There's little doubt that most older adults want to age in their own homes. Survey after survey has confirmed it. But we don't have to reference research and other people's opinions, you want it is well. The comfort of routine, roots in your neighborhood, love of your own house, privacy and fear of the unknown all contribute to wanting to age in your own home.
Despite our preferences, aging in place is actually pretty elusive. In fact, without proper planning it can be difficult, dangerous and inconvenient both for you and those who may end up taking care of you.
There are concrete steps you can take now to give you the best chance possible to age in place safely and happily.
1. Age Proof Your Home
As you age, decreased mobility, strength, vision and balance make activities of daily living like bathing, toileting, mobility, cooking, cleaning, etc... more difficult. Here are a few ideas to help make it easier for you to do what you have to do and make your home a safer, easier place to live.
- Add grab bars to your shower and bath and next to all toilets
- Add seating to your shower and bath
- Add non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
- Add railings on both sides of all stairwells and front steps
- Remove and fix tripping hazards in your home like area rugs, wires, raised tiles, etc...
- Add motion detection lighting so hallways and stairwells are well lit night and day
- Change door and cabinet handles to make them easy to open and close (levers are easier)
- Place all kitchen utensils and food in easy to reach locations (avoid use of a step ladder or stool)
- More expensive home remodeling projects might include walk-in tubs, stair lifts, wheelchair ramps
2. Stay Socially Connected
Seniors without deep social connections tend to suffer from loneliness, isolation and depression as they age. As we age our means of engaging with the outside world tends to change. How will you continue getting out and about when you stop driving? How will you go shopping for groceries, go to medical appointments, go out with friends.
For some of you, the best alternative will be for you to move into a communal setting. To avoid that fate, you'll want to maintain social connections, doing so is proven to make you happier and healthier. Here are just a few ideas:
- Sign-up for group exercise classes at the local Y or senior center (yoga, Tai Chi, spinning, etc...)
- Play games with friends or at the local senior center (cards, mahjong, chess, backgammon, bingo)
- Go for walks, coffee, dinners, movies or concerts with friends
- Have regularly scheduled dinners with family
- Go to all of your grandchildren's sporting events
- Take classes, learn and discuss your ideas in a social setting (many colleges,
- Volunteer at your hospital, school, church or charity
- Join a church, synagogue or temple
- Use technology to stay connected (Facetime, Google Duo, Instant Messanger, WhatsApp) all allow you to speak and see friends and loved ones near and far.
3. Stay Healthy
Poor health is one of the biggest reasons older adults are forced to move out of their home. Obviously this isn't totally in your control, some of it just has to do with your genetic code, God's plan and a dose of luck. But there's plenty you can do to stay fit enough so that you can shower, get dressed, cook, avoid falling and move around independently enough to live on your own safely.
- Eat healthy (MIND diet, Mediterranean Diet, etc...)
- Sleep well (8 hours a day)
- Go for daily walks
- Strength train twice a week (Tai Chi, Yoga, swimming, weights, tennis)
- Do cardio exercises 3 times a week (walking, biking, rowing, cross country skiing, etc)
4. Getting Around
At some point, as you age, you're likely going to lose the ability to drive. This can be a significant challenge to your independence. However, there are a lot of alternatives, beyond calling your daughter-in-law for a lift everyday.
To help you get around consider:
- Home delivery of groceries, household items and medications
- Inquire about subsidized senior transportation provided by your local or state government or local senior organizations
- Learn about bus and subway routes in your city
- Consider a scooter to get around your neighborhood
- Using Uber or Lyft
If you think lack of transportation will be a significant risk to overcome by staying home (you may be in a very rural environment) you might want to consider looking at alternatives now, so you can prepare for the eventuality while your healthy and patient enough to find the ideal situation for you.
5. Getting Some Help
Regardless of all the home remodeling you may do, at some point you may still need some help if you're going to age in place. Sometimes, it can take a village to help you age in your home. Some of the things you'll want to make sure you have the ability to afford and have access to are:
- Help to remind you to take your medications (look into different types of medication organizers and reminders)
- Help in the event of a fall or medical emergency (compare medical alert systems)
- Someone to assist in meal preparation (look into meals on wheels, home delivery, etc...
- Help with activities of daily living like bathing, cooking, cleaning. It could be for a few hours a day or week (check public and private companion services)
- Who will pay for your bills
6. Get Your Financial House in Order
In order to prepare for the future, you need to understand that aging in your own home may also come with new and additional costs. Some budget items you may want to account for include:
- Caregiving: An in-home caregiver for a few hours a week to help clean, bath and prepare meals. Some caregiver hours may be subsidized by your state or local government.
- Transportation: Think of allocating budget for taxis and public transportation. You may also want to offset that budget increase from the savings you'll get by not having a car for things like car payments, gas, tires and auto insurance.