“Aging in place” is rapidly becoming a popular term in gerontology, with most older adults choosing it as their preferred living situation. In fact, the number of seniors in long-term residential care facilities is declining over the years, having dropped 12% from 1970 to 2000 alone (Kaplan). With the increased aging of the population comes the need for innovation in senior care – aging in place has been introduced as a way for seniors to have more freedom and independence while continuing to be members of their communities.
Here, we’ll explore the topic of aging in place in detail. Defining aging in place and the benefits that it offers may help seniors and loved ones decide whether or not it’s a feasible living option.
Defining aging in place
The generally accepted definition of aging in place is when an older adult stays in their own community rather than moving into a residential facility and keeping a degree of independence (Wiles). Aging in place may also be described as an older adult living in their preferred dwelling for as late into their elder years as possible.
Aging in place is highly appealing to many seniors because it eliminates the need to a major move late in life. Moving into a residential facility can be an emotionally taxing experience, especially if a senior has been living in the same home for several years. Aging in place can prolong the amount of time that an older adult stays out of residential care; in some circumstances, the move to a nursing home may be omitted entirely.
Additionally, aging in place enables seniors to keep the comforts in their own home and daily routine that they’ve become accustomed to, whether it be tending to their garden, baking in their kitchen, or even just sitting in their favorite chair.
Considerations for aging in place
After hearing the basics of aging in place, many older adults view it as an extremely attractive option of living setup. It undoubtedly presents numerous advantages, but considerations must be made before the decision to age in place is made.
- While aging in place may sound like the simplest and most straightforward senior housing option, it doesn’t require any less planning and organization that would be needed to move into a senior residential facility. In fact, it may take even more planning, given that caregivers, medical appointments, social activities, home maintenance, and finances must be organized on your own – nursing homes and other residential facilities take many of these burdens off of their residents and their loved ones.
- A senior’s home may need to be remodeled for accessibility purposes. Changes that may need to be made to accommodate decreasing mobility with age include:
- A complete living space should be included within a single floor of the home to eliminate the need to climb stairs. This means that a full bath and bedroom will need to be on the same floor.
- There should be at least a five-by-five foot turn space between furniture in the living room, bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom.
- Hallways should be wide and have plenty of lighting.
- The entryway to the home should feature an accessible route with a minimum of one no-step entrance.
- Non-slip flooring is ideal in a home for aging in place.
- Doors and windows should use hardware that’s easy to manage for those with limited muscular strength or joint conditions like arthritis.
- Bathroom additions including a folding shower seat, wall support, and slip-resistant flooring can help prevent falls while bathing.
These are just a handful of examples of the many renovations that can be made to fully prep a home for aging in place. The full extent of remodeling that will need to be done depends on the health of the senior and his or her personal needs. Additional charges will likely need to be made over time to adjust to changing needs.
- Aging in place is a suitable option for seniors if it will maintain or improve their quality of life more effectively than the other available residence options. Aging in place will not improve an older adult’s life inherently – it will simply provide a comfortable and familiar living space with the flexibility to build a personalized care program.
Benefits of aging in place
The planning, organization, and financial support needed for successful aging in place is hefty. But, the benefits that seniors can reap from aging in place are enormous, too.
The key benefits that seniors and their loved ones will enjoy with aging in place are:
- Older adults see aging in place as a housing option that provides flexibility, freedom, and choices. By allowing older adults to maintain as much independence as possible for as long as possible, aging in place may significantly improve contentment among seniors.
- Aging in place enables older adults to maintain their emotional connection to their homes, neighborhoods, and people in their communities. All of these factors contribute to how a person perceives their personal identity, so older adults may feel that they can more comfortably be themselves by aging in place.
- Since aging in place typically entails an older adult staying in their own home, it can allow seniors to keep a sense of independence. They can maintain more of their regular schedules and have greater control over their living space than they would in a residential facility.
- Aging in place allows seniors and loved ones to develop a care program especially to fit their personal needs. This can save time, money, and resources by omitting aspects of care that the senior is still able to handle on their own, whether it be meal preparation, light housework, medicine administration, etc. As the senior’s needs change with time, additional help may be added, but only as required.
Aging in place is a modern approach to care for seniors that allows for the maximum personalization and independence. The majority of older adults would rather stay in their own homes rather than move to a residential facility; well-organized aging in place program can allow them to do just that while still receiving the care that they need. With our aging population grows larger than ever, aging in place may likely become the new norm in senior living.
More from Seasons.com:
“Aging In Place: What Is Aging in Place and What Does It Mean?” SeniorLiving.org, SeniorLiving.org, 2 July 2019, www.seniorliving.org/aging-in-place/.
“Aging-In-Place Remodeling Checklist.” NAHB, National Association of Home Builders, www.nahb.org/learn/designations/certified-aging-in-place-specialist/related-resources/aging-in-place-remodeling-checklist.aspx.
Kaplan, Daniel B et al. “Aging in Place vs. Relocation for Older Adults with Neurocognitive Disorder: Applications of Wiseman’s Behavioral Model.” Journal of gerontological social work vol. 58,5 (2015): 521-38. doi:10.1080/01634372.2015.1052175
The Gerontologist, Volume 52, Issue 3, June 2012, Pages 357-366, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnr098
“What Is Aging in Place? – Age in Place Definition.” Aging in Place, AgeInPlace.com, ageinplace.com/aging-in-place-basics/what-is-aging-in-place/.