According to a recent National Poll on Healthy Aging survey, 88% of adults ages 50-80 reported that it is important to them to remain in their homes as long as they can. This concept is often called aging-in-place, and refers to a person’s ability to stay in their home safely, independently, and comfortably as they grow older.
If you’re considering aging-in-place, preparing for the future can make a huge difference! Some of this preparation is logistical, but it’s also important to step back and think carefully about what kind of living situation will work for you as you age. We outline three points to consider as you think through your future home:
Remember the survey mentioned above? Of the 88% of older adults who reported that they wanted to remain in their home as long as possible, only 15% had given a lot of thought about the modifications their home might need in order for them to age comfortably there. Home modifications can make a space safer and more welcoming for all, and they’re often a key strategy of aging-in-place.
In many cases, small home modifications can be made to make a space safer and more accessible for all. Examples of smaller-scale changes include installing grab bars in the bathroom, replacing door knobs with lever-style handles, and removing rugs or adhering them to the floor. In other cases, more significant adaptations may be needed. This might include widening doorways, adding ramps, or moving the washer and dryer or a bedroom to the main floor.
It’s good to know in advance what changes your space may require as your needs change. Understanding them can help you decide if you’d like to make those changes or explore other options. If you decide to modify your home, keep in mind that you don’t have to make changes all at once. It might feel more manageable to focus on one room or project at a time.
Interested in assessing your space? AARP published two great resources to help you evaluate your home:
Being near the things that matter to you can have a big impact on quality of life, so don’t forget this piece of the puzzle! The areas we live in can shape how we live our lives and spend our time. According to an AARP Public Policy Institute report, people over the age of 50 most value being near transportation, grocery stores, and green spaces.
When you think about the community you want to live in as you grow older, what’s important to you? Maybe you want to be near family or friends. Or perhaps you value living in a pedestrian-friendly area or in a place that has accessible public transportation. Maybe it’s important to you to be near specific recreation centers, healthcare facilities or places of worship. Assessing your values and priorities can help you decide where you’d like to live in the future.
If your current neighborhood meets your needs, that’s great! If there are things you’d like to be different in your community, or if you don’t know much about your community, this could be an opportunity to get to know your area better. Try chatting with your neighbors, attending a city council meeting or exploring a new area to see what your neighborhood has to offer.
If you can’t imagine having some of the things you need or want as you age in your current community, you might consider alternative options. The important thing is that you have a welcoming, comfortable and safe community as your needs change.
YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
Where you live is important, but so is your support network! Knowing what your support system can or can’t provide is a key component to making a plan to age-in-place. Your network includes the family members, friends, neighbors, roommates or trusted acquaintances you can rely on to be there for you. It also includes community resources.
Take some time to reflect on who you can call for support, companionship, or assistance around the house. You might create a list of people you can contact if you need extra help or if there’s an emergency. These could be individual people or your connections to community groups, faith institutions, or other clubs.
It’s important to think about people who can help with concrete tasks like shoveling snow or raking leaves, but don’t forget the people you can turn to for emotional support! These are the folks you can call to chat, meet for lunch, or just share a laugh. Some might live far away, while others might be a short walk or drive away. For those who are homesharing, you might have that friend living under your roof! In fact, the company and conversation that a roommate provides is one of the biggest benefits of homesharing.
It also might be useful to make a list of resources or agencies that could be part of your support network. Consider Area Agencies on Aging, local senior centers and libraries, Meals on Wheels, or similar programs that might be able to support you.
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