their own backyard. Their favorite restaurants, shops, and places of worship are already familiar as well. These connections can lead to feelings of belonging and encouragement. However, in order to age in place successfully, seniors should be prepared to plan.
Planning for Success
The National Institute on Aging recommends that older adults begin planning for additional support for living at home before they actually need it. If your hopes are to age in place for as long as possible, be sure your family members and primary physician know about it. Talk about any chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes or COPD), as well as what needs you expect you may have in 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years. Knowing the potential challenges of the future can help you explore options for support before you are in crisis mode.
When planning for your future, you should also be financially prepared to live at home for as long as possible. In addition to mortgage payments and household maintenance fees, you may also need to allocate funds for in-home caregiver support, transportation services, or other medical necessities.
Potential Drawbacks of Aging in Place
Although aging in place is certainly a viable option for many healthy and active seniors, it can quickly lead to isolation and feelings of loneliness if mobility decreases or medical challenges arise. The National Institute on Aging reports that the effects of isolation among the senior population can be especially devastating, potentially causing increased memory loss and even premature death.
Without access to a peer group for support and encouragement, seniors aging in place at home can end up feeling lonely, depressed, and anxious. However, the drawbacks of aging in place at home don’t end there. Seniors can also experience malnutrition or dehydration because making healthy meals for one can be difficult or feel overwhelming for the typical older adult who is living alone. Transportation issues can also cause missed physician appointments or skipped trips to the grocery store, while vision or memory issues can lead to medication mistakes such as overdoses.
The Aging in Place Solution
Most people think that aging in place means aging at home, but “home” doesn’t have to mean a previous house. In fact, aging in place can be even more successful for older adults when “home” becomes an apartment in a senior living community.
Senior living communities are bustling hubs of activity and connection, making them the perfect choice for aging in place. Isolation is not an option in senior living communities when friendly neighbors are right down the hall and ready to have a cup of coffee or a chat. Meal preparation is no longer a hassle when residents can enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal prepared by chefs in the community’s dining room.
There is always something to do, from trips to local hot spots, to hobby groups and exercise classes. Senior living communities also offer easy and convenient access to wellness programs, physician visits, and helpful caregivers who are always ready to lend a hand.
Aging in place can happen, and it happens every day in Arbor senior living communities. Find a local community near you to experience it for yourself.