Nobody’s first choice is to live in a nursing home. Most people prefer not to move in with adult children or other loved ones either. Even if an older adult is open to the idea of a CCRC (continuing care retirement community) or assisted living, they are very expensive options. Aging in place is often considered the most cost-effective option for those who are healthy. Though many older adults will eventually reside in senior living residences, most would prefer to live at home for as long as possible. Here are 5 tips to help you do just that:
- Choose your home for aging in place carefully. Living near reputable healthcare institutions and providers you trust is crucial. Having a social support system nearby is also vital. Finally, having a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor is a huge help. Many older adults opt to move into a rancher or a condo with an elevator so navigating stairs will never be an issue. While this is a great strategy, some older persons want to remain in their “forever home” indefinitely. Remaining in the multi-story home in which you raised your family is a viable option if there is a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. If an older person becomes less ambulatory, these features make the difference between being able to age in place or not. Ideally, the older person living in a multi-story home will also have the laundry machine on the first floor as well.
- Understand normal aging and prepare for it. In order to age in place successfully, it helps to understand the normal aging process. All of our senses and organs become a bit less efficient. Even when no disease or abnormal conditions are present, all of us experience these changes. For example, all older adults are more at risk for falls because of diminished reaction time which happens to everyone. Older adults desiring to age in place should be mindful of anything that would exacerbate fall risk in the private home: throw rugs, dim lighting, clutter, etc.
- Join or start a Village. Villages are grass-roots community based organizations that help support members who wish to age in place. To find out if there is one in your community or how to start one, check out www.vtvnetwork.org.
- Embrace technology. Life Alert systems are quite effective in detecting falls, especially the ones that are waterproof and can be worn in the bath or shower. Wearable technologies like Jawbone Up, Fitbit and Lively Safety Watch can allow family members to track some of the older person’s health habits. For example, the family member and older person aging in place can both wear the Jawbone Up or Fitbit, link their accounts and see data like how many steps the other person has taken or the quality of the other person’s sleep. Not only does this increase information that family has about an older loved one’s lifestyle but it may encourage the older person to be less sedentary and embrace better sleep habits. The Lively Safety Watch includes sensors that can be attached to the refrigerator and other objects in the home (e.g. a bathroom door) to determine how often the older person has been eating or when she uses the restroom.
- Look into home care options now. You may not need help with chores or taking a shower right today but someday you might. Get to know the home care options in your community early—before you need home care services.
Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.