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Lifestyle & General Interest

Aging in Place: Guide to Older Adult Living at Home


Most older adults want to remain in their homes for as long as possible and “age in place” — to live in their homes independently, no matter their age or health status. A survey conducted by AARP found that 77% of people over 50 plan to stay in their current houses for the long term. Many respondents cited being in familiar surroundings and remaining within their community as reasons for their desire to age in place.

That being said, there are considerations older adults and their loved ones should consider before committing to the act.

Here is a closer look at the things you should consider when deciding whether or not it is possible to age in place.

Deciding Whether to Age in Place

The primary pros and cons of aging in place revolve around three areas: cost, health, and quality of life. In addition to weighing the cost of aging in place versus moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility, you also need to consider current and future healthcare needs.

Less obvious considerations involve the social implications of the decision. Will living at home lead to isolation or will you be able to engage with your community and take advantage of services for older adults near your home?

Here is how each of these factors can impact decisions about your living situation as you or your loved one ages.

Financial Implications

Cost is the most practical variable for aging in place. Unfortunately, budget calculations are not straightforward. The money you need to age in place varies depending on mortgage or rent payments and medical costs, which can be hard to predict.

Home healthcare costs and medical equipment are also essential. You will need to price home healthcare costs in your area and find out if these services are covered by health insurance. Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance may cover some healthcare costs, while others may require out-of-pocket payments.

According to AARP, you also need to consider the cost of retrofitting a home with ramps, lifts, railings, and other features necessary for mobility and safety in your home and on your property. Though these add-ons may not be prohibitively expensive, the cost should be considered if you are on a fixed income.

Once you calculate these costs, you can weigh them against the costs associated with moving to an assisted living facility or nursing home. The national average for these places is $4,500 and $9,000 per month, respectively.

Health Considerations

You will also need to consider whether you can get adequate healthcare at home, which will involve considering your current and future healthcare needs. It is important to plan and have an idea of what to do if your healthcare needs change drastically. In many cases, family members assist and care for those aging in place. If you require more care, however, an assisted living facility or a nursing home may provide the care you need.

Social Implications

Isolation and loneliness are significant issues in the United States, especially for older adults. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), one-fourth of adults 65 and over are considered socially isolated as of 2020. Mobility limitations can make this problem worse for someone who chooses to age in place. Without social connections, older adults living at home may have minimal contact with others.

It is essential to consider programs and activities available for older adults in the area. These can help ensure social connections outside the home and ward off isolation and loneliness.

Preparing to Age in Place

You can deal with many of the challenges of aging in place by preparing for them beforehand. For example, selecting a home near medical facilities and community centers can make access to necessary medical services and social events easier.

By preparing to age in place, you can make the process more attainable — no matter your concerns.

Choosing the Right Home for Aging In Place

Some people may prefer to remain in their current home because they desire familiarity or have a strong connection to the local community. However, there are other vital considerations for selecting the right home to age in place.

  • Access to healthcare services: The home should be near a hospital, medical clinic, and other necessary healthcare facilities. Even if you only currently need preventative care, having convenient access to care is important.
  • Accessibility: You should ensure the hallways, doors, and rooms are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. If there are steps, you should see if it is possible to install ramps if needed.
  • Universal design: Universal design focuses on overall usability. In addition to safe and easy access for people with limited mobility, it ensures practical access for everyone, regardless of their limitations.
  • Quality of the community: You should consider communities that offer plenty of social events and accessible accommodations to public parks and local businesses.

You can also look at the proximity of community centers or other facilities for socializing and staying active.

Home Modifications to Make Aging In Place More Comfortable and Safe

Modifications are essential for ensuring the home is safe and usable regardless of physical limitations or the use of mobility devices like walkers and wheelchairs.

Older adults visit the emergency room three million times per year because of falls, and 32,000 older adults die each year from injuries sustained while falling. Making modifications to create safe bathrooms, doorways, and steps is essential for avoiding this problem at home.

Modifications for aging in place usually fall into different categories.

  • Ramps: Threshold ramps provide access to the house without navigating around steps. Meanwhile, modular ramps can bridge longer staircases, uneven ground, or other obstacles.
  • Lifts: If you have multiple levels, a lift can ensure you access the upstairs portions of the home without having to climb up and down the staircase. These devices, which feature a chair or platform and a track, can enhance accessibility without totally blocking the staircase.
  • Bathrooms: Falls can easily occur getting into a tub or shower or around the toilet. Railings, non-slip surfaces, and walk-in tubs can provide an added level of safety and accessibility to the bathroom.
  • Doorways and halls: Doors and hallways need to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and other mobility devices. Because of the cost of widening these structural elements, it is usually better to get a home that is already wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

You might also want to consider practical changes, such as making sure cabinets and cooktop are within reach in the kitchen — even from a wheelchair. This way, you can access food, pantry items, and cooking ware at any time.

Setting Up a Support Network

While millions of Americans provide care for aging family members, it is important to have a wide-ranging network to provide support so that the burden does not fall on one or two people.

In addition to tapping family members and friends to share caregiving duties, you can tap into other networks. For example, faith communities, social clubs, or community centers can provide connections and support outside of the immediate family.

Services and Financial Assistance Available for Older Adults Aging in Place

There are plenty of social services available for older adults that help them with certain daily living tasks while maintaining a level of independence. However, there are also financial aid programs available that can assist with any costs associated with aging in place. Both can be a significant help in preparing your home for aging in place.

Social Services Available For Older Adults

There are many social services available for older adults who are living on their own or who have family caregivers who need extra support. These services can make aging in place much easier.

  • Home healthcare: Home healthcare services can include skilled nursing care and basic medical assistance. Meanwhile, home health aids can provide basic support for meals, medication, bathing, and other daily tasks.
  • Meal delivery: Services like Meals on Wheels deliver food to older adults. This service can help people who struggle to cook on their own. Meals on Wheels works with local organizations all over the country to provide their service.
  • Respite care: Respite care services provide support for older adults so that their primary unpaid caregivers can have free time. These services can make it possible for family members caring for older adults to handle other duties or take a break. There is a nationwide locator to help find this type of service.
  • Adult daycare: Adult daycare centers provide a safe place for older adults to engage in activities and socialize. Unlike assisted living facilities, these centers don’t provide overnight care. Most states have resources for finding these services, and there is also a nationwide database.

The final consideration for older adults living at home is transportation. Older adult drivers are at a higher risk for serious accidents. However, the lack of vehicles can lead to a significant loss of independence.

Numerous options exist for free or reasonably priced transport for older adults. Many public transit providers offer accessible paratransit options. Private companies and volunteer organizations also offer services via bus or private vehicles.

Financial Assistance Options for Older Adult Living at Home

Whether you’re paying for modifications within the home or for services to help with daily living tasks, there are plenty of reasons why aging-in-place expenses can add up. Here are options for paying for care and other expenses when aging in place.

  • Medicare and Medicaid: Medicare is a government-run insurance program for people over 65, while Medicaid is a similar program, run by both federal and state agencies, that offers coverage to people with income limitations.
  • Social Security: Social Security is a government-run program that provides financial support for older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Veterans benefits: Military veterans are entitled to certain benefits, including healthcare through the Veterans Administration (VA) medical system. You can find out about eligibility here.

These benefits and services, along with proper planning and accessibility renovations, make it possible to successfully age in place.

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