Many older adults want to stay in their homes as they age. Studies show that this has numerous benefits, such as improving their mental health and reducing the risk of developing other medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
From the National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted by NORC, Dr. Sheria Robinson-Lane and Dr. Preeti Malani of the Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation, University of Michigan report why Most Older Adults Want to Age in Place But Many Haven’t Taken Steps to Help Them Do So. They found out that 88% of adults ages 50-80 acknowledge that it is important to age in place.
However, while many older adults want to stay in their homes longer, they aren’t always able to do so. The same poll suggests reasons for this, ranging from finances to health conditions. According to the study, 48% feel that aging in place would be difficult as they would be living alone and don’t have anyone to provide the care and needed assistance. Of the respondents, 43% have answered that they lack confidence in their ability to pay for such services.
While some of these problems can be too much to overcome, others can be resolved through the right type of resources and support system.
The following are 8 things you can do to help an older adult age in place, whether it’s a parent or someone else you know who is entering old age.
1) Get educated
Learn as much as you can so you can help them make smart decisions. If an older person is planning to age in place, it’s important that they understand their options and what challenges might come up. By learning about common issues faced by seniors—such as limited mobility or hearing loss—you can help them plan accordingly. The more information they have, the better equipped they are to make smart choices about their future.
2) Design Your Home with Older Adults in Mind
There are a few simple things you can do to design your home with an aging loved one in mind:
- Keep things well-lit.
- Make sure all outlets have safety covers, so there’s no chance of accidentally plugging something into a socket.
- If you’re designing something new, take space elevators into consideration; stairlifts or ramp access may be necessary for seniors for easier navigation.
- Install grab bars and poles wherever necessary.
- If your home isn’t set up for an older adult with mobility issues, it may be time to invest in a new kitchen or bathroom.
- Consider installing motion-sensor lights outside and inside your home to reduce fall risks while trying to find light switches at night.
- Install non-slip mats on rugs and shower floors to avoid accidents.
These changes will help older adults maintain their independence longer—and that’s something everyone can get behind!
3) Consider Future Needs
Future planning and goal setting are crucial to aging in place. Aging and infirmity require a proactive approach. If you haven’t already, make a plan now and begin implementing it!
4) Create an Emergency Plan
Having an emergency plan is critical to keeping older adults safe. A lot of damage can be done in seconds by not knowing what to do during and after a crisis occurs.
Make sure your senior loved ones know where you keep a list of important numbers and names, including doctors and medication details. If possible, create a dedicated contact number that family members can use to send urgent messages in case of an emergency. Make plans on what to do in case communication fails. If they live alone, consider installing a medical alert system that will call you or local authorities in case of trouble. It could save their life!
5) Plan Together as a Family
Aging in Place may focus on the senior family member, but family input and feedback have benefits. The more involved you are in your loved one’s plan to age in place, the more likely you can help them implement it and make them feel you care for their well-being. And by doing so together as a family unit, you’ll strengthen your relationships and build a support system that will last for years to come.
6) Get Recommendations from Professionals
Medical professionals, social workers, and psychologists are often able to point you in the right direction when it comes to resources for seniors. It might also be a good idea to seek out independent seniors or older family members who’ve successfully aged in place. They can offer you insight into what worked for them, and some ideas about products or services that would work well.
Most importantly, they can tell you whether or not their plans have changed as they’ve gotten older—and if so, why. This is especially important because many people become more set in their ways as they age. Even if your loved one hasn’t come up with a plan yet, hearing about how other people have been forced to adapt will help him start thinking about what he needs down the road.
Playing mental games will help your loved one to stay sharp. Researchers have found that seniors who played strategy games like chess, checkers, and Scrabble did better on memory tests than those who didn’t. The key is playing regularly.
It is also important that they keep their mind active by reading newspapers and magazines, doing crossword puzzles, learning new skills, and watching TV programs that challenge their brain. The most important thing is to do something every day!
8) Stay Positive
People who are positive generally have higher self-esteem and are better able to cope with stress. Studies show that optimists have lower levels of stress hormones and higher levels of antibodies that fight off infection—so they’re less likely to get sick. So remind your loved ones to always wear their best smiles- and more frequently!
Staying positive is a choice, but more importantly, it’s a state of mind. While it’s true that some changes will be necessary if you want to help your senior loved ones age in place, other aspects of their life may actually improve. The key is to focus on what can go right rather than dwelling on what can go wrong.
The end goal of aging in place is to help seniors live in a home that feels safe and comfortable, with easy access to healthcare, social engagements, and other services. As a caregiver or someone trying to make future plans for an elderly person, you’ll be faced with difficulties, but they come with potential solutions.
Try out these steps, one at a time. As you see your plans progress, you will also feel at ease knowing your loved ones are living their golden years in the best way possible.