Nationally, we have an ever-growing aging population. According to the 2021 census, 16.5% of Americans are 65 and older. In Tennessee, 20.7% of adults are 65 and older. The vast majority of seniors prefer to remain at home as long as possible as they age, or “age in place.” According to the most recent AARP survey of “Home and Community Preferences,” nearly 80% of seniors strongly prefer to remain at home rather than relocate to an independent/assisted living facility or nursing home. Seniors find their home to be a more safe, comfortable environment full of happy memories and closer to their loved ones.
It’s easy to see why older adults would prefer to stay in their homes but there are many practical implications that may force them to move. We’ll take you through how to plan for aging in place on several levels: the individual, the home, and the support network.
Is the individual physically able to age in place?
The main consideration is the individual. What is their mobility like? How much assistance do they need with day-to-day tasks such as walking, dressing, bathing, cooking, or cleaning? Are there any cognitive issues that could make these activities impossible or dangerous? Are there medical conditions that would impede these activities now or in the future? Is there anyone that could assist such as a family member or home health worker? Is there enough room in the budget for tasks the person can no longer perform such as heavy cleaning or lawn maintenance?
Is the home safe for seniors?
The home itself will often be a deciding factor in whether or not a senior can remain safely and comfortably. Most housing was developed with independent adults in mind, with little to no thought for those with differing levels of mobility. Things like unsafe stairs, multiple stories, and narrow doorways can make things more difficult. Luckily, multi-story homes can be easily adapted with a stairlift or home elevator. Even outdoor stairs can be made safe with a lift or ramp. Widening doorways to accommodate a wheelchair or walker can be tricky but is certainly doable. Materials to widen doorways can cost anywhere between $300 to $800 and upwards of $2,500 when hiring a contractor, according to Consumer Affairs. No-step entries can be added to make homes more wheelchair accessible, and decrease the risk of tripping over step entrances. They typically cost around $800 to $1,500 to install.
You may also want to replace some of your appliances with more senior-friendly models. A step-in tub with a door can make independent bathing much safer and easier. Even installing simple grab bars and purchasing a shower seat can make a huge difference. A stove that is higher up and you won’t have to bend as much to use would be helpful. Some electric stoves even have things like timers that automatically turn off the heat if you leave them on too long. There are lines of microwaves with simple controls, large buttons, louder alarms, and easy to open handles as well. You might require the help of professionals such as occupational therapists, home designers, and contractors to make sure all the necessary changes are made that will allow the senior to remain in their home safely and independently.
Is there enough support for aging in place?
Having a strong support network is going to make aging in place much more feasible. Seniors will require some degree of assistance from family, friends, and neighbors. There may also be helpful resources in your community like Meals on Wheels, local libraries, senior centers, transportation services, etc. Maintaining strong social connections is key to both the health and happiness of individuals aging in place. Keeping a senior engaged with the community and loved ones is a key component in any plan for aging in place.
Is it worth it to plan for aging in place?
We all deserve to age on our own terms in the environment we are comfortable in. If simple modifications are all that stand between staying at home and moving to a facility, it’s well worth the effort. Planning for aging in place may seem daunting but there are many resources available to help you tackle this. If you live in Tennessee or Northern Alabama and you have any questions about stairlifts, wheelchair lifts, or home elevators, please reach out to us and our Aging in Place Experts can help.