As you get older, it’s important to think about your plans for long-term care. And while there are plenty of great facilities, there’s nothing like growing old in your own home. The question is, how do you make it happen?
What Does it Mean to Age in Place?
Aging in place is a lifestyle choice that individuals make as they age. It’s a conscious and continuous decision to remain in your home as you get older, as opposed to moving into a care facility, downsizing into a smaller house, or moving in with an adult child. The goal is to be surrounded by your comforts and continue enjoying your hobbies, interests, and habits without interruption.
Aging in place does not mean you forgo medical attention or help. You may have to include supplementary services and/or make modifications to your house in order to continue living there. However, if you plan ahead, there are typically ways to make it work.
Simple Tips for Aging in Place
If aging in place is something you’re interested in, here are several things you can do to increase the likelihood of it happening:
1. Make Your Wishes Known
The first step is to make sure your family and loved ones know your wishes. If it’s your desire to stay in your home until there’s some sort of extenuating circumstance that makes it impossible to do so, explain that to them! You can’t silently hope to age in place. There have to be thoughtful conversations ahead of time. (You can even write these wishes down in a signed document.)
2. Perform a Home Safety Check
Aging in place is almost always possible, but there are some hidden dangers in homes that may make things unsafe as you lose some of your mobility and mental acuity. Proactively dealing with these now will make this a safer decision. Here are several specific things you can do:
- Secure all rugs using non-slip mats underneath
- Check floors for electrical cords and move/cover any that could be tripping hazards
- Install a medical alert system (either on your person or in main living areas)
- Double-check that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are installed correctly
- Ensure handrails near stairs are sturdy and can fully support you
- Install a mat in the bathtub or shower to avoid slipping
- Place everyday items in ground-level cabinets and drawers to avoid having to climb or reach.
Home safety checks should be performed every few months. For another set of eyes, you may want to involve a trusted friend, neighbor, adult child, or grandchild.
3. Consider All Care Options
There are so many different types of care options available for individuals who choose to age in place. Make sure you consider them all.
In addition to having home health aides and other services, you might even be able to hire your own adult child to provide care. In states like New York, Medicaid-funded programs will actually financially compensate these individuals for providing home care.
4. Get Familiar With Tech
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to stay on top of the latest technology. You don’t have to be a technical wizard, but you should know enough to be able to access the latest devices and applications. There’s booming innovation in the elder care/home care space. If you know how to use these gadgets, you’ll enjoy more independence and better safety/security in the years to come.
5. Stay Active
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your health. If you’re still able to move around and handle basic personal needs when you’re 95 or 100, then you’ll have no trouble aging in place. But if you’re already losing your mobility at age 70, well, it’s going to be very difficult to continue aging in place much longer.
The key is to stay active. You should exercise at least once daily. Try something that’s easy on the joints, but that keeps the blood flowing. Swimming, water aerobics, and walks around the neighborhood are all great.
Design Your Lifestyle
The decision to age in place must be an intentional one. In other words, it’s not something you just stumble into. There has to be some planning on the front end. Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to continue (safely) living in your home during your later years. Don’t wait until your health is declining. Plan ahead!