Aging in place is when a person lives and ages in their residence of choice, for as long as they are able to. Aging in place includes having services, care and needed support in the residence as well. These needs may change over time and as the individual ages.
What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place means a person making a conscious decision to stay in the inhabitation of their choice for as long as they can with the comforts that are important to them. As they age these may include adding supplementary services to facilitate their living conditions and maintain their quality of life.
Aging in place refers to a person in their golden years when they can live in the residence of their preference and are still able to access the things they require and used to in their daily life.
Some people may confuse the issue by thinking that aging in place will fix the things that they may have or problems that may arise. Aging in place can only address those problems that have already been planned for in the person’s life. Aging in place challenges refers to the health, social and emotional needs an elderly person may need and such needs that can be addressed to help them maintain a well rounded life, in the residence of their choice.
When to Start Planning
Aging in place means a person being able to live in the place of their choice without losing their quality of life when they reach senior age. But ideally what aging in place should be addressing is not just to maintain the quality of life that the person is used to, but also to make it better whenever possible.
To live out later years as comfortably as possible, financial and economical plans should be put in place from your earliest working years. Aging in place though it refers to persons of retirement age should concern everyone as soon as possible from their earliest years of one’s career. Plans for retirement should thus be created as early as possible from your younger years and changed, revised, adjusted according to changing needs and requirements.
Aging changes everyone. No matter how fit we are and how much we take care of our bodies, eat right, exercise and keep our minds well trained and souls happy with mindfulness and being grateful, aging changes us despite all this.
Realistically we are looking at certain inevitable physical, mental and emotional changes. Not all of them need be negative. For instance some aging changes can be highly beneficial, like learning to be more patient and tolerant as opposed to impatience and rudeness in our younger years. What is undeniable is our bodies and our mental capacities do change irrevocably. Some of the subtle and not so obvious changes usually include some of the following:
- Poorer eyesight
- Reduced muscle mass and hence less strength
- Diminished endurance both physical and mental
- Higher risk of accidents due to bone fragility, less balance while walking
- Reduced hearing capacity
- Diminished mobility and agility
- Decreased flexibility
These changes are inevitable, whether you get some of them at 50 or do not experience any until after you hit 70. Planning for your future residence with these in mind means you will be better prepared to combat any challenges that may be thrown at you due to these changes that come with time. Aging in place well means planning in advance for any future changes.
These physical, mental and emotional changes affect the daily life of seniors. We can see the way they affect them in their daily activities. Collectively we call them ADL or Activities of Daily Living.
Some common examples of ADL may include the following:
- Ability to go out and come back home without incidents or anxiety
- Taking public transportation easily and without mishaps
- Be able to drive safely, able to navigate congested roads, confusing exits and highways
- Making it to social events without difficulties
- Maintaining one’s home and outdoors easily without strain
- Taking care of one’s health, which includes being able to do chores necessary to eat healthily to doing regular fitness or exercise routines without hardship.
Aging in place often factors in these everyday activities and how one would meet them in later years, with possibly some added physical complications like poorer eyesight or loss of hearing or how a physical condition like diabetes or cardiac problem complicates even seemingly everyday activities, such a gardening or lifting heavy things when cleaning the house.
Many seniors who age in place at home live alone without family nearby. Watch the video below with SeniorLiving.org Editor-in-Chief, Jeff Hoyt, and Attorney Eric Olsen to learn about financial and social help available to older adults living on their own.
The Importance of Aging in Place
At present, many senior persons +65 or older live either with their spouse or by themselves in their own homes. A majority of them have issues with everyday tasks, taking care of their health doing everyday activities even within their homes. As a consequence, the quality of life for many has suffered.
In 2000, there were just over 35 million American citizens aged 65 or older. By 2030, according to the US Census Board, there will be about 70 million Americans aged 65 or older. Which would make this age group almost 20% of the total US population.
The social, economical, physical, emotional, not to mention the medical challenges the rise of this aging population places on the fabric of our civic society is enormous. If going forward, successive governments in the federal and state levels do not figure out a way to handle the upcoming challenges ushered in by the aging population, the US will be facing a major dire predicament due to insufficient, misplaced or underused resources to address aging challenges. This is turn affects how well aging in place measures can be implemented in society.
What it Means to Me and My Family?
More personal challenges and changes typically include redecorating existing homes for easier accessibility, or even moving to a smaller, easier to maintain home and garden. Setting aside some time to live a more balanced life, dealing with home and work issues and managing stress in a more composed way. Deciding the level of aging in place choices one wants, requires and can be the best suited – either independent houses and flats, individual housing but in senior communities, care homes but with minimal assistance, the choices are many and varied to suit all needs, tastes and budgets.
What is important is one needs to make a list of what is of utmost importance to them and be honest about what they can and cannot do, put up with and afford. Aging in place means you will ultimately need to ask yourselves some hard questions:
- What is the ideal way for you to spend your retired years?
- Where exactly – type of home environment you see yourself in – individual, community, assisted?
- What special health care do you require or think you will ?
- What other types of supplementary services you may require ?
- What options have you provided for in case of emergencies, life changing events, accidents etc ?
Aging in place well means you plan out your future years before it become urgent and life changing. It requires one to provision for and make choices and preferences clear to family and friends. Aging in place does not mean that you need to do everything yourself. You can choose to do as little or as much as you want, can, and are capable of. Resources and technology, such as medical alert systems, allow seniors to live at home safely for a much longer period of time.
And far from being a distant phenomenon one's needs to think of in their later years, aging in place is something most of us need to think about and provision for as early as we can.