We all want to live the rest of our lives in the home of our dreams. In fact, 3 out of 4 adults want to age in place according to a recent AARP report, 2018 Home and Community Preferences.
Unfortunately, many adults fear that this won’t be possible for them. Family caregivers worry about their senior loved ones ability to safely and financially age in place.
The AARP report found that “59% anticipate they will be able to stay in their community, either in their current home (46%) or a different home still within their community (13%). “
What are options for you and your senior loved one to remain in either their current home or community that would enable them to age in place as they wish?
Will your senior need accommodations to their current home, downsizing, or renovation? Will in-home care be possible in their current location or would they have availability of family caregivers to help? Can their needs be met in their current community (age-friendly, walkable, or accessible)?
The survey found options that are becoming more viable and desirable, some of which might surprise you.
Non-Traditional Options for Aging in Place
There are many strategies that can be put into place starting right now that will help enable your senior loved one to remain in place as they age.
The AARP report found that seniors are willing to explore these options, including some new ideas that are beginning to gain traction as viable solutions.
They found that adults were willing to try home sharing (32%), building an accessory dwelling unit (31%), and moving to villages that provide services that enable aging in place (56%).
We have heard about NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities); granny pods that can sit on the property of family caregivers to give independence and family support; assisted living facilities which allow for extra care and no home maintenance; and, continuing care retirement communities (CCRC) that can give care transitions in one living location as traditional options for seniors who desire a more supportive community as they age.
However, home sharing is a new preference, one that is beginning to catch on, with agencies designed to help you and your senior either share their home or find a suitable home. The costs of living are shared, the space is shared at the same time companionship is gained.
There are older adults who wouldn’t consider home sharing (28%), as well as some who might consider it in the future if the need arose for help with transportation or other tasks (58%). Half would consider this option for the sole purpose of companionship.
We may see those numbers rise in the future, especially among those aging alone.
In the survey, many older adults expressed a desire to relocate and also downsize specifically because their home requires renovations or maintenance that they aren’t willing to do but would be necessary for aging in place.
What Do Seniors Desire to Age in Place?
The AARP survey also asked adults about the experience of aging in place. What do they need to feel successful and safe?
Some of the results are not surprising, as we have been hearing for some time the importance of some of these factors. The trick is finding what they desire as many cities are still struggling to be age-friendly.
Seniors want affordable housing as they age (60%) and transportation especially for those who are disabled, according to the survey results. Currently, 90% of seniors drive themselves, but they also want public transportation, walking areas, and the ability to be transported by others to get where they want to go. Having all options available as they age is important to consider.
Ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are another option, but only 29% of older respondents report using them, although 94% were familiar with them. Only 68% felt they would use them within the year due to perceived lack of need or safety and privacy concerns. In addition, 88% have heard of driverless cars but are not willing to use autonomous vehicles. We anticipate this statistic will change as the vehicles attain broad familiarity and acceptance.
They also want access to jobs and job training for seniors and people with disabilities.
Half (50%) also say that they would want volunteer opportunities with transportation to those sites.
Being in proximity to a hospital, healthcare professionals, and safe parks were also high on the list of desires.
They would like walkable cities with easy to read traffic signs and well-maintained streets and sidewalks.
33% of adults feel that they have a need for companionship as they age (3 in 10) and feel left out or isolated. Most adults surveyed (94%) reported having someone they knew to call in a time of need day or night.
Family Caregivers Help to Make Dreams a Reality
The wants of our seniors who wish to age in place are really no different from those of younger adults. We all want to live in our homes as long as possible, want access to transportation to remain independent, want accessibility in all things, and to remain socially engaged.
How can this be possible for our seniors? There are things caregivers can do now to help facilitate aging in place.
- Begin now to achieve universal design in the home. Thinking ahead about what makes a home livable now and in the future so that you can make changes that will be useful at any age can be done now. Changing to lever handle faucets, installing adequate lighting, maintaining the dwelling so that it isn’t a safety risk, putting the bedroom on the main floor, and other design traits will make the home easier to age in place.
- Educate seniors about the benefits of ride sharing and autonomous vehicles so that they will be ready to use these services if the time comes when they could benefit from them. Also discuss the possibility of home sharing if they need support with their finances, companionship or help with daily tasks. There are numerous benefits to home sharing beyond financial to consider.
- Connect them with technologies that will allow them to remain safe at home, engage with others to reduce the feeling of social isolation, and give you (the family caregivers) peace of mind through privacy-maintaining monitoring of their health and well-being when you are not present.
- Advocate for livable, age-friendly communities. What does their locale need for them to remain in their community as they age and how can you be proactive in helping to achieve that?
- Encourage them to stay healthy through physical activity, healthy eating, adopting preventive health habits, and disease management so that they can maintain the highest quality of life to stay independent.
- Help them manage their finances and plan for aging in place so that they can afford housing, pay for upkeep of their home, seek appropriate medical care and medications as needed, eat a healthy diet, purchase technology, and pay for home health care as needed.
Successful aging in place takes planning on both your senior’s part and yours as a family caregiver.
Learning about what your senior expects as they age in place so you can help them meet those expectations may be your first step towards helping them achieve their dreams.