There are so many things we do today that impact how we live in the future.
And they’re not obvious.
These are tiny incremental habits that we carry out each day, unnoticed and unfortunately for most of us, unintentional… until one day we look up and see how we’ve drastically impacted the state of our present life.
Then we have a moment of panic and immediately try to change the outcome but realize it may be too late, or there are fewer options for us to choose from, and that our window of opportunity for change is closing in.
Or…if we’re proactive and intentional about how we want to live our future, we create these productive healthy habits each day so that when we look up after a lengthy period of time, we feel instead of horror and fear, a major sense of accomplishment.
Many of us want to age in place.
According to an AARP study, nearly 90% of US residents aged 45+ say they prefer to remain in their homes even when they need assistance.
You can make this happen by considering these important factors that I’ve gathered related to aging in place. Before we dive into the critical factors, let’s quickly define the term.
What is Aging in Place?
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines 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.”
In other words, avoiding the nursing home sitch, where there are a tragic number of lonely old people dying from Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related ailments. If you look at the history of the nursing home in the US, it’s a super sad story.
In 1935 when the government stepped in to abolish the hated almshouse institution, the federal legislation barred almshouse residents from receiving financial support. By the 1950s the almshouses were mostly gone, but there were still many sick, old people who needed help, which meant both public and private nursing home residents were granted federal support.
We’ve basically commoditized the idea of housing and caring for the elderly to the point where nursing homes became a cheap barely-nicer-than-hospital-vibe place where we stuffed our aging seniors to spend their last days. And look at the quality of the US nursing homes:
How depressing is that?
Today, there are nearly 16,000 nursing homes and this number is expected to trend upwards. I personally see this as a domestic tragedy.
That’s not to say there aren’t a ton of other options and that the topic of aging in place isn’t complex… The main thing I want to get at is:
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had the choice in where and how we wanted to spend our final years and days?
I am so committed to helping you take preventive measures to avoid increasing these insane stats. By finding your own sense of adventure after 60 — feeling so alive, healthy and happy – you can increase your likelihood of aging in place on your own terms.
That’s why I’ve gathered these important factors all in one place, for you to consider now so you can achieve your goal of aging in place.
The best part?
It’s never too early to start on any of this planning. You have full control to decide and take action on how you want to age in place.
Why is it important? Aging in Place Factors
Aging in Place Factor #1: Don’t ignore the normal aging process
This one is so obvious, yet so many of us carry on living in denial and avoid giving the normal aging process the real attention it deserves. The crappy part about getting older is your body starts to slow down, which of course impacts your quality of life. Changes start to take place, and you’re no longer able to do things the way you used to.
We’ve all heard and experienced parts of this, yet are we really committing to taking ownership to prepare for our future selves?
More specifically, here’s what happens during a normal aging process according to WebMD and Senior Living:
- Eye trouble
- Hearing loss
- Decrease in muscle mass, strength and stamina
- High blood pressure
- Memory loss and decrease mental endurance
- Decrease in mobility, agility and balance
- Higher risk of accidents due to bone fragility and lack of balance
We have to nurture our physical and mental health to a point of keeping the aging process in check. If any of these ailments become too cumbersome and non-manageable, we risk our independence and chances of aging in place.
Aging in Place Factor #2: Think beyond the normal aging process
For many of us, we’re predisposed to ailments beyond normal aging which means our future health is at even more risk. Aging deeper beyond 80 years can mean you have an increased risk of disability and isolation, which of course can bring on more financial stress.
Check out how difficult items like self-care, independent living, mobility and cognitive function become as soon as you hit age 80:
You don’t want the aging process to hit you as severely and exponentially as in this chart. Diseases like Alzheimer’s begin their work up to 15 years before we even start to experience symptoms, which is why you’ll see someone’s health decline so rapidly after a certain tipping point.
There are many preventive things you can practice as habits in your lifestyle now, that can help your “aging difficulty chart” climb at a much more gradual pace.
Aging in Place Factor #3: Hang on to your Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
When we start to lose the ability to perform our ADLs, aging in place becomes more difficult. At the most basic level, we need to manage our own ADLs before:
- Either help comes to us with home care
- Or we go to the care at an assisted living facility
When we lose these five ADLs, the idea of living with dignity becomes so challenging:
- Personal hygiene – your bathing, grooming, oral, nail and hair care
- Managing continence – your mental and physical ability to properly use the bathroom
- Dressing – your ability to dress yourself and to decide what to properly wear for different occasions
- Eating – your ability to feed yourself (even if you don’t cook)
- Transferring – also known as ambulating, this is your ability to go from seated to standing, get in and out of bed, change from one position to another, and to walk independently
If we’re looking at it through the lens of someone taking preventive measures, the goal is to commit as soon as possible to a life that helps you protect and hang on to your ADLs.
Aging in Place Factor #4: The US is top-heavy with seniors
Back to my previous point about the tragic and growing number of seniors in US nursing homes, our population will be so top-heavy with seniors over age 65 at an unprecedented level, we’re likely to face a housing crisis.
In 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, which is nearly double its estimated 2012 population of 43.1 million.
Why does this matter?
We’ll run out of facilities for the elderly who really need it. The demand for affordable, accessible housing with social connectivity and supportive services will be so high that prices will be exorbitant.
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard, this can mean four terrible outcomes:
- High housing costs force millions of low-income older adults to sacrifice spending on other necessities including food, undermining their health and well-being.
- Much of the nation’s housing inventory lacks basic accessibility features, preventing older adults with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes.
- The nation’s transportation and pedestrian infrastructure are generally ill-suited to those who cannot or choose not to drive, isolating older adults from friends and family.
- Disconnects between housing programs and the healthcare system put many older adults with disabilities or long-term care needs at risk of premature institutionalization.
Aging in Place Factor #5: Your housing may need some modifying
There are many modifications you can make to your home so that it’s better suited for your older self.
According to Home Advisor, 48% of the remodeling for aging in place is done in the bathroom, followed by entrance ways or stairways at 24%.
Here are some remodeling tips that fall into each of these categories to give you some idea of which modifications to consider around your home from Retired Brains for aging in place:
- Make your showers and tubs easy to access
- Consider removing the tub and adding a shower without a curb
- Installing bars and grips can help with those imbalanced moments
- Entrance or stairway
- Adjust your doors to make sure the width allows for wheelchairs to move through; this typically means 32” across
- Remove thresholds and floor borders that could add friction or be a tripping hazard
- Install some sturdy handrails on both sides of your stairway
- Shoot for an open design with lots of light flowing through
- Having multiple counter heights can accommodate various ages and mobility levels
- Pull-out shelves and open shelving can help you access your kitchenware more easily
- Home exterior
- Path lighting can help you move around at night
- A wraparound deck that’s level with the first floor can help with ease of moving in and out of the house
- Covered entrances can help you better manage the aftermath of a bad storm when entering and exiting the house
- Overall home
- Having as many light sources as possible can be very helpful in navigating the house at all hours of the day, especially near the stairs, halls and entryways
- Get rid of your throw rugs that could also be a tripping hazard
- Consider sliding doors for more flexibility, openness and multiple uses for a single room
- For those of you with multiple levels, consider moving a bedroom to the first floor for easy access
For a more comprehensive aging-in-place remodeling checklist, the National Association of Home Builders put together a nice list of features to review.
Aging in Place Factor #6: Research home care options
As you become less independent, you’ll need to rely more on others, which of course impacts your family and circle of influence. Home care gives you the flexibility to pay for assistance in the comfort of your own home, without having to rely so heavily on your loved ones.
There are plenty of services out there that cover items like:
- Personal care – if your ADLs are difficult to manage on your own, home care providers can help with this
- Chores – whether it’s changing the sheets on your bed, making your bed or mopping the floor, some home care providers allow a limited amount of their service time for light chores
- Meals – home care providers can cook for you and prep meals
- Healthcare – depending on the severity of your condition, trained caretakers can help you keep up with your medication and treatment adherence
- Financial – staying organized, prepared and on top of your finances, home caretakers can help you plan
- Safety – physically having someone around to help in case of a fall or accident
- Transportation – caretakers can help you run errands, buy groceries or drive you to doctor appointments
- Companionship – even if just a few hours of conversing and assisting around the house, there are caretakers who will help with the more enjoyable lightweight part of servicing
Aging in place doesn’t mean you have to be 100% strong, healthy and independent until the day you die. Home care is just another way of providing you more options and assistance as you age and lose your independence. You can tailor the several services out there to work specifically for you and your lifestyle.
Aging in Place Factor #7: Take note of the advantages
Despite the majority of us wanting to age in place, there are specific advantages that can help us remember why it’s important to focus on our future goals. Aging in place can bring us:
- Familiarity – Of course trying new things and getting out of your comfort zone are a huge part of growth, and lifelong learning and personal growth are what keep our brain plasticity strong. However, I also understand the major comfort in the familiarity and sacredness of your own home. Moving to an assisted living facility can mean having to sacrifice this as you enter unknown environments, where you don’t necessarily control the schedule or surroundings.
- Independence – We’ll all of course, over time, begin to lose our independence as our bodies decline and our reliance on others will likely grow. However there are not only home care solutions and other options we can take to maintain our independence in life, but we can also take preventive measures and act now to take care of our mental and physical health. By focusing on community, growth, health and giving back you’ll be amazed at how much longer independence will last.
Pro tip: do the things that energize you and tune in closely to the activities and people that align with your core values.
- Convenience – By aging in place you’ll have the convenience of living on your own terms, rather than following a facility system’s schedule and protocol.
- Comfortable environment – Part of the beauty in aging in place is you maintain the freedom to keep your home as your own personalized sanctuary. You have full liberty to do as you please in the privacy of your own home.
- Savings – Moving and uprooting your life can be such an expensive hassle. Not only can you avoid moving costs, but by aging in place you can also avoid expensive assisted living costs. Plus, most US residents are close to paying off their mortgages by retirement.
According to Genworth’s 2017 Financial Cost of Care Survey, the national median average for an assisted living facility was $45k per year. And here are the most expensive states for a private, one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility:
Keeping these benefits in mind can help us focus on our lifestyle goals and vision, and can be helpful in planning our days and daily habits.
Don’t be like the majority of people and procrastinate – it’s important to plan for your future self as early as possible when it comes to your health and wellness.
Clarity and the EAR Foundation found in a study that 26% of seniors are afraid of losing their independence and 13% fear moving to a nursing home more than they fear death.
The good news?
You have the power to choose your future vision.
Yes, there are diseases and health issues beyond our control but we can better prepare for the aging process and all that comes with it. With the right daily habits and mindset, we can reach our lifelong goals, and create a healthy fulfilling lifestyle that allows us to age in the comfort of our own home in the way that we want.
Where do you want to spend your final days and how can you commit now to making that vision happen?