Aging in Place

By Helen Frank

One of the most difficult decisions a child has to make for his or her parent is whether or not to place an aging parent in long-term care.  Luckily, more and more options that allow your parent to "age in place" – live at home with the appropriate care, modifications, and push-in services – are available.  There are numerous communities and agencies recognizing both the social and the economic benefits of allowing aging parents to remain in their homes.

Increasingly, older adults are choosing aging in place as their strategy for their long-term retirement years, citing independence and financial considerations as the primary reasons. Aging in place refers to remaining in one’s own home, regardless of age, income, or ability level, rather than moving to an assisted living community or nursing home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 90% of seniors want to stay in their own homes.

With appropriate care, home modifications, and in-home supportive services it’s entirely possible for a person to remain in the comfortable familiar surroundings of a home they may have lived in for years, in an area where they have family and friends, and are a part of the community.

The benefits of remaining at home and aging in place are many:

  • It is cost-effective, in comparison with residential care.
  • It gives independence, dignity, and freedom of choice.
  • It allows people to continue to be engaged in their local communities, and continue to pursue favorite activities – church, social and senior clubs, sporting activities, volunteerism, visiting family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Beloved pets can be cared for.
  • A person with cognitive issues and dementia can remain in familiar surroundings.

Aging in place promotes life satisfaction, high self-esteem, and better quality of life, all of which are essential to remaining happy and healthy in older age. But, to successfully age in place, a person must plan for the future. It is easy to procrastinate and put off this serious matter, but, the sooner a person starts planning, the better prepared they will be. It may be prudent to seek the advice and expertise of a senior care planner, or long-term care planner, to help formulate a plan for success, but, start by taking these important matters into consideration:

Finances – speak with a financial planner to determine income, future monetary needs, in order to make a plan that is within the budget of available assets.

Care options – a person may remain fit and well for a very long time, but, inevitably, there will come a time when they may need temporary or permanent assistance with the basic activities of living, due to frailty, an accident, or a chronic illness. Who will provide this care? Who will pay for this care? Can family members be relied upon to help?

Aging in place allows for a greater array of caregiving options, that can better be customized to meet a person’s budget and needs. Family members are often able to provide the majority of care for an aging loved one, saving a significant amount of money in the long term. Sometimes that is the only option, when funds are limited. Many people find that having a live-in caregiver, who provides care in exchange for room and board, is a workable option for them.

Even when a person is placed on hospice care, it is entirely possible for them to remain at home. Medicare Part A will fund the services required to keep a person at home in comfort, and with the best quality of life possible.

Home safety – have a home safety expert check the home for possible hazards, and potential future hazards. Would a stair lift allow a person to go upstairs more safely? Could a bathtub be removed, and a wheelchair-friendly shower be installed? Would a ramp assist a person to go outdoors? Could trip hazards such as rugs and frayed carpets be removed, in favor of non-slip floor surfaces?

Transportation – how will a person get around their community to activities and appointments? While a person may currently be able to drive, there may come a time, when that is no longer an option. One of the greatest losses of independence comes when a senior must give up their driving license, but, there are options available to help maintain the freedom to go out. Find out about local resources such as senior dial-a-ride services and ride-sharing. Many shops and businesses also offer home deliveries, and many service providers will come to the home – hair stylists, podiatrists, optometrists, and pet groomers.

It is never too early to start considering options, and finding workable solutions that are both affordable and provide the best quality of life possible. Start early in having important and frank conversations about future needs with family members. Planning and preparation really are the best way to ensure the best outcomes for the future.

- Written By

Helen Frank

Retired and award-winning gerontologist with more than three decades of domestic and international experience in the science of aging.