Achieve Successful Aging in Place With a Little Help from Friends

Independently aging in place while living in the home of their choice is the stated preference of adults in all age groups in survey after survey.

Saying that’s what seniors want is a no-brainer.

What’s also desired is to be able to do what they want, enjoy the company of friends and family, and feel fulfilled.

Nobody wants to be a burden to anyone else. Instead, their desire is to have enough money to meet needs and keep from worrying about paying the bills each month.

In order to help our senior loved ones make those dreams a reality, family caregivers may need to make some plans with and sometimes even for them.

The Census Bureau estimates the number of seniors living in their own home by 2030 could be 68 million!

Our senior loved ones might need a little help to stay in their forever homes!

Seniors Help Seniors Stay Home

Seniors can be important in helping other seniors remain in the home of their choice in the community of their choosing. In doing so, they often help themselves as well.

While independent, most want to stay socially engaged. They also want to be in control of what happens in their environment and maintain their freedom.

There is one community, called Capitol Hill Village in Washington, that formed to achieve this goal. A group of seniors joined together to be each other’s support.

They volunteer to do what needs doing for each other, including transportation, home maintenance or repair, socialization such as book clubs and outings, gardening, and friendships.

They give each other assistance in areas where they have life skills such as handyman help or tech support. They call on each other before they outsource the job.

Sometimes It Takes a Village

Not only do they get help on a task that might be more than each could handle or afford on their own, but they also get the opportunity to help others giving them their own fulfillment — all while being able to live independently.

This is just one example of community dwelling seniors who are leaning on each other in order to successfully age in place.

Another way many seniors help their peers is by volunteering to help homebound seniors by performing tasks such as delivering meals and checking up on them as part of an organized program like Meals on Wheels.

Seniors living in NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) across the country band together to offer help. It is estimated that 27% of seniors currently live in a NORC. They can lend a hand with referrals for services, providing maintenance, teaching a skill, giving transportation, and socializing.

They organize themselves in their village.

Staying Home Means Renovation

For many seniors, having a support network of friends, such as in the villages and NORCs, isn’t quite enough.

They will need home renovations and remodeling in order to stay in their homes, work that even they and their friends can’t accomplish on their own.

It’s often a good idea for family caregivers to help senior loved ones think ahead for future needs in a home that might need repairs, modifications in hallway or doorway size, updated appliances, step in showers, ramps and handrails at entryways, better lighting, and more safety features.

If your senior needs to remodel their home in order to make it accessible as they age and their mobility becomes a concern, it might be a good time to consider what technology innovations can be installed such as connected home features could be done at the same time.

Family Support for Home Improvements

Family caregivers may be the one responsible for home improvements to facilitate aging in place for their senior loved one.

A recent aging in place report published by Home Advisor indicates that more than one half of home renovations for aging-related items is done by people younger than 65 and 10% are younger than 50. They estimate that 70% of home remodeling involves aging-related improvements. Often the daughter is the one who contacts the contractor.

When the renovations are done, more than half request home automation, such as security and thermostats. 14% add assistive technology for ease of use, such as automatic drop down kitchen shelving for easy reach, and 10% install in-home health monitoring including fall monitoring.

It may be necessary for family caregivers and seniors to find home remodelers that can provide the necessary aging in place resources and knowledge. The report states that two thirds of the professionals don’t know the term ‘universal design’ and 72% don’t have materials related to aging in place improvements.

The most popular projects include installing grab bars and ramps or adding a personal alert system but there is so much more than can be done to help seniors live independently and safely!

Communicating to Stay Connected

One concern for family caregivers when their seniors are aging in place and living alone is isolation. Caregivers fear that their seniors are cut off from others and may not be getting the socialization that will improve their health and quality of life.

One way to help our seniors be connected with others in their community and across the country (even the world) is connecting them to social media technology.

Online communication with family, friends and new acquaintances with common interests through social media benefits our seniors.

It isn’t just about chatting or staying up on all the family news, but social media connections can also aid our seniors with valuable information in case of an emergency. They can get updates, shelter information, and safety precautions to help them weather the storm.

Seniors can also use social networking to reach out for help. In an emergency, a neighbor found and connected through social media may be the best person to help seniors in need.

Meeting Through Social Networking

Pew Research in 2010, reported that only 28% of us know a single neighbor by name. That can be changed through social media, at least as a first step. Seniors can find neighbors through community sponsored social media sites and connect with public safety agencies.

Technology can be so much more than keeping their Facebook wall pictures up to date!

Family caregivers can help seniors age in place by helping them find the right housing location, updating their dwelling to include universal design projects with important technology innovations and setting them up with social media.

Staying connected on all levels, physically and socially, is a goal we all share — not just for our senior loved ones but for ourselves!