For generations past, aging in place was but a dream for many seniors. More likely they would, at some point, move to a senior living facility or into their children’s home.
Now we know it is a reality for most seniors.
However, this isn’t as easy as some might have thought, causing family caregivers at times to struggle to improve their senior loved one’s quality of life as they age in place.
Seniors and their family caregivers want to avoid being forced to move into a facility because they were no longer safe in their environment.
Some cities have taken the lead in assisting older people in transforming their current homes into lifelong homes, which is a big help for family caregivers.
Partnering with companies and agencies that can renovate their existing homes, bringing services closer to the communities in which they are needed, or helping seniors find more suitable living space to better meet their needs as they age are initiatives that need to happen in all cities so more older adults can safely age in place without depending on family.
We can all learn from what cities and family caregivers are doing now to help their senior loved ones age in place successfully.
Growing Aging in Place
Yes, fortunately, aging in place is no longer a pipe dream for retiring seniors.
AARP found in 2014 that 87% of adults age 65+ want to stay in their current home and community as they age.
Among people age 50 to 64, 71% of people want to age in place.
These numbers are growing rapidly as the population ages.
By 2020 there will be an estimated 55 million people over age 65 in America.
Many will have special needs to be met since AARP reports that, by 2025, one in four drivers will be age 65 or older.
In 2011 it was found that more than 50% of non-drivers over age 65 do not leave home most days, partly because of a lack of transportation options.
How are these seniors getting groceries, going to the doctor or pharmacy, visiting friends, getting to church, or doing errands like getting their hair cut or doing their banking?
The majority will depend on family caregivers to help them meet their needs.
Most cities and towns across the country, especially in rural areas, are ill-prepared to transport seniors, keep them safe at home, or assist them with their activities of daily living.
Having access to services including healthcare may mean a relocation for aging in place should be a consideration not just home renovations, especially when cities aren’t able to provide transportation or local services that will meet senior’s needs.
Family Caregivers Face Their Future
Family caregivers are helping senior loved ones make the best of their homes for aging in place.
They are being forced to learn about safety devices and technology that can keep seniors safe at home as the years progress.
They have installed accommodations, such as grab bars and handrails, in the homes of seniors to make them safer.
These upgrades are often being made after a crisis or to fix an older home that needs not just aging makeovers, but in-depth home repairs too.
What about the millions of younger baby boomers (mid-50s to 60 year olds) who are contemplating their own retirement and aging needs at the same time they help their own seniors manage their current aging scenario?
Are they preparing their own homes now for their own aging needs?
Plan Your Home for Aging in Place Now
Most people who purchase a home for their family don’t think about size and layout specifications that will help them in retirement.
However, 50 year olds have begun examining their present living situation so that when they redecorate or renovate they include options that will make it easier for them to remain in their beloved homes.
Simple things you can do now when you repair your home and approach your retirement will benefit you in the long run.
Installing higher toilets and sinks, walk in showers, grab bars, lever faucets, and shower benches when you update your bathroom are wise decisions now and in the future.
If you knock down a wall to make a great room, consider widening your doorways and halls to accommodate a wheelchair, which may be necessary down the road.
Don’t overlook bringing your master bedroom down to the main living floor when you complete a renovation.
Is your front door or porch in need of handrails or fewer steps so you can come and go with ease later?
Do you have enough light in key areas, such as your driveway, walkway, hallways, garage, basement, or closets?
When you upgrade your kitchen, can you add lower cabinets, storage that is easy to reach, or smart appliances?
Are there technology upgrades that you might enjoy now for music that might be able to be used for safety monitoring later in life? There are many technology innovations that are handy for us now and later.
The Rise of Universal Design
Currently it is estimated that 25-40% of home renovations are including strategies to make the living space accessible for future aging needs.
This type of design or re-design is known as universal design. It includes changes that will benefit you at any age.
Unfortunately, many people don’t plan ahead and have a shock when something tragic happens, forcing them to act fast.
It is a lot easier to consider making changes that will carry you through aging in place now when you might renovate your home for either fashion or form.
It is likely cheaper to include certain renovations, like wider doorways or first floor living, now than waiting for later when your resources may be diminished.
A few small changes along the way as you look to your future are likely to pay big dividends later.