The Value of Aging in Place
While some older adults may be more comfortable with the level of assistance offered by senior living, the vast majority of the aging population prefers to continue living in their homes for as long as possible. According to the AARP, nearly 90 percent of adults over 65 want to remain in their current homes as they grow older.
Discover the value of aging in place and learn why so many older adults plan to remain in their communities as they age.
For many people, maintaining a sense of independence is essential, as it enables older adults to improve quality of life. Aging in place allows older adults to retain a high level of control over their lives, as they can continue to live in familiar spaces. Those who are accustomed to satisfying basic needs, such as purchasing food, toiletries, and clothing in their own neighborhoods, often find comfort in being able to manage these necessities independently. They may feel confident that they can continue to live their lives without frequent assistance, which may improve quality of life.
In contrast, older adults who consider living with family members or in senior living communities may need to ask for help or for transportation to manage these daily necessities. A desire to avoid losing this aspect of independence may explain why so many older adults prefer to age in place.
Some older adults also find a high level of value in remaining close to their possessions. Those who have spent decades acquiring objects with high financial or sentimental value may not look forward to the prospect of parting with or even rearranging the objects to which they have grown attached. Aging in place often gives older adults the ability to continue enjoying what they value on their own terms, which may enhance independence and happiness.
Maintaining Community Connections
For many older adults, aging in place allows them to continue to live their lives as they have for decades. As The New York Times explains, many older adults have a strong desire to maintain connections to their communities and their friends, with whom they may lose contact if they were to relocate.
Remaining in their communities enables older adults to make social interactions part of their daily lives. Since having an active social life can help older adults prevent dementia, maintaining community connections and important friendships can contribute to better health and higher quality of life.
Senior living facilities may also offer numerous opportunities for forging bonds and building social connections. However, relocating requires older adults to create new friendships and may separate them from longtime communities.
Budgeting for the costs of health care, housing, assistance, and other necessities may not be easy for older adults who survive on fixed monthly incomes. For some, considering the cost of relocating to a senior living facility can be challenging or even impossible.
For many older adults, aging in place enables lower monthly costs and reduced housing budgets. As the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development explains, about 20 percent of adults over 65 own their homes and thus do not have to account for mortgage payments in their monthly budgets. Others may be eligible to convert their home’s equity into income through the Federal Housing Administration’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage program, which increases the potential for many older adults to age in place.
Making Helpful Home Modifications
Since some older adults may live in homes with one or more flights of stairs, limited bathroom access, narrow hallways, and numerous other mobility hazards, it is important to assess homes’ safety levels and address key issues as early as possible. Starting early may also enable older adults to designate appropriate funds for home modifications.
The University of Southern California Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers training and education opportunities for gerontology professionals who wish to specialize in home modification services. Homemods.org is a source for online courses and other resources that can help professionals promote aging in place and independent living for individuals of all ages.
Adapting Entire Communities
In some parts of the country, planners have modified entire communities with the aging population in mind. As The New York Times explains, New York City’s Aging Improvement Districts have implemented longer traffic signals and street crossings for older adults.
For more than 20 years, the Archstone Foundation has funded initiatives to support aging in place, including a series of villages across California. In New York, California, and beyond, these initiatives aim to increase older adults’ engagement in their communities while making independent living a reality for as long as possible.
Older adults who opt to age in place may find that they need support in order to renovate their homes or complete daily tasks. Those with Master of Aging Services Management degrees may be poised to offer essential support like this for older adults who need assistance coordinating renovations, managing finances, or seeking in-home care providers.
Gerontology specialists may also be able to work with older adults to address concerns related to transportation, healthy eating, and even safety issues. Though many older adults may rely on family or friends for support, geriatric care managers have the knowledge and experience necessary to develop long-term care plans and improve quality of life for older adults.