Whether you are a senior citizen or a caregiver for an aging parent – you may be in the position of considering whether or not you will be moving to an assisted living facility, downsizing to a smaller home or perhaps aging in place.
The benefits of aging in place include:
- reduced costs over living in a nursing home or assisted living facility
- familiarity of surroundings
- reduced isolation
- increased sense of independence
- customized home modifications, and more.
The Definition Of Aging In Place
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level
With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day (and that statistic continuing until 2030) the trend of “aging in place” is now in full force and very fashionable!
A new AARP survey of adults shows that 3 out of 4 adults age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age. – AARP
This makes sense for many reasons, so in this article, we will be going over the benefits of aging in place, which are many.
1. The Cost Of Aging In Place Is Usually Less
Most older adults who have lived in their homes for decades have long ago paid off their mortgages. This makes it very attractive (and practical) to stay in place.
“To society, it costs a lot less for someone to age in their home than to go into a care facility,” Marty Bell, of the National Aging in Place Council.
Comparing costs of staying home to moving into an assisted living facility or nursing home may become a large contributing factor towards the decision to age in place. This table shows just how much a senior can save on expenses if they age in place.
|Average Monthly Expenses|
|At Home||varies by state|
|Smaller Home||varies by state|
|Assisted Living||approx $4000/month|
|Nursing Home||approx $6800/month|
|Home Health Aide||approx $21/hour|
|Homemaker Service||approx $80/day|
Keep in mind that Medicare does not pay for long term care in a facility, so the entire cost of facility living will come out of a seniors pocket. Also, Medicaid does not cover these costs, either, unless the senior is basically indigent.
That said, Medicare will cover some of the cost of part time in home health care. They may help pay for some skilled nursing care or a home health aide, provided the senior is housebound and their doctor orders this care.
Many seniors who age in place have lived in their homes for many years, so they likely have friends, family, or neighbors who are able to pitch in and help them. The costs of hiring a part time home health aide and paying for services like lawn mowing and housekeeping are also cheaper than it would be to move into a long term care facility.
Of course, other factors such as medical needs, physical disabilities, age and condition of pets all play a part in the monthly living expenses and should be taken into consideration before the final decision is made to age in place.
Additionally, if the senior’s house is in disrepair – resulting in a dangerous situation – then downsizing to a smaller home may be the better solution – both financially and for personal safety matters.
2. Familiarity With The Neighborhood
Most anyone who has lived in a house for many years has made friends with their neighbors and is very familiar with the local business owners in their neighborhood.
Also, their friends most likely live nearby and this provides a wonderful sense of community.
Living within these familiar surroundings provides a sense of safety and comfort and for seniors – that is a very important benefit.
This factor is even more important if the older adult is suffering from any level of dementia. Familiarity with their surroundings is an important consideration when dealing with memory loss of any degree.
3. Reduction In Feelings Of Isolation
This sense of community and familiarity with their local neighborhood helps tremendously to reduce the very common feelings of isolation that are so prevalent with aging adults.
Of course – if neighbors they have known for years have moved away, if their friends have passed away or also moved away then this “benefit” of aging in place is no longer valid. It may then be time to consider moving to a location where there are more opportunities for more social engagements.
4. Sense Of Independence
As adults, we all treasure our independence. Giving that up is one of the most difficult aspects of growing older.
Being able to stay in your own home, maintain your own schedule and to continue doing the things you love to do – in your home – are priceless.
5. Personalization Of Safety Modifications
Staying in your own home gives you the independence to make the modifications you need to make the environment as comfortable and safe as possible and as needed.
Of course – this only works if you have the financial means to do this.
Fewer than 5% of U.S. homes are universally designed, or built to be accessible to people regardless of age and disability, according to Dr. Black (Professor of aging studies and social work at the University of South Florida). Housing is often overlooked as an aspect of wellness, Dr. Gitlin (Gerontologist and Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University) says, but continued innovation can help meet communities’ needs for suitable and affordable housing solutions. – Christian Science Monitor
Why Is Aging In Place Important?
Change can be a very difficult for older adults, for a variety of reasons.
- cognitive decline
- loss of control
For these reasons – aging in place makes sense. Of course, the severity of each of these factors plays an important role in the decision to stay in place.
For example, an older adult suffering from severe anxiety and/or depression will have a more heightened level of fear when it comes to changing their environment.
Aging in place provides the individual with a greater sense of comfort and security that cannot be obtained if they have to move to another location or an assisted living type of facility.
How Can We Keep The Elderly At Home?
The best way to help older adults to stay at home is to work at senior proofing the house.
To make the home safer for older adults focus on the following:
- fall proofing
- techniques to compensate for memory problems
- methods and tools to make daily tasks as easy and safe as possible
- use of assistive devices to compensate for any issues such as poor strength, vision and hearing problems
There are many other factors as well such as:
- helping your senior loved ones to accept the necessary changes
- work with them to declutter their environment to make it safer
- working with medicare and local organizations to help get funding for necessary home modifications and/or medical equipment
How Many Seniors Are Aging In Place?
KHN.org reports there approximately 25 million Americans aging in place who rely on help from other individuals as well as assistive devices.
It’s also worth noting that the aging in place trend is global.
There are approximately 962 million people 60 years or older globally (more than double from 1980). It’s predicted that by 2050 the number will increase to about 2.1 billion (yep, that’s more than double).
If current trends continue, by 2030 there will be more people in the world over the age of 60 than under the age of 15.
According to AgingInPlace.org, approximately 90% of seniors “intend” to age in place and 85% of this group are confident that they can do so without making major home modifications.
This tells you that the majority of seniors “want” to stay in their homes and they expect to do so.
But the reality is that a percentage of them will not be able to due to medical complications, lack of funding, life situations, etc.
If they are living alone and need assistance for any number of tasks and they are either unable to get help from others or to pay for help, then aging in place will become almost impossible.
Age In Place Homes – Backyard Solutions For Senior Housing
If you have a senior who wants to age in place, an alternative to them living alone is to have them live with you. But this can be a problem, because of the need for more space to accommodate another person in the home or because your relationship is better when you have some time away from each other.
In these case, a tiny home can give you both a bit more space and privacy, while allowing you to be right across the yard (or driveway) from your loved one.
Tiny homes offer peace of mind because of the perks that come with them, such as:
- The ability to install video monitors to see your loved ones in case of an emergency
- Motion-activated floor lights
- System monitors that display medication times, to ensure they are taken on time and properly
- Two-way intercoms for easy communication
- Being capable of having grab bars installed in the bathroom and shower
The elderly can live in these homes without having to give up too much independence. Keep in mind, however, that zoning laws are going to vary by state, so putting one in your backyard may not be possible.
Aside from tiny homes, there are other backyard solutions, such as:
- Granny Pods
- Elder Cottages
You can read more about them in our article, Tiny Homes For Elderly Parents.
Can My Elderly Parent Live Alone?
It’s much easier for family members to see physical decline in their senior loved ones than it is to see cognitive declines but quite often, it’s the cognitive problems that make living alone very dangerous for elders.
So, for the sake of your aging parent, I ask you to read this list of signs that may indicate your parent should no longer be living alone – and to ask a third party to help you look at the situation through their unbiased eyes.
10 Signs That Your Parent Shouldn’t Be Living Alone
- Frequent Falls
- Your parent doesn’t leave the home for days at a time
- Their home is messy and unkept
- There are stacks of unopened mail
- Bills, deadlines and doctor appointments are missed
- Your parent is losing weight
- Your parent is neglecting their hygiene
- They get lost going to familiar places
- They are making mistakes with their medications
- They become paranoid and defensive
If your senior loved one displays any of these signs – it’s a very good indication that they should not / cannot live alone any longer.
For more information, read our article on Can My Elderly Parent Live Alone?