The term aging in place tends to mean different things to different people. In its generally accepted sense, it refers to the lifestyle choice where you live out your retirement in the same home that you’ve always lived in, and perhaps even raised your family in. To others it tends to mean something slightly different, such as giving up a big old high-maintenance house, and moving into a smaller house – either in the same community or one close to an adult child capable of offering care.
Whatever the specifics, aging in place, in essence, is all about being your own person and living with your dignity to your last day. The choice for independence is a hugely popular one, with 85% of those closing in on 60 voting in favor. They report that they will not consider moving into a retirement community or anything like it. The majority of Canadian seniors already live by themselves. Less than 10% live in collective facilities such as special care centers. While it’s an excellent idea for many reasons, there is quantifiable proof of the superiority of the system in at least one way – those who age in place often live longer.
The independent aging-in-place choice does require considerable planning. With aging comes a reduced ability to care for oneself, trouble driving, greater possibility of accidental injury and forgetfulness. The elderly have their healthcare needs as well. They often need help managing complicated prescriptions, visits to doctors and physical therapists. It’s important to begin planning for these needs ahead of time.
Creating a safer home
Safety is one of the top stumbling blocks to an aging-in place plan. A home that may perfectly serve the young and the able-bodied may be completely inappropriate for the elderly. Many areas of potential hazard require considerable modification.
- The elderly tend to be especially at risk in homes with areas with dim lighting. Failing vision makes such areas hazardous. A modern lighting system that thoroughly covers every inch of the house is vital. Equipping such a system with motion sensors can make certain that there is never a need to hunt around for lights, as well.
- Rugs may be pretty and cozy; they pose a serious trip hazard, though. Getting rid of all such dangers — floor lamps, small pets, free-standing canes and other trip hazards is an essential part of a senior-safe home.
- Every senior-fit home should be equipped with remote monitoring so that an adult child is always able to keep an eye. Modern sensor devices come with intelligent monitoring. With the ability to tell the difference between the stillness of sleep and that of unconsciousness, these are invaluable alert systems. Help can always be automatically alerted in the event of a problem.
- Homes need to be redesigned for easy access. Stepped levels, essentials placed out of reach and spread out spaces need to be replaced with more senior-friendly design.
- Easy-access bathtubs, grab bars and high toilets that allow easy use by those with arthritic knees can be immensely helpful.
Companionship can make the difference between enthusiastic aging in place and poor mental health. Membership at a community center or church, professional companionship from care agencies and companionship pets can be excellent ideas. Many pet-training programs exist for senior companionship animals.
Finding reliable healthcare
Convenient healthcare access is a major area of concern to those planning to age in place. Most towns have multiple services offering professional, home-based nursing care services. These centers offer to send seniors nurses for homecare for everything from prescription help to preparation for daily tests, monitoring and record-keeping.
Finding reliable service
Full-time or part-time care providers offer assistance with every chore around the home. The kitchen alone can be a minefield. From sharp instruments to scalding hot items, the dropping of glass items to slip-and-fall incidents, the risk can add up. It’s always a good idea to find a care provider who is capable of looking in, offering companionship, and arranging for transportation when it is needed.
Aging in place can appear overwhelming at first. It’s worth it, though.
Millie Dearing has been working in senior healthcare for a number of years. She likes to share her insights online and her thoughts have already been posted on a number of different websites.