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.
Many older adults will tell you that they want to stay where they are and grow older in their own homes. But, not everyone makes the proper preparations to do so.
88% of adults age 50 to 80 feel it’s important to age in place, but 21% have given no consideration whatsoever to modifications needed to remain at home.dglobe.com
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
As with everything, there are pros and cons to aging in place, but in this article, we will be going over the benefits of aging in place for senior citizens, which are many.
1. The Cost Is Usually Less
Most older people who have lived in their homes for decades have long ago paid off their mortgage expenses. This makes it very attractive (and practical) to spend their golden years in their current home.
“To society, it costs a lot less for someone to age in their home than to go into a care facility,” says Marty Bell of the National Aging in Place Council.Kiplinger.com
Comparing the average cost of staying in the comfort of their own home to moving into new environment (such as 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 cost savings a senior can have 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 an institutional setting, so the entire cost of facility living will come out of a senior’s 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 personal care.
Many seniors who age in place have lived in their current residence for many years, so they likely have support systems in the form of friends, family, or neighbors who are able to pitch in and help them.
The costs of hiring part-time home care services and paying for services like lawn mowing and housekeeping are also cheaper than they 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 best option – 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.
The emotional attachment to a neighborhood is even more important if the older adult is suffering from any level of dementia. Having a sense of 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, social connections, and familiarity with their local neighborhood help 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 social interaction.
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 key benefits of aging in place.
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 Staying Home Important?
Change can be 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 quality of life. The sense of comfort and security that comes from a familiar setting 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 Living At Home?
KHN.org reports there are 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 number of seniors will not be able to due to declining physical health, medical complications, lack of social support, 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.
Backyard Solutions For Senior Housing
If you have a senior who wants to age in place, a viable option for 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 cases, 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
- The 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.
Are There Disadvantages To Growing Older At Home?
While there is a certain life satisfaction to remaining independent and there are several good reasons for aging in place, there are some disadvantages, as well. They include:
Higher Risk To Physical Safety
A friend’s elderly father just had an accident at his home, in which he slipped while getting out of bed and got his arm pinned between the bed rail and the mattress. He couldn’t get his feet under him to get up.
He was wearing a medical alert device, but it was the kind where you can cancel the alert by pushing the button a second time (BAD IDEA!). In his panic, he pushed it numerous times, so no alert was ever sent out.
He hung there for hours until his other daughter happened to drop by and found him. In the blink of an eye, that accident changed everyone’s life. He can no longer use the arm that was pinned, which means he can’t use a walker because he can’t hold on to it, so he cannot live alone. He’s moved into my friend’s house.
She had to quit her job to take care of him (not to mention that she needs to remodel certain parts of her home to accommodate his wheelchair). Everyone who ages in place needs to have a medical alert that you cannot cancel – only the medical alert service should be able to do that after they have talked to you to see why the device sent out an alert.
My dad lived alone in his house for a year after my mom passed away. That house was 40 miles away from me, so I couldn’t see him every day. Despite the fact that I visited him every Friday and cooked a week’s worth of food for him, he lost a lot of weight. Why?
Although I left him written instructions for reheating the food, he didn’t understand the microwave (how could you possibly reheat an entire meal in one minute?). So he often cooked the food too long and it became inedible.
That meant he often only ate a small portion of his meals or he ate cereal for dinner because it was something he couldn’t ruin. I tried meal delivery services, but he didn’t like how the food tasted.
He never really gained the weight back until he moved into a senior apartment complex that did meal preparation twice a day (and he still didn’t like the food!).
Mom took care of the bills, so when she passed, Dad was left to pay them. But, he didn’t understand mail scams, how magazine companies can rip you off by sending a bill to extend a subscription four months after you’ve renewed it, etc.
In his mind, a plea for money that had a return envelope from Washington, D. C. meant it was “official” and he needed to send in money. I immediately took over paying the bills, but he was still alone, with his checkbook, all week when these scam letters came in.
Ultimately, I was lucky enough to get him to agree not to write a check until we discussed it, but not all adult children can get an aging parent to comply.
Possible Lack of Transportation Services
If there are no viable transportation services close to the senior when the time comes that they must stop driving, they will experience social isolation, problems getting to medical care appointments, possible concerns with getting to the grocery store, etc.
This is especially true in more rural areas where neighbors are further away and taxis, bus services, and other transportation may not be an option. My father-in-law lives in a small town in Wisconsin and is finding it more difficult to get out for just this reason.
Other disadvantages to aging in place are that there may be a lack of social activities available and there could be limited interaction and support from family and friends.
Also, the senior may have trouble performing activities of daily living (cooking, dressing, showering, etc) or keeping their physical environment clean on their own.
Additionally, seniors may have difficulty accessing services and amenities. Finally, aging in place can be isolating and lonely.
It is wonderful if older adults can age in place safely, however, there are definitely concerns to watch for. The next section discusses the signs that can tell you whether or not your elderly parent can live on their own.
Can My Elderly Parent Live Alone?
It’s much easier for family members to see a 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 unkempt
- 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 Can My Elderly Parent Live Alone?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is successful aging important?
Successful aging is important because it enables individuals to maintain a high quality of life, independence, and productivity as they grow older. It encompasses physical, mental, and social well-being, allowing individuals to remain active, engaged, and fulfilled. Successful aging promotes healthy longevity, reduces the burden on healthcare systems, and fosters intergenerational harmony by providing role models and valuable contributions from older adults.
What is the most important factor in aging well?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, a balanced diet, sleep, stress management, and social connections, is the most crucial factor in aging well. Positive mindset, resilience, and a sense of purpose also contribute. Individual factors and genetics matter, but a healthy lifestyle is key to successful aging.
What are the joys of old age?
Old age brings wisdom, freedom, and time for leisure. It fosters deeper relationships, emotional well-being, and a greater appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. Joy is found in mentoring, pursuing personal growth, and savoring moments with loved ones. It’s a stage of purpose and gratitude.