We have been hearing for a number of years that seniors (and those of all ages) want to age in place.
Simply put, we want to stay in the home of our choosing forever.
It may require a move to a community that is more family accessible, a home that is smaller and lower maintenance, a walkable city or simply staying in our lifelong adult home.
There are many different types of information available to seniors to help them stay in their homes as long as safely possible.
Are we getting value from these resources? Are we using the products designed to help us stay home safely? Are we capitalizing on technology? Are we keeping our bodies and our bank accounts strong and healthy?
We owe it to our seniors and our future to make those assessments.
In order to understand if seniors are truly being successful and utilizing the resources available to them, two organizations have teamed up to investigate aging in place attainment.
The National Aging in Place Council and Georgia Tech Research Institute’s HomeLab are tracking outcomes with the help of older adults who are currently aging in place.
Are they using services and information in the community to help them remain independent?
Researchers will compare seniors who choose to access services and those who do not. Seniors will be followed for a period of one year or longer.
Their hypothesis is that if you take advantage of the services that are readily available, you will be more successful aging in place and will be able to remain independent longer.
The study hopes to begin in 2016 after more funding is secured.
Currently the HomeLab has a volunteer base of 600 seniors in the Atlanta area that help provide data on subjects related to aging.
Benefits of Planning to Age in Place
Like many advocates for seniors who desire to age in place, these researchers believe that the better planning is completed, the more successful aging in place will be.
It needs to be brought into the everyday conversation with caregivers and community agencies, much like retirement, so more seniors understand that certain needs can be more easily met when they are part of the plan.
Benefits to planning include securing solutions to these issues:
- Healthcare costs
- Transportation options, both now and in the future
- Finances to address future obstacles
- Socialization and community engagement strategies
- Family ties and supports
- Technological innovations
Many boomers who plan to age in place may not be doing the essential planning, as they hope their more active lifestyle will mean they won’t be “old” in the way their parents were.
Aging is unfortunately (some feel) inevitable and needs to be faced realistically.
Caregivers will find caregiving easier for them to balance their duties with their own health and family needs when their senior loved ones have considered their options and made some decisions for their future needs.
What Caregivers Can Do Now
If you are caring for a senior loved one now, there are still things that together you can do to make the future brighter.
If you will soon be a family caregiver or plan to age in place yourself, it is important to begin making plans now, not just for your senior but also for yourself.
To effectively age in place, our seniors and we will need to secure necessary health and social support services that will help live independently as long as possible.
Naturally, the earlier some of these needs can be prearranged the better for everyone involved. That doesn’t mean that it is too late now to get started.
- Determine how your senior wants to live in the years to come and what is needed to achieve that dream. Do they want to stay in the current home? Does it need to be remodeled? Should they move closer to caregivers or to a smaller home with better access to services?
- What could go wrong and what would be needed to solve that dilemma? Is there a potential need for paid caregivers in their home or a facility due to health issues? Will they need transportation because they won’t be able to drive themselves? Will their money run out too soon? Do they have a low risk financial plan that isn’t open to loss due to extreme market fluctuations? Do they have a budget, do they need to save more now? Will they have someone they need to care for even if they become unable to care for themselves and what is the plan to meet everyone’s needs?
- What will happen if they become disabled with a mobility issue? Will their home accommodate a wheelchair and who will get them in and out of bed or chair and take them to the grocery store or doctor? Does their current home have stairs? Is their home safe and in good repair or should renovations be done now?
- How will they and you handle a need to downsize? Do they want certain belongings kept or given to people they love?
- Have they made their advance directives known, have they prearranged their funeral, do you know where their important documents are kept and have access to them?
- Who will take over their finances if they can no longer manage their money?
- Will you be able to care for their day to day needs in addition to your job or family duties? If you can’t, who will? Can they afford in-home care? Do they have long term insurance to help with some costs?
- Are there activities in the community that your senior would enjoy participating in such as senior center, volunteerism, recreation, entertainment, church, local groups or charitable organizations, or the local neighbors? Can they get there themselves or is there transportation available to get them where they need to go for socialization?
- Can they connect with technology for their own safety, socialization, family connections or to just get email? Do they have the resources they need to be mobile and connected to the web? Can you help them get started or troubleshoot when they need it?
- Will they have access to affordable, healthy foods and will they be functioning well enough to shop and prepare their meals? Will they need someone to shop and cook for them? Can you help set up assistance such as meal delivery or food delivery? Will they have funds to pay for prepared meals and the healthy options they need?
Here is a great resource from the National Aging in Place Council that will help guide you through the planning phase for aging in place.
A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there. – Stanley Judd