It is estimated that every day, 10,000 people in America turn 65. Extend that over the course of a year and nearly 3.65 million people approach the age of retirement every year. That means that many more seniors – and their families – are making important choices about how to stay safe and healthy as they age.
For some men and women, that may mean going to a nursing home or assisted living facility to live out their lives. But, as of recently more and more seniors are opting to “age in place.” Aging in place is when an elderly person chooses to stay in their homes and seek out personal care options that enable them to lead more independent lives, as they grow older. A recent survey conducted by AARP found a whopping 87 percent of people 65 and older favored aging in place.
Not only is aging in place the preferred option for most seniors – it’s also been shown to provide plenty of benefits physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. What are these benefits, you may ask? A comprehensive study by the Stanford Center on Longevity found that, “the benefits of aging in place for older adults come from the sense of attachment, familiarity, and identity with the home and neighborhood environment.” The report also cites research studies that have found relocation to a nursing home can reduce the quality of life for seniors, even increasing their mortality risk.
Seniors aren’t the only ones who can benefit from aging in place. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), staying home and avoiding institutionalized care is much less costly, not only for seniors and their families, but also for government-sponsored programs that pay for care. Plus, seniors who remain in their communities can provide an active, eager volunteer base and contribute to their communities, neighbors and families in important ways.
If you have a loved one who favors aging in place, consider these things to make sure they get the care they need before making a decision:
- Hold a family meeting to determine what issues will need to be addressed to enable the person to live safely on his or her own. Do they need nursing care? Help with housecleaning? Meal delivery service? Transportation for doctor’s appointments or shopping?
- Evaluate the services in your community. Contact your county’s office on aging to learn what free and low-cost services are available for area seniors.
- Also, evaluate the home for obstacles that could cause slip and fall accidents, a leading cause of serious fractures and even death among seniors. Consider adding lighting and extra security features. AARP offers checklists and other downloadable resources at their website.
- Revisit your plan regularly to make changes as your loved one’s needs change, or as additional resources become available.
Most importantly, make sure you take your loved one’s desires into account. When a child assumes a supervisory role over a parent, it’s easy to assume too much control, leading to feelings of anger and resentment on both sides. Take time to create a plan together to minimize conflicts, reduce the likelihood of unpleasant surprises and help ensure your loved one will be able to lead a happy and fulfilling independent life, for many years to come.