by Meg Pemberton MHA BSN RN CSA
Everyone is talking about aging in place these days. I’ve often wondered what that really means and if it means the same to each person. The concept of aging in place suggests that as we age we will live in the same place regardless of our needs. According to AgeinPlace.org, some 90% of adults say they want to stay in their home, and die, in their home. Unfortunately that is not always possible. Perhaps aging in place should be presented as something we plan for and work toward. Perhaps the focus should be less on home, as in location, and more on aging well, wherever home may be.
Home is Where the Heart Is
When my husband and I built our home 27 years ago we talked about never building another home. Ask any married couple that’s done the same and they’ll tell you it’s a miracle their marriage lasted! We also talked about being buried on our land. This was more a statement about never moving again rather than building a cemetery. None the less, here we are approaching age 60, hopefully wiser than we were in our 30s, and asking the question, can we live out our lives in this house?
My husband says yes, he’s not going anywhere. I, on the other hand, believe we need to start thinking about the reality of aging in place and what that means to us. He doesn’t understand how I could even think of moving out of the home we built; the home our children grew up in. What about the memories? For me, I keep our memories in my heart. I don’t need the brick and mortar they were created in to enjoy them. Yet, I understand this is often the very reason older adults wish to stay in their own home.
So, if home truly is where the heart is, can we find a way to be comfortable aging in place, if that place isn’t the home we built a lifetime in? Many seniors have to move to a new home, one that is safe, one that can sustain them as needs for care and services arise. A wise friend who worked in the non-medical in-home care industry used to say about the services provided “we will care for you in your home, wherever home may be.”
Strategies for Aging in Place
Living out the rest of your life in the home you’ve grown to love is a worthy goal. There are things you can do to ensure you can stay in your home as long as possible if not for the rest of your life. The strategies noted below are intended to help you age well so you can age in place. Staying active, engaged, and social are key to retaining the ability to stay in your home as you age.
- Stay active.
- Join the YMCA (or any gym of your choosing).
- Don’t act your age.
- Go to events with speakers. Look for them at the local college or university.
- Don’t retire unless you want to.
- Travel (even if it’s just a day trip to see or do something new).
- Try out new hobbies.
- Stay connected.
- Make new friends.
- Join a club or group.
Consider These Factors as you Age
In addition to staying active, engaged, and social, it’s important to make to ensure your environment supports your desire to age in place. Consider the following:
- Functionality: Can you navigate your home safely? A home safety assessment is a good place to start.
- Location: Is your home accessible to loved ones and the things you enjoy doing?
- Safety: Will you be able to get help in an emergency? Many people overestimate their ability to stay safe. If you live alone, you’re always at risk for having a medical event or a fall that keeps you from contacting someone in an emergency.
- Services: Are there nearby services you’ll want or need, such as medical care, shopping and entertainment?
- Affordability: Can you afford to pay for your home and your other regular expenses? Can you afford to make necessary changes to adapt your home in order to stay in place? Can you afford to pay for others to help you in your home?
Aging in place, in your home, wherever home may be, can present many challenges. As we age, we may experience just a few or many of these challenges. Our journeys and those of our parents are unique and varied. There is help available in a variety of forms to assist seniors with their journeys. Eldercare Navigators, Geriatric Care Managers, and Certified Senior Advisors are educated, skilled resources available to help you or a loved one age in place.