About 90% of those 65 or older want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, according to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). In order for that to happen, it’s important to have a plan. Aging in place could mean staying in your current residence or downsizing to something smaller in the neighbourhood. Making a move to something nearby allows you to find alternative accommodation with on-site support ranging from occasional, regular assistance, or chronic care.
1. Explore the Benefits of Staying Put
There are many reasons why aging in place can be a win. It may be financially advantageous. For instance, depending on the situation, staying in your home can be less expensive than moving to an assisted-living community. There are the upfront costs of moving, monthly payments for room and board, which can easily range from $3,000 – $5,000+ a month. Home care could be a much cheaper option.
Even more important are the psychological payoffs of not moving away from one’s established community of friends, medical professionals, and faith community. Though these factors are hard to place a financial value on, they are a vital component of healthy aging. Your social connections will add to a happier, healthier life, which may get lost if you move. You shouldn’t just concentrate on finances.
2. Do a Home Safety Check
The first step in an “aging in place” plan is to run a complete safety check of your home. There are some hazards that you might take for granted—for example, furniture obstructing pathways or stairs. Walk around the house with an eye for potential hazards that might cause trouble should vision or mobility begin to deteriorate. You can hire a home modification specialist to correct any issues.
Many of the improvements that may make it easier to stay in your house—such as raising electrical outlets to make them more accessible, and installing brighter outdoor lighting—aren’t expensive. Homes can be retrofitted by installing secure handrails alongside the stairs to the front door, switching doorknobs to levers, adding automatic lights to hallways, removing rugs that might become tripping hazards, and placing grab bars in the shower. Some of these options can be done long before your senior years. Having a home that is senior-friendly could make it more saleable when the time comes.
The sooner you start preparing, the better.
3. Assess transportation
Driving may be your lifeline and independence. Eventually, you may come to that “I don’t think I can drive” moment. It’s tough, but often unavoidable. If you are at the point that you can no longer drive or walk to the grocery store or reach other important services, assess other transportation options. Is there public transit? Ride sharing with friends or neighbours? Some grocery and pharmacy outlets deliver.
Isolation is deadly at any age, especially in senior years. Communication and social connectedness are crucial. Do you have a local support network? Are you comfortable communicating via computer or smart phone/tablet? Start to put together a list of people and professionals who can step in and help if you need someone to go along to a doctor’s appointment, or someone to help with errands, or for lunch or dinner dates. If your family doesn’t live nearby, you may want to have a pipeline to neighbours you can call for periodic check-ups. Don’t be stubbornly independent. Let friends help.
5. Look at Options Nearby in the Neighbourhood
Be honest with yourself. Are you happy living alone? Are you lonely? At least look at facilities in your neighbourhood that might range from independent living (with or without a meal option) to assisted-living where support is available for some daily or occasional tasks to chronic nursing care. You may not need chronic care now, but if your centre offers it, you will have first priority should the need arise. Living with other seniors nearby might provide a delightful social community that you didn’t realise you were missing.
6. Make it an Ongoing Process
Once you have a plan, review it regularly by yourself and a trusted family member or friend. Once the home is retrofitted, keep an eye open to see if you are having trouble. What if you experience a health event, such as a bout of pneumonia that requires a lengthy hospital stay, or a fall that affects your cognitive ability or mobility.
Friends and family members may want to look out for any unexplained bruising on the aging person’s arms or legs. Look around the home when you visit. Is there a pile of mail? Are things in disarray? Is the fridge bare? Is food spoiling? Be willing to reassess the situation to consider and decide whether the plan you put in place is still working.
– Chip Barkel, MCNE, SRES, Toronto Real Estate. Extraordinary Service. Top Results.