Seniors and their family caregivers in growing numbers are finding the right solutions to make aging in place a reality.
More seniors are becoming healthier to face their aging head on. They’re managing to put realistic financial plans in place to allow them to maintain their lifestyle while paying for ever-rising healthcare costs. Many of them are early adopters to the latest technology and telehealth solutions that can keep them safely in the homes of their choice for longer periods of time.
Family caregivers are making great strides in meeting the needs of their aging loved ones. Some solutions, however, are not within their control. It is up to the community, city planners, governments and larger systems to catch up with the needs of the seniors in their locales.
Sustainable Aging in Place
According to a recent report prepared by MetLife Mature Market Institute, there are specific characteristics that a community will need to have in order for the seniors living there and successfully age in place.
- Available accessible and affordable homes for seniors to live as they age, including homes in all price ranges, accessibility for disabled people and all types of living arrangements, such as personal homes, apartments, senior housing, assisted living and accessory dwelling units. It is also important to include the presence of home remodeling services and Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS). Also, zoning for multi-family dwellings, more than one single family home per lot and mixed use neighborhoods should be flexible.
- Contains specific features that allow access to the community at large, such as walkable neighborhoods with sidewalks, safe driving options such as easy-to-view signage and improved lighting, and neighborhoods that are safe for seniors to move about without fear. There should also be transportation that includes the five A’s – availability, accessibility, acceptability, affordability and adaptability to diverse needs is a priority.
- Wide variety of services, such as healthcare, retail centers, food shopping and support services, in addition to community life including senior centers, peer events, libraries, beauty salons, banks, pharmacies, places of worship and clubs.
- In-home services should be accessible through transportation or capable of being brought into the home, such as home health care, meals on wheels, support groups and respite care.
- Emergency preparedness plans that take the needs of aging adults into account, such as identifying where seniors who need assistance are located, early warning methods, and help with supplying their needs during a disaster such as medications and documentation.
- Volunteer opportunities that allow seniors to remain physically, mentally and socially active
Aging in Place Solutions Benefit Entire Community
Seniors aren’t the only ones who benefit when the community provides a sustainable aging in place environment, as there are dividends for the community as a whole.
- Economic development for services and goods provided to aging population, including housing and healthcare
- Fostering environmental health, not only that of the aging population but general population as well
- Improved infrastructure of communities, such as walkable neighborhoods and transportation, provide opportunities for the entire community
- Local governments that remove barriers to provide aging in place options improve business opportunities for all citizens
- Obtaining a wealth of expertise and service from the seniors in volunteer opportunities lets the community share in and benefit from their experience
According to the MetLife report “a livable community is one in which residents of all ages are able to maintain independence and enjoy a high quality of life”. A community that can allow for successful aging in place for all our seniors will also improve the community as a whole for all citizens.
As we advocate for our senior loved ones and help them age in place successfully more safely and longer, we will be helping to improve our communities and our own aging future.