It was 14 years ago when Jack and Priscilla Goodger moved to Arizona. They built their dream home in Sun City Grand, spending the next years customizing it to their liking.
They loved the home, and didn’t want to think about moving simply because they were getting older.
“We aren’t ready to leave the home we created together,” Priscilla says. “We love everything about it here, especially the views of the golf course, the lake and the White Tank Mountains.”
Just like the Goodgers, many adults prefer to stay in their own home as they age. For some, the thought of moving away from a beloved home full of memories and routines can even cause extreme anxiety and distress.
According to the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), more than 90% of older adults prefer to age in place than move into any type of senior housing, despite the attractive lifestyle options a retirement community can offer.
The good news for the Goodgers and other adults is that they don’t need to move. Instead, they can take advantage of Aging in Place programs.
What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place is a term that describes staying in your home for as long as possible by utilizing products, services and resources to adapt the space and your situation as you age. It addresses changes you might experience, such as a decrease in mobility, declines in sight and hearing, or a loss of social connections.
By planning in advance with an aging in place program, you’re able to live at home safely and comfortably. It ensures you can maintain—or even improve—quality of life and independence by using its resources and help to thrive.
Some options and considerations to think about as you choose whether aging in place is right for you include:
As you age, everyday tasks can be more difficult as your body changes. Mobility often becomes an issue, with steps and staircases becoming difficult or even impossible to maneuver. A slippery shower can lead to a detrimental fall, and rugs can pose tripping hazards. Items on tall shelves can become more difficult to reach. If arthritis strikes, turning a doorknob can be challenging. You may have issues with vision.
Essentially, movements and actions you never thought twice about suddenly begin to pose a risk to your well-being.
Common safety modifications often involves reducing trip hazards by relocating electrical cords, putting a bell on pet collars and removing clutter, installing grab bars in showers and bathrooms; changing showers to be walk-in accessible; removing throw rugs or replacing them with slip resistant mats; confirming railings are secure; changing doorknobs to levers; widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair; marking raised steps to make them more visible or installing ramps; ensuring that important items are within reach; and installing automatic nightlights and motion-activated lights.
Is your home in an area where there are grocery stores, drugstores and other essential locations nearby? Since driving often becomes more difficult as you age, it is important these necessary locations remain easily accessible.
As you plan to age at home, carefully consider what transportation will be available. Would someone—such as family, friends or a caregiver—be nearby who could help you run errands? Or, confirm there are public transportation options that are easily accessible once you can no longer drive.
Social connections are important to leading a vibrant, healthy life, so identifying the availability of local resources is something else to take into consideration before deciding if aging in place is the right choice for you.
It’s important to avoid isolation, which can easily lead to depression and loneliness.
Finding ways to be involved with others is vital. Are there social groups or organizations that will help you be active outside of the home? Can you identify a new hobby to pursue, or local classes to explore? Find local opportunities to engage and challenge your mind, and foster social connections.
Changing Health Care Needs
For many, the biggest worry when considering staying in their home is wondering what will happen if your health deteriorates. Will there be someone who can manage your medications? What if you fall and break a hip? Or, what if dementia sets in? How will you get your health care needs met if you’re suddenly less independent?
Planning for these issues ahead of time, rather than forcing you or a family member to deal with them during an emergency crisis, affords peace-of-mind knowing you will be well cared for.
Those planning to age in place can alleviate their health care worries with long-term care insurance and/or a Life Care plan, two options that cover gaps left by typical health insurance plans and Medicare.
Is Aging at Home Right for You?
Aging in place is just one option available as you age. Unlike remaining home until something forces change, though, it’s a specific choice you make on how to spend your life as you grow older, taking into account home safety, transportation, socialization needs and health care.
It’s more than simply deciding to stay home—it requires a documented plan to ensure your daily living needs are met, and resources are in place to help you remain independent throughout the aging process.
It’s Never Too Early to Begin Planning
If aging in place is what you prefer, planning ahead while you are healthy and independent is essential.
Your plan must be created before you need home modifications, health care and other services, when you’ll have time to research options. It’s far more difficult when you’re in the middle of a crisis and feeling pressure to make an immediate decision.
There are local and online resources available to help you at a variety of different levels, ranging from home contractors to modify your home, forms to create your own plan, or providers to walk you through the process. There are even options that monitor your needs through home visits, and implement different levels of your customized plan as appropriate, fully supporting you throughout the process of aging in place.
It’s important to explore local programs early if you’re interested in a Life Plan type of aging in place program, as independence and certain health criteria are required to be eligible. Life Care programs (like Sun Health at Home) layer health care options on top of aging in place resources and programs, all designed to keep you independent and home while protecting your retirement assets from medical costs. They’re worth consideration as you explore your options, especially if you’re attracted to the benefits of a retirement community that provides medical care, but don’t want to live on its campus.
While many older adults choose to move into a retirement home or wait until an assisted living facility is necessary, others prefer to stay in their own home as long as possible. With aging in place services and proper planning, they—and you—can.
For more information on aging in place, download Sun Health at Home’s FREE ebook, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors.