Reader Question: We are considering aging in place. We are in our late seventies and both in pretty good health. Our children keep hinting to us that we should sell our house and move into some age-based community. We have checked out some different options, of which there are many, and it seems they all have features that do not appeal to us. We like our home, our neighbors, and the neighborhood. We both agree we just want to stay here. Do you have any advice for us? Bob and Mary S.
Monty’s Answer: “Aging In Place (AIP) ” is very different now than 25 years ago. There are a growing number of advocates for AIP and an expanding senior population. Many seniors age in place now, and companies that keep track estimate between eighty and ninety percent of older Americans want to age in place in the future. According to AARP, 87 percent of people 65 and older want to age in place.
There are many reasons we want to age in place: Family, social, financial, health, location, personal interests, mobility, and more. The central issue with aging in place is your safety. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of aging in place.
- Continued independence – many health experts believe freedom is beneficial for seniors.
- Reduces the risk of illness and institutional based infection and accidents – safer in familiar places.
- Retaining personal possessions – holding onto memories, hobbies, and other continuing activities is most often healthy.
- No restrictions like visiting hours – family and friend’s access is not curtailed.
- Have a pet – animals are known to be therapeutic for many people.
- Lower cost of living – is a variable based on individual circumstances.
- Maintain continuity – same surroundings, neighbors, and lifestyle, albeit a slower pace.
- Maintain quality of life – is a variable with individual circumstances.
- More family and friend opportunities – is a variable with different circumstances.
- Maintaining dignity – loss of the nine items above can affect self-image for some people.
- Cost of renovation – vary but some homes are costly to upgrade.
- Medical concerns – medications, body functions, dehydration, and more.
- Physical safety – falls on stairs, slippery tubs and showers, fall asleep with lit candles.
- Illness, or accident – lack of supervision.
- Misplaced reliance on family members by the aging parents for their children to become the caregivers.
- Children’s inability to delegate tasks to caregivers. Lack of trust, protectiveness, guilt or other reasons contribute.
Learn more about Aging In Place
It is important for you to obtain an independent assessment of your home to learn what steps you should take to make certain your home is safe now and in the future. The most common reason for emergency room visits by seniors is falling in their homes. AIP may be the best solution for many seniors, but that is not true for everyone. Call your local health department to arrange to have trained personnel (such as a physical therapist) visit you in your home, and make recommendations to reduce your risks of injuring yourself. Installing grab bars in bathrooms and showers, raising toilet seats, and installing swing hinges to widen doorways are examples of items a technician will spot that may not occur to you. Your personal physician can confirm your ability to age in place.
Many Federal agencies have a role. The Veterans Administration, Medicare, and Medicaid, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and others offer a variety of measures to allow seniors, the disabled, and the elderly to age in place. While Medicare does not cover physical home modifications, Medicaid, and many states, local and community programs offer financial assistance. Here is a link to a HUD website that provides an insightful discussion on aging in place, and an extensive list of links to other resources.
Beware of deceptive sales tactics
Many companies that have chosen to operate in the AIP sphere because the number of Americans entering this space is expanding rapidly. Some companies see AIP as a business opportunity to capitalize on, as opposed to truly offering unbiased information. Many of these vendors have very official looking names and websites but are often lead-generation sites with something to sell you. Be cautious of websites that do not have the .gov ending in the domain name that appears on your computer’s navigation bar.
Today we have digital cameras, remote computer programs, alert bracelets with wireless monitors and a variety of other devices that allow oversight, reporting and communications in a real-time setting. 25 years ago none of this technology was available. These advances make aging in place attractive.
[Author note: I received feedback after publication from a reader that I incorporated into the article. It follows:]
” I just wanted to address your AIP article. As a 50-year-old daughter of elderly parents, I would like to address some additional disadvantages of aging in place. AIP also requires dependence on your grown children who then become the caretakers of their parents out of love, obligation and/or duty. This can take a huge toll on the children, emotionally, physically, and financially sometimes sacrifice their jobs and neglect spouses and their own children to do so. Elderly people aging in place may no longer be able to drive, grocery shop, go to doctor and dentist appointments, they rely heavily on their children to do all these things. We love our parents and want to take care of them, but it can come at a great cost for the adult children torn between their parents, jobs, and families. This is a really important issue that needs to be addressed. While it is wonderful to be able to age in place, people need to consider who will physically take of them and plan for it.”
[ Author note: The reader’s comments make a valid point. Even with the new technologies, children are often caught up in the care, or aging parents expectations exceed their children’s circumstances to actually become the caregivers. There is a balance to be maintained. Often, there comes a point in time where aging in place can no longer be sustained. Additional disadvantages were added to the article. Thank you, reader, for your comments.]