Aging in place is a very popular term these days and a concept that a majority of older adults are embracing. After all, when you’ve lived in your own home for many years, it’s become comfortable and familiar to you. So, staying in place can be a very comforting concept.
But, there are pros and cons of aging in place that you should be aware of.
Of course, every individual person has their own unique set of circumstances. Consider our list as a general handbook to review if you are considering aging in place yourself or helping an elderly person make this important decision.
What Does Aging At Home Mean?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aging at home (also known as aging in place), is “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.“
Data from the AARP “shows that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long term — a number that has been consistent for more than a decade.“
Are There Disadvantages To Growing Older At Home?
As people get older, they may start to think about whether or not they want to stay in their current home, or move to a different one that is more age-friendly. While there are many advantages to growing older at home, there are also some disadvantages that should be considered.
One of the main disadvantages of growing older at home is the potential for loneliness and isolation. As friends and family members move away or pass away, it can be easy to become isolated in your own home. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression, which can impact your overall health.
Another disadvantage of growing older at home is that it can be more difficult to get the help you need as your health needs change. If you need help with activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing, it can be hard to find someone to assist you if you live alone. This can lead to a decline in your overall health and well-being.
Finally, growing older at home can also be more expensive than moving to a retirement community.
Overall, there are several disadvantages to growing older at home. These include feelings of loneliness and isolation, difficulty getting the help you need, and increased costs.
But there are also some advantages so let’s take a deeper dive into the advantages and disadvantages of aging in place.
The Pros And Cons Of Elderly Living In Their Own Home
There are good and bad aspects to staying in your home during your retirement years and they are as follows:
The Pros Of Aging In Place
- The cost is usually less, depending on your current living condition. If the home is paid for and has been kept up properly, then the cost will certainly be less. If the monthly utility and maintenance bills are manageable, then it can be an easy decision to stay put. Of course, other factors such as medical care needs, physical health or disabilities, mobility issues, and the age and condition of pets all play a part in the monthly living expenses and should be taken into consideration.
- Familiarity with the neighborhood and surrounding areas can be a very important factor for many seniors. 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. Living within these familiar surroundings provides a sense of safety and comfort and for seniors – that is a very important benefit.
- Reduced sense of isolation. If neighbors, friends and family are nearby this can greatly reduce any sense of isolation that seniors often feel when they move to a new home. 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 senior living community where there are more opportunities for more social engagements.
- Personalized home modifications to make the home safer. Again, if the home is paid for, if there are sufficient funds, then making your own home modifications such as installing grab bars, stove safety devices, stair treads, etc. can further make your existing home not only safer but easier to manage and more comfortable.
- Psychologically beneficial. There’s no doubt, that for most people, no matter what the age, moving causes stress and anxiety. This is greatly compounded when you are an older adult. Change is difficult and it’s only “more so” as you grow older. Being able to stay put in a home that you are comfortable and familiar with goes a long way towards peace of mind and a happy quality of life.
The Cons Of Aging In Place
- Cost for extensive care is too much. If your senior loved one requires 24 hour care, it may be too difficult (and expensive) to remain at home – especially if they need a higher level of care that requires more than what one person can manage.
- If any level of care is required and the cost of that type of care is too prohibitive, then the option to remain at home is no longer viable.
- Unable to afford necessary home modifications for safety. If the home cannot be modified to be senior friendly then it may not be a safe environment to grow older in.
- Home is too far away from family and friends. If the home is far from adult children, other family, and friends, it defeats the purpose of growing older surrounded by the love and help that one can get from them. Many elderly people live with loneliness, often not speaking to anyone for days at a time. This type of isolation can quickly bring about depression, anxiety and possible suicide. A survey in England found that 225,000 senior citizens speak to no one most weeks.
- Home maintenance is too much. If finances prevent an elderly homeowner from being able to hire help for yard work and lawn care, homemaker services and / or transportation, staying in their current home may not be the best option. In addition, the risk of falls increases when seniors misinterpret their home maintenance ability level. A great example from my own life is when I broke my wrist during a fall from a step ladder while painting a wall – and I’m not even a senior!
- Issues with cognitive decline. If there are signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, then remaining at home without supervision is very dangerous and strongly not recommended.
- Not meeting nutrition needs – when cooking for one, it’s often easier to just get a frozen dinner or eat something easy, such as cereal. But this isn’t nutritionally sound. And some seniors who are experiencing cognitive declines may not realize they haven’t eaten a healthy meal – or haven’t eaten at all.
There are many wonderful benefits to aging in place but they are only beneficial if it’s the safe thing to do for the older person involved. If declining health (physical or mental) impedes someone’s ability to be safe in their own home, then they either need in-home care of some sort or they must move to a new place where this necessary care can be provided for them.
It’s a difficult decision but safety is the key factor.
I can recommend the book Aging in Place: How to live at home safely and independently for as long as possible by Stephanie Watson. It offers a good planning guide to making the most out of growing older at home.
What Are The Benefits Of Aging In Place?
The list of pros that I wrote about above are certainly an indication of the benefits of aging in place for most seniors.
But the truth is, in my experience, that the real benefits lie in the level of comfort and safety that most elderly individuals feel from being at home.
As long as all the factors are in place (i.e., good health, finances, friends and family, a safe home environment, etc.) then staying at home until your last day is preferable to the majority of seniors.
Why Do Seniors Want To Age In Place?
I already mentioned some of the reasons that seniors would want to age in place and stay in their own homes. Factors such as staying close to family and friends, being comfortable in their current home, the high cost of moving and the cost / monthly fees of an assisted living facility or nursing facility are good reasons why staying in the family home is an excellent option.
But personally, having worked with thousands of seniors as an Occupational Therapist and living through the caring of elderly parents, family members and friends, my thoughts are that most seniors want to remain in their own homes because it’s familiar, it’s comfortable and it’s simply too difficult for them (psychologically) to adapt to a new environment.
As I said earlier, change is very difficult for older adults.
A study published… (in 2016) in the journal Neuron has described, for the first time, how activity in a key brain circuit that allows mammals to adapt to change fades with age….He (Dr. Bertran-Gonzalez) said evidence shows that, on average, younger people find it easier than older people to cope with such change by finding new ways of acting to achieve goals.abc.net.au
This study does go on to say that avoiding these types of challenges is not healthy. Seniors can become apathetic and as a result, they simply stop accepting challenges in their life.
But again, not every person has the fortitude to accept these types of challenges as they grow older. Their physical, mental and psychological states will affect how well (or not) they are able to accept change.
Keeping The Elderly In Their Own Homes
There are 5 main things that can be done to help your senior loved one(s) stay in their own homes and age in place safely.
- Make the home senior friendly – this means removing as many fall hazards as possible, accommodating for disabilities (physical and cognitive) and installing the proper equipment that is needed to make it as safe as possible. This includes things like grab bars, any of the variety of chair aids available on Amazon, Bed Rail Safety Side Guard if needed, the Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm and other safety products. Of course, the products you purchase and install are to meet the specific needs of the home’s occupant(s).
- Take advantage of technology – we are so fortunate to live in these times of such high tech advances. Of course, they only can work for us if we can afford them! But if you can – take advantage of things such as Alexa and Google Home devices, iGuardStove which automatically shuts off gas stoves, all the amazing wearables such as GPS enabled watches with built in fall alerts. These are just a few of the wonderful high tech products that can make any home safer and more comfortable for seniors.
- Take advantage of home delivery services – there’s much more available these days then just Meals on Wheels. There are meal kit programs such as Hello Fresh and Freshley for seniors who are still willing and able to prepare their own fresh meals. Specialty meal delivery services like Silver Cuisine and Diet-to-Go which can deliver prepared meals tailored to your specific diet. And of course, delivery services for grocery shopping (like Instacart) or buying from companies like Amazon which can fulfill orders for almost everything from toilet paper to cat food!
- Take advantage of transportation services – there are some communities that offer transportation services for seniors and I would urge you to contact your local senior centers for information about such programs in your areas. You can read our article on Where Can Senior Citizens Get Free Rides for some information as well. But also be aware with the availability of Uber and Lyft – the ability to pay for transportation these days from almost anywhere is quite easy.
- Options available when more help is needed – of course, moving in with your elderly parents is one way of helping them to stay in their own homes (if, of course they will allow you to!). But other options such as hiring home care services and sharing the caregiving duties with family and friends may also be available for you. If you are considering hiring a home care aide – read our article on what to look for when doing so!