Your whole life, you lived in the family home until you struck out as an adult on your own. Your parents still live in that home today, and even in their old age, are insistent upon staying. This is aging in place.
But, why is it so important for older people to stay in their current homes?
Aging in place is important for a variety of reasons, including:
- Fosters a sense of self-esteem
- Improves quality of life
- Strengthens a senior’s independence
- Keeps a senior connected to their community
- Is often more affordable
- May slow memory loss
This extensive guide to aging in place will expound on the importance of the concept as well as how realistic it is for most senior-aged adults to achieve.
If your elderly parents or family members are discussing aging in place or you’re even thinking of it yourself, make sure you keep reading!
What Is Meant By Aging In Place?
First, let’s talk further about what it means to age in place.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define 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.”
Aging in place is a long-term plan for adults who are approaching their golden years to stay in the home they’ve always lived in.
As we touched on in the intro, aging in place carries with it many benefits.
Let’s talk more about those now.
Fosters A Sense Of Self-Esteem
A person is proud of the home they’ve called their own for most of their lives.
If they weren’t, then they wouldn’t have stayed there for all this time!
That they can continue independent living in the comfort of their own home even as they approach their golden years is going to bring with it an immense confidence boost.
After all, one’s senior years are often the time when many of those in the aging population have to begin looking into an assisted living facility or a long-term care facility.
If a senior is of able body and mind enough to stay in their own home, then they’re quite fortunate.
Improves Quality Of Life
One’s environment is so, so important.
There’s a classic study that compared the healing and recovery efforts of hospitalized post-surgery patients with plants in their rooms versus those that had none.
Unsurprisingly, the patients with the plants recovered a lot faster!
When a senior is in an environment where they feel comfortable, such as the home they’ve lived in for many decades, that’s going to improve their quality of life so much more than having to move to a new community or facility.
Strengthens A Senior’s Independence
As adults age, much of their sense of independence disappears.
They might not be able to drive themselves around anymore, and they may struggle to bathe themselves or put their shoes on.
Accepting assistance, as necessary as it may be in these situations, doesn’t feel good. A senior can feel like they’re grasping onto threads of their independence.
Being able to stay in a familiar setting, provided it’s the safest and smartest decision for their health, enables a senior to remain independent.
That drives up their quality of life!
Keeps A Senior Connected To Their Community
Over the years, an adult makes countless social connections within their own community.
They know their neighbors and others on the street, the people who run the local bakery and post office, the pizza delivery driver, and other assorted community members.
The sense of belonging that one has in a community can be a huge source of pride for a person.
When a senior is able to age in place, they can remain a part of their community even during their elderly years.
They’ll have plenty of social relationships and reliable sources of help to call on if need be.
Is Often More Affordable
By the time an adult is at the point where they’re thinking about aging in place, the house they’ve owned has been in their possession for a long time.
In most instances, that house may be fully paid off. If not, then it’s close.
Selling their home can yield a nice chunk of change, but if that money goes straight toward assisted living or a nursing home facility, then the senior ultimately sees none of it.
They’ll often save more money by remaining in their home than they would by entering a facility.
May Slow Memory Loss
There also exists the possibility that aging in place might be able to slow memory loss in older adults.
How so? It all goes back to a senior’s community.
According to a 2014 article published in Greater Good Magazine through Berkeley College, seniors had a drop in cognitive decline by as much as 70 percent by staying engaged in social contact, which is doable when part of an active community.
If a senior were to move to a new environment, they’d have to rebuild their community all over again, and possibly without all the social and cognitive tools they used to have, due to age.
How Many People Want To Age In Place?
Is aging in place something that a lot of adults are interested in? Most definitely!
According to the results of the poll, 88 percent of adults in the United States in the age group from 50 to 80 years old – which is roughly nine in 10 people –s aid that they wanted to stay in their homes as they got older.
In recent research from a 2021 AARP survey, the majority of older Americans expressed a desire to live their later years in the comfort of home.
The survey indicates about three-quarters of those 50+ would like to stay in their current homes or communities for as long as possible, compared to about half of those ages 18–49 who feel the same.AARP
Maybe it’s not important to all adults, but it sure seems that most adults want to age in place!
Does Aging In Place Work?
The Institute of Healthcare Policy and Innovation poll brought up another interesting point.
Almost 47 percent of those polled said they had no idea how to age in place or hadn’t yet thought about it.
Can aging in place work?
It can, but you need to create a roadmap for how to make aging in place happen for you, ideally before you’re in your senior years when health complications and other potential barriers might hold you back.
How do you create a plan for aging in place? Here are some areas to help you get started.
Determine If It’s Financially Feasible
Aging in place might cost less than paying for assisted living or a nursing home, but it’s not altogether cost free.
Home remodeling resource Fixr says that the national average spent on remodeling a home for one’s senior years is between $3,000 and $15,000.
You should sit down with a financial advisor to discuss if aging in place is affordable for you based on your current financial situation and your lifestyle.
Figure Out Transportation
As you get older, the day will eventually come when you won’t be able to drive. How will you get around then?
You can always take an Uber or Lyft, but those rides get expensive fast, and they’re not always the safest transportation solution.
You need reliable transportation, be that through public transit, a friend or family member who drives you, or something else entirely. You need to figure out what that something else is.
Review Your Health Insurance To See What They’ll Pay For
While paying for all the costs of aging in place may be feasible for some, it’s not for everyone.
You need to know what your health insurance will cover ahead of time, as that may inspire you to change insurance plans or providers.
If your insurance doesn’t cover as much as you were hoping for, you can always explore government and nonprofit resources.
Plan To Remodel Your Home To Be Elderly-Friendly
Home modifications are typically a must due to safety concerns for aging adults.
You’ll need to think about what you will do if you have stairs in your current residence and get to a point where declining physical health stops you from being able to climb them.
What about home maintenance, yard work, or accessibility to important factors such as a grocery store or doctor visits?
Are there public transportation or ride share services close by?
You might also need to make wholesale home modifications to your home so it will be more easily traversable in your older years.
What Is The Most Important Aspect Of Aging In Place?
There are so many critical aspects of aging in place, but of them all, which is the most important?
That would be the sense of comfort and familiarity that one gets from aging in place in a home that belongs and means so much to them!
We’ve already discussed how advantageous this can be, but we really can’t stress it enough.
What Are The Challenges Of Aging In Place?
As highly beneficial as aging in place can be, it does have its challenges and even its downsides.
To present a full picture of what aging in place can look like, let’s go over the issues you may face.
Taking Care Of A Home Becomes More Challenging As You Age
Your house might be manageable now, but is that going to be true in five or 10 years when you have age-related aches and pains and perhaps a few medical conditions on top of that?
It’s hard to say until you’re living that reality.
By that point, it might be too late to change your mind.
You may try your best to take care of your home, but some parts of house maintenance are simply going to eventually fall outside of your depth at a certain age or physical condition.
So you’ll let these things go. But, the longer the home remains unkempt, the more hazardous it will be to live there.
You could even begin hoarding items that reduce clear paths around the house, and all the dirty surfaces are not good for your health either.
Social Isolation Becomes More Likely
If you’re having a hard time managing everyday tasks and maintaining your home, then it is reasonable to assume that you also can’t get around your neighborhood very well either.
It might be easier and less painful for you to stay home, so that’s exactly what you do. However, the you can become isolated from those very social networks you tried so hard to stay active in.
The longer the isolation goes on for, the worse your mental health may be.
You could develop depression and anxiety as you grip with feelings of loneliness day in and day out.
A Senior Might Not Be As Independent As They Thought
Although the goal of aging in place was to maintain your independence for as long as possible, that can be hard to do for some seniors.
You might need to have an adult child move in with you or ask family caregivers to come to your home every day to take care of you.
If not them, then you will have to be able to afford in-home care via professional caretakers, nurses, and other medical staff.
Is Aging In Place Realistic?
Aging in place sounds wonderful in theory, but how realistic is it in practice?
Without proper planning beforehand, it may not be very realistic.
Even if you do have an airtight plan, keep in mind that you should expect the unexpected in your senior years.
A sudden change in physical needs or a cognitive decline can throw a wrench in your aging-in-place plans.
As heartbreaking as it can be to abandon your original plan of aging in place, you have to make decisions that are best for your health and wellbeing in the moment.
That might mean leaving your beloved home and living in an assisted living community or nursing home.
Books About Aging In Place
Here are some books we recommend that may help guide you in your decision to age in place.
Aging in Place Conversations: What Industry Experts Have to Say
Written by experts from the National Aging in Place Council, this book covers various categories that people need to consider when building an age-in-place plan.
It covers aspects related to housing, finances, and health / wellness and more.
Age in Place: A Guide to Modifying, Organizing and Decluttering Mom and Dad’s Home
This book is geared towards helping seniors and their adult children take a room by room approach to clearing clutter and making modifications to improve safety within the home.
Aging in place is something that many adults want, but they’re not quite sure what it takes to get there.
The first step for an older adult is to take a closer look at how they can make aging in place feasible from a safety and financial perspective.
Don’t wait until you’re older to get started – the most important thing to do is to make a plan for it now and begin working towards it as you approach or enter retirement age.
The many benefits of aging in place do make it worthwhile if it’s something that will work for you.