It’s not unusual to hear older adults express concerns, fear, or outright anger at the idea of moving out of their homes and into a senior living community. They might adamantly declare their desire to remain at home for the rest of their lives, telling family that they outright refuse to leave. While some people simply cannot safely live independently, aging in place — staying at home as they get older — has become increasingly possible for many adults thanks to advances in technology and caregiving.
HandsFree Health has developed tools that allow older adults to remain healthy, safe, and active while remaining at home. Used in conjunction with a detailed plan and support from family, friends, and community resources, tools like virtual personal health assistants and personal emergency response systems make aging in place safe and comfortable.
To help you better understand what aging in place means, why it’s becoming more common, and how to make it possible for yourself or a loved one, keep reading and learn more.
The Basics of Aging in Place
According to a 2021 survey from AARP, the majority — 77% — of adults want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
The reasons why seniors want to remain in their homes are not surprising. Many want to maintain their independence and feel safer in a familiar place. A survey from the American Advisors Group (AAG) found that in the wake of COVID-19, seniors typically feel safer at home than anywhere else. They also have an emotional attachment to their homes, particularly when they raised their families there.
These feelings of comfort and safety, as well as the independence that comes with aging in place, have multiple benefits for seniors. AARP reports that remaining at home improves the overall quality of life and supports better self-esteem. Many people perceive that moving into an assisted living community or nursing home is a sign that their lives are over, and they aren’t ready or willing to make that step.
Accessory Dwelling Units and Aging in Place
Aging in place does not always mean one has to remain in their current home. One interesting revelation in the 2021 AARP survey is that more than half of adults would consider moving into alternative housing other than a retirement community, such as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU).
An ADU is a small dwelling located on land that already has an existing home, for example, tiny houses and in-law apartments. These are appealing to many seniors because they allow for independent living but also provide access to family caregivers when needed. They also require less maintenance and upkeep than a larger home.
How to Age in Place Successfully
Whether they remain in their family home, downsize into a smaller residence, or choose an ADU on a family member’s property, a senior’s ability to successfully age in place typically requires some planning and home modifications.
Some of the most frequently mentioned modifications include:
- Modifying home entrances for better accessibility
- Modifying bathrooms for safety, including installing grab bars and walk-in showers
- Installing home security devices, like video doorbells
- Investing in a personal emergency response system
- Investing in a voice-activated personal assistant
Individuals who want to age in place also need to consider how much assistance they will need to remain safe, healthy, and comfortable. One of the advantages of choosing assisted living is that residents can get help with activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, meal preparation), running errands, cleaning, and other chores as needed, while still maintaining much of their independence.
When you choose to remain at home, you may still need assistance in these areas, which requires finding outside help. Family caregivers may fulfill many roles, helping with transportation, household chores, money management, and more. However, you should have plans for managing:
- Healthcare. This includes medication management, coordinating doctor’s appointments, and managing chronic conditions.
- Meals. Many seniors are unwilling or unable to cook for themselves, so you’ll need to make arrangements to ensure they have access to healthy meals.
- Social life. Seniors who remain at home are at risk for isolation. Creating opportunities for social interactions and activities is critical to overall well-being.
Fulfilling these responsibilities may require a team of family members and professionals, but with flexibility, seniors can safely remain in their homes as they get older.
Resources for Family Caregivers
Are you caring for an aging parent and need guidance on how to navigate the complexities of senior care? Download HandsFree Health’s complimentary resource, “Caring for an Aging Parent 101.” This comprehensive guide offers advice and helpful insights into caregiving, helping you better understand your role and keep your loved one safe, happy, and healthy.