Aging in place seems easy enough, in theory, but there’s more to it than just living in your home for the rest of your life.
Aging brings inevitable changes – some more challenging than others. More seniors want to stay at home and understandably so. Along with remaining in the comfort and familiarity of home, you also save a considerable amount of money each year.
There are a few issues to consider when making the decision to age in place rather than moving to a senior care home:
- If aging in place is your goal, you’ll need to consider your finances and the costs associated with remaining at home versus your income. If your only income will be coming from CPP, keeping up with home-related costs like mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance may not be easy. Will you be able to keep up and have money to cover any unexpected costs, like a leaky roof or broken water heater?
- Getting around. Not all seniors are able or even want to drive for the rest of their lives. When the time comes to stop driving, you lose a lot of your independence. Consider how you will get around. Do you live near public transportation or have the budget to pay for taxis or car services? Do you have a strong support network close by in your family and friends who can get you where you need to go?
- Your social network. Speaking of family and friends, socializing is one of the most important things to consider if you prefer to age at home. Socializing is pretty much built-in to daily life in most assisted living communities; there’s always someone there. Senior isolation is major issue in Canada and the rest of the world. Feelings of loneliness and the risk of depression, a worsening of physical and mental health, and even early death are known risks of senior isolation.
- Your health. Even if you’re fit as a fiddle now, your future health needs to be considered if you want to remain in your home as you age. Consider any existing medical conditions and how they will change and affect you as you get older. Are your doctors close by and easy to get to? Is there a hospital nearby? Speak to your doctor about how your health is likely to change and any measures you can take now to keep you healthy enough to age in place.
- Your home. Your home may work for you now, but will it be practical for you when you’re older? You need to consider the safety of your home and decide if it’s going to work for you in the future. Does your home have a lot of stairs? Do you have a shower that’s easy to get in and out of safely? Is your floor level and free of tripping hazards? Will you be able to access your laundry easily?
Things to Do to Prepare for Aging in Place
Along with the factors to consider that we just covered, here are some other things that you can do to help you prepare for aging in place:
- Talk to your family. Talk to your adult children or other close family members about your plans to age in place. If possible, do it when you’re all together. This can help avoid confusion or tension should things change quickly, such as in the case of a crisis. The earlier you can discuss your plans and wishes with your loved ones, the better. Be frank about your wants and expectations, your finances, and other details that factor into your future. If you don’t have children or other family, consider a trusted friend or advisor, such as an attorney, who can help put your plans in place.
- Prepare your home. Seniors and concerned family members often make the hasty decision to move to another home or an assisted living facility when health or mobility changes. An elderly care specialist or occupational therapist may be able to conduct a home safety inspection and make suggestions that can help you age in place safely. A few minor tweaks may be all that’s needed to make your home work for you, such as installing railings or a stair lift. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of having the right tools to assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grabbers or adaptive clothing and shoes. If significant changes are needed, the sooner you know, the better you can prepare.
- Learn about in-home care options. May people are surprised to learn that home care services aren’t limited to advanced home care assistance for seniors who are very ill or bedridden. The services offered by home care agencies cater to different needs and budgets. A professional caregiver can provide as much or as little assistance as you need with ADLs, such as meals, personal care, and housekeeping. They can also provide transportation to and from appointments or social activities and provide companionship to those who don’t have family or friends nearby to help prevent isolation.
With some advance consideration and planning, aging in place is possible even when life throws a few curveballs along the way.