In previous generations, many adults expected to live out their golden years in a senior living complex or nursing facility. Some looked forward to having a ready-made community or getting extra help from drop-in caregivers. In recent years, increasingly more people are aging in place.
“Aging in Place” means staying in your home as you grow older. This may be an affordable option that helps seniors maintain independence and remain near their family and favorite local places. This is an attractive option, but it’s also a major transition. You may need to renovate your house, change your habits, and adopt new technology. Here are a few key factors to consider.
Remodeling the Home
How much time and money will it take to make your home safe and senior-accessible? That depends. A fairly accessible, one-story home with an open floor plan might just need a few quick installations such as grab bars, nonslip mats, enhanced lighting, lever-style handles, and other such minor improvements.
More extensive remodeling might include projects such as widening doorways, installing ramps, and safety-proofing the bathroom with a walk-in tub and other such conveniences for a body becoming more frail over time.
A checklist such as the AARP Home Fit Guide will may help you plan on making your home safe and functional. Planning ahead will also let you budget for bigger-ticket expenses over time.
Did you know that over 64 million American households are multi-generational? For some families, it makes financial and emotional sense to band together. Living in the same home allows them to pool resources and support one another.
Combining households is a big change that is bound to have a few bumps along the way. For a smoother journey, have a family discussion. Will you need to remodel a bonus room? How will you divide up chores? How do you book personal time? After combining households, regular check-ins let everyone talk about what’s working and what needs to be adjusted.
Thanks to advancing technology there is a gadget on the market for almost every aging-related need. Many devices can combine a number of functions, so there’s no need to clutter up the home with electronics. Instead, consider multipurpose tech including virtual assistants, smart devices, and apps.
Virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana can now create a schedule, issue weather and news updates, play music, call emergency services and issue medication alarms. Life alert systems including smart watches may have emergency alert functions, GPS trackers, medication alarms and heartbeat and blood pressure monitors.
And now some of these items needn’t be wearables, they can install discreetly around the home. Be sure to shop around and compare reviews to find the right mix of features for your needs. And don’t overlook your already existing smart phone. There are apps for booking rides, food delivery, general home services, or just for chatting with loved ones. Networking and staying involved in the community is a vital part of aging.
Finally, telehealth is becoming a very popular option with seniors. Telehealth videoconferencing connects you with doctors, nurses, counselors, physical therapists, and eliminates the need to travel or sit in waiting rooms. Even better, many insurance companies and Medicare support these services.
This is a great time to get on top of your finances. Do you have a budget in place? What about a bill-paying schedule and a way to keep track of financial paperwork? Online bill pay and e-receipts can be very helpful here.
If you’re thinking about moving in with family and combining assets, consider discussing this with professionals such as an accountant and an attorney specializing in elder law. You might need to adjust your will or file taxes differently.
Long-term care insurance is another important item to plan for. Although you may be on track to age in place, your health needs could suddenly change. This insurance can help you pay for unexpected expenses like hospitalization, rehabilitation services, or a home nurse.
Many seniors also have a family member as a caregiver. In fact, 12% of parents of young children are also providing unpaid care for an adult. Such a family member might qualify for a number of federal and local programs including meal assistance, transportation services, and even financial compensation. And legitimate tax deductions will probably arise without trying.
The healthier you are, the easier it will be to age in place. Get proactive about your wellbeing now to reap the benefits down the line. You may want to quit smoking, eat a balanced diet, get regular check-ups, minimize stress and exercise (with your doctor’s blessing).
Exercise is a cornerstone to continued good health, but it doesn’t have to be strenuous or involve a gym and a bunch of machines. In fact, you may only need a comfortable pair of well-fitting shoes. Walking for just half an hour a few times a week offers a host of health benefits. You can supplement that with a little strength training to hold onto your muscle mass and bone density.
Many aging seniors find themselves staying at home more and more. However, just as a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your physical health, isolation could harm your mental health. Prolonged loneliness can lead to depression and anxiety. The antidote to this is building a community.
Videoconferencing and social networks are valuable ways to stay in contact with friends and family. You may also be able to take (or teach!) distance education classes to hone your skills or pick up a new hobby. Finally, consider finding or building a community centered on your passions, for example by joining a local birdwatchers’ group or volunteering at an animal shelter.
What’s Your Big Picture?
Aging in place isn’t just about convenience or saving money. It’s about thriving as you age. When you picture your golden years, what matters the most to you? Is it deepening your relationships, exploring hobbies, or adding to your local community? With the right plan, all of this is possible.