Family Caregivers: Signs of Decline in Seniors That May Prevent Aging in Place

Aging in the home of their choice is what we hear many of our senior loved ones say they want and where the majority of today’s seniors are currently residing. With the cost of care in other senior housing options increasing and the supply far smaller than our rapidly aging population, it’s a good thing that seniors want to age in place.


How long they can stay in their homes and be safe is a question with which many caregivers struggle every day. Because the number of caregivers responsible for senior adults grows every minute towards 2050 when the census from 2010 suggests close to 1 million Americans will be 100 or older, focusing on keeping them all safe at home is an important topic about which we want to learn. As a matter of fact, there are about 50,000 people in the U.S. who have reached that centenarian milestone, and almost 2 million Americans are currently 90 or older.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has pointed to a key change that we can observe in our aging loved ones to signal when a decline is coming – a decline that could lead to safety concerns and challenge their ability to live independently.

Look Out for Change in Functional Status

  • A major area of change that could prove to limit the ability of our senior loved ones to age in place is in their mobility – their ability to get around, both within and outside their home. Maintaining strength and balance through physical activity is one of the most important things your senior can do to age successfully. A decline in mobility often leads to falls, too often resulting in injury and reduced ability to complete their own daily activities of living.
  • Can your senior climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile? If the answer is yes, do they need a modification to be able to complete the steps or the walk?

If modifications are required to complete everyday tasks, it can often signal the beginning of functional decline. Caregivers should be on the lookout for unsafe conditions that could cause a problem for seniors before there is a problem.

Improving Seniors’ Mobility

  1. Ask your senior’s doctor if a physical therapist or occupational therapist can improve their functional status.
  2. To keep them safe at home, use appropriate medical or technological devices to improve their abilities and safety while staying active.
  3. Exercising, staying active and performing strength and balance activities at least three to five days a week will provide other benefits in addition to improving mobility.
  4. Maintaining healthy weight. Obesity can impair physical function and stamina leading to functional decline.
  5. Stopping smoking to keep their lungs as healthy as possible and helping to maintain the strength to care for themselves.
  6. Visiting the eye doctor and using prescription glasses if needed, maintaining healthy vision will help your senior stay safe at home, reduce their potential for staying isolated and help avoid falls that could lead to a loss of aging in place.
  7. Limiting alcohol consumption to a moderate level.

Small lifestyle changes to forestall or even prevent a decline in mobility will help your senior loved ones retain the option to live independently in their choice of home and do so safely longer and healthier.