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Be Pro-Active About the Future

Aging in Place and Being Pro-Active

Growing up I was led to believe that at a point in our lives we would enter what is called the golden years.  I have come to believe that whoever came up with this idea lied. They’re not golden, they’re rusted.

Bust of elderly Roman man,marble 40BC, Albertinum, Dresden.
Retrieved from: https://wikipedia.org

Not to be morbid, but as a realist, it is hard enough to be in the later stages of life where getting out of bed is sometimes a challenge, bending over to pick something up, walking and even our reflexes and thought processes begin to slow down. Many

of us begin spending time thinking about our youth, the way it was and begin thinking about our own mortality.  Combine these factors with the thought of spending our remaining years in a nursing home being care for by strangers in unfamiliar surroundings is not an encouraging scenario!

Now that we are in the middle of a dangerous health crisis which seems to affect older adults more severely than younger people and will undoubtedly have an influence on the future life styles of our population, our aging choices become even more complicated. For those at a point in life where planning for the future anticipating those Golden Years, these decisions have become much more complex and if there is a family element to consider. Does the senior go to a nursing home? Do they move in with a family member? Or do they choose Aging in Place?

This article is not intended to endorse or discredit any one option; the intent is simply to try to explain one of the choices available.

Aging in Place

According to Seniorliving.org:

“Aging in place means a person making a conscious decision to stay in the inhabitation of their choice for as long as they can with the comforts that are important to them. As they age, these may include adding supplementary services to facilitate their living conditions and maintain their quality of life.

Aging in place refers to a person in their golden years when they can live in the residence of their preference and are still able to access the things they require and used to in their daily life.

Some people may confuse the issue by thinking that aging in place will fix the things that they may have or problems that may arise. Aging in place can only address those problems that have already been planned for in the person’s life. Aging in place challenges refers to the health, social and emotional needs an elderly person may need and such needs that can be addressed to help them maintain a well-rounded life, in the residence of their choice.

When to Start Planning:

Aging in place means a person being able to live in the place of their choice without losing their quality of life when they reach senior age. But ideally what aging in place should be addressing is not just to maintain the quality of life that the person is used to, but also to make it better whenever possible.

To live out later years as comfortably as possible, financial and economic plans should be put in place from your earliest working years. Although Aging in place refers to persons of retirement age, it should concern everyone as soon as possible from the earliest years of one’s career. Plans for retirement should thus be created as early as possible and changed, revised and adjusted according to changing needs and requirements.”

There is no place like home:

For a great many people the prospect of spending their remaining years in their own home has tremendous appeal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as: “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”

As one begins to think about retirement planning, the home one chooses to live in should be part of that planning. Be Pro-Active may be the best advice anyone can give.

When considering aging in place, a key amount of the planning strategy has to include the age of one currently owned home. 

  • The median age of homes in the U.S. is approximately 37 years old, depending on what area of the US you live in. Homes in the Northeast have the oldest median age; approximately 57 to 58 years of age. The youngest areas, such as Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, may average 20 to 25 years old.
  • 38% of sales are to 1st-time buyers; with a median age of 31 years old.
  • Median age of repeat buyers is 52 years old. (https://buyersask.com/articles-of-interest/age-of-houses-in-the-us-whats-the-average-age/ )
  • The American with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990. (29 years old)
U.S. Showing areas with newest homes in the west and south east, the northeastern areas with the oldest homes

This means that because so many homes were constructed before passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act planning to renovate in many cases becomes more complicated. Planning for this scenario will be required before evaluating if remaining in your own home is the best and safest option.

It may seem obvious to most, but one of the critical elements in being pro-active in planning for senior years is health. We all hope to remain active through our ‘Golden Years’, it doesn’t always happen as we would wish.

Someone once said ‘youth is wasted on the young’, and as we age one may discover deterioration in our vision or hearing. Or perhaps our mobility isn’t entirely what it should to be and one may find balance less than it was a few years ago. As if all these possibilities weren’t enough, our joints and muscles fail to operate as smoothly as in our younger years and because of the possibility of memory loss we are really not exactly sure when our joints were not uncomfortable to move.  The majority of these prospects sound unappealing but these are normal processes as we age. Regardless, even in the case of a more unfortunate extreme health change, by being pro-active in home planning the opportunity to remain at home is still possible. Below are just a few examples:

  • In the case of decline in vision: are all controls clear and easy to read, such as the knobs on stove and oven. Is there ample lighting, especially on stairways?
  • When discussing stairways there are multiple considerations. For those who are dealing with mobility challenges stairs are always obstacles to overcome.
  • In addition to stairs, throw rugs, uneven flooring, cords, objects on the floor and many more factors related to movement have to be compensated for.
  • Door knobs and faucet fixtures should be the push/pull type rather than the twist variety.
  • Tubs/showers must be addressed. Are they too high or is there a zero clearance shower. Have grab bars been installed and a high rise toilet?

These are only a few of the factors that will need to be weighed when considering aging at home. If you are remolding before planning on retiring, it would be best to hire a builder familiar with accessibilities and you may want to first check with you local office for the aging, public health office, local senior center, AARP or your regional independent living center for more information.

There are many choices as we age and aging in place is just one. Each individual is different as are health needs and housing requirements. There are many options to explore, but a few things are certain, we are all aging and, according to the National Institute of Aging:

  • America’s 65-and-over population is projected to nearly double over the next three decades, from 48 million to 88 million by 2050. (https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/worlds-older-population-grows-dramatically)
  • More than 3 in 4 people — 77 percent want age at home.
  • 36 percent plan to modify their homes to enable them to stay in a familiar, safe environment as they age and we will all face these options someday. 

Consider the shortage in long term health care facilities, as shown in the table:

Table illustration of a dramatic rise in demand in health care facilities, while at the same time showing a decrease in the number of facilities. Retrieved from: https://blog.soliant.com/healthcare-news/americas-nuring-shorage-by-the-numbers/

Bearing this shortage in mind and the projected increase in senior population and the aches and pains you may feel getting up in the morning, it is reasonable to draw the conclusion that it is never too soon for a family to begin planning and being pro-active for those ’Golden’ years. Maybe aging in place is right for you.

One final note; it seems it was a moment ago my wife and I had our first child. I blinked and now we have three children and my grandson is graduating high school. It all happens faster than you can imagine so it is never too soon to begin thinking about your later years.

Additional Information:

Home Modifications
https://www.aginginplace.org/home-modifications/

AARP Home Fit Guide
https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/info-2014/aarp-home-fit-guide-aging-in-place.html

Guide to Caring for Elderly Parents
https://www.aginginplace.org/a-guide-to-caring-for-elderly-parents/

A Seniors Guide to Growing Old in Your Own Home
https://www.simplyss.com/blog/aging-in-place-a-seniors-guide/

Works Cited:

Witt, Scott and Hoyt, Jeff. (March 13, 2020). Aging In Place – What Does Aging In Place Really. Retrieved from: https://www.seniorliving.org/aging-in-place/

AARP Bulletin. (October 10, 2018). Most Retirees Prefer to Stay Put. Retrieved from:
https://www.aarp.org/retirement/planning-for-retirement/info-2018/retirees-age-in-place-aarp-study.html

 Binette,  Joanne and Vasold, Kerri. (August 2018, Revised July 2019). 2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Ages 18-Plus. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/community/info-2018/2018-home-community-preference.html?CMP=RDRCT-PRI-OTHER-LIVABLECOMMUNITIES-032218

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Healthy Places Terminology.  Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyplaces/terminology.htm

Home Builders Association. (2019).The Age of the Housing Stock by State – Where are the Elderly Homes? Retrieved from: https://springfieldhba.com/the-age-of-the-housing-stock-by-state-where-are-the-elderly-homes/
Cire, Barbara. (March 28, 2016). World’s older population grows dramatically. Retrieved from:https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/worlds-older-population-grows-dramatically

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