Preparing for Independent Living When You're Older
Seniors who want to stay in their homes longer have options.
The stairs are getting so hard to climb.”
“I’ve lived here 40 years. No other place will seem like home.”
We all aspire to live independently in our homes as long as possible when we get older.
However, many senior citizens – whether alone or with a spouse – wrestle with the decision of whether to stay in their homes or move to an assisted living facility.
According to AARP, 90 percent of seniors want to age in place – even if they need assistance or additional health care.
If your loved ones are making these tough choices, or if you personally are planning for that stage in your life, here are some ideas to consider.
“One of the biggest issues for seniors wanting to stay in their homes is safety,” says Ann Albert, executive director of Supporting Active Independent Lives (SAIL), a Madison, Wis.-based non-profit organization dedicated to serving seniors.
For someone wanting to stay in their home, it’s critical to identify and correct potentially unsafe conditions. “You have to look at things in ways you never considered before,” says Albert. “Take stairs for example. Will a person have to climb stairs to get to a bedroom or laundry? Are there handrails? Are there grab bars in bathrooms to prevent slips and falls? Are there area rugs, lamp cords or even pets that are a tripping hazard? Is there ample lighting – especially at night? Even things like making sure no one has to reach for something in a low or high cabinet, which can cause a loss of balance. These are all critical to a home being safe for an older person.”
Looking to the future
When it comes to aging in place, there are many things to consider:
- Support system – Are there people to make sure the older person in question is OK? Is there someone to help with a transition home after a stay in a hospital or rehab center? Is there anyone available who would notice signs of isolation or depression, and who could assist in finding help?
- Financial – If the person has a low income, are they aware of financial assistance opportunities?
- Socialization – Is there a social network of friends and organizations that can provide support?
- Personal care – If needed, is there a trusted individual available to assist with bathing, dressing or taking medications?
- Medical condition – Are plans in place if medical conditions worsen over time?
- Basic home chores – Is support needed for cleaning, laundry or even changing light bulbs and taking out the trash?
- Meals – Is assistance needed for grocery shopping and cooking?
- Transportation – If driving no longer is an option, is transportation available to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, social functions, etc.?
Here are some resources that can assist in helping you or older loved ones age in place at home:
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – HHS maintains the Eldercare Locator listing names and contact information – based on your ZIP code – for agencies, professional associations, etc., that have resources for older people.
- National Council on Aging – Lists of local benefits and services are available at theNational Council on Aging. This information is confidential and doesn’t require a name, address or Social Security number.
- Veterans – Veterans may be eligible for benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Village to Village Network – The Village to Village Network is a national association of membership programs providing services to seniors.
- Medicare – Medicare’s Home Health Care Compare website offers information about local in-home health agencies in your area.
- Government benefits – Benefits.gov provides information about federal, state and local government benefits.
Independence and happiness as you age is a dream worth pursuing. With the right support, resources and services, seniors across the country are able to realize this dream.