Aging in Place: Why You or a Loved One May Want to Grow Older at Home
- Aging at home is a goal for many seniors who can manage living independently with or without assistance.
- Maintaining routines, staying in a familiar setting, reducing costs, and remaining independent are just some of the benefits of aging in place.
- Modifying living spaces can make home safety for seniors more realistic. Products like a medical alert system with fall detection, walk-in tub, non-slip flooring, and handrails all help provide a sense of safety and security for older adults and their loved ones.
- Seniors and loved ones can use a home safety checklist to minimize hazards and maximize fall prevention.
Aging in place—the idea that you'll continue to live in your own home as you grow older—is a goal for many older adults looking to maintain independence and live out their remaining years in the comfort of a familiar setting. In fact, studies show that many seniors prefer to age at home for as long as possible.
"Aging in place allows older adults to take ownership of their aging experience," says Lakelyn Hogan, Ph.D, a gerontologist and caregiver advocate at Home Instead in Omaha, Nebraska. "For many, playing an active role in choosing where to spend the later years of life is incredibly important. Through proactive planning and honest evaluations, aging in place can be a safe, practical, and enjoyable path for many older adults."
Moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility may become a necessity for some. However, if you're able to minimize hazards, secure a support network, and maintain your health, spending the golden years at home could be a great decision.
Read on to learn the benefits of aging in place and the types of home safety products and services available so you can stay comfortable and independent for many years to come.
Why aging in place is beneficial
Over 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States. Aging at home can provide a sense of comfort, stability, and familiarity for many of these older adults. And while everyone has their own reasons for wanting to stay at home, there are some key benefits to consider.
- Aging in place allows older adults to maintain independence. "First and foremost, aging in place allows older adults to take ownership of their aging experience," says Hogan. Having control over your decisions, activities, and daily routine is a critical part of being independent. And, aging in place gives you more opportunities to maintain this lifestyle—even if you need occasional assistance from family, friends, or a caregiver.
- Aging at home keeps familiar settings and routines in place. Aging at home allows you to remain in a familiar setting and keep regular routines in place, which may improve your overall quality of life. In some cases, it may also be a better choice for your health, provided you maintain a safe environment and access support when needed.
- Aging in place reduces living costs. Living at a nursing home or assisted living facility is costly. Residing in one of these senior communities could cost you several thousand dollars a month. And if you've paid off your home or reduced the mortgage to a manageable payment, aging in place may be a wise financial decision.
Products or services to help you age in place
For some seniors, aging at home may require very little assistance. But for others, home safety modifications, social support, and personal services are a necessity. "It's important for older adults and their loved ones to consider whether their current residence can truly accommodate the needs that come with aging," says Hogan. "For example—stairs, tile floors, and bathtubs all pose potential safety risks to someone who is experiencing mobility challenges. The choice then becomes whether to make modifications to their current home or find another place to age safely."
Here are some useful products and services to consider to make a home safer for aging in place.
Household and yard cleaning and maintenance
Depending on your health, mobility, and personal needs, you may choose to hire someone to help around your home for one or more of the following tasks:
- House cleaning
- Meal preparation
- Lawn maintenance
- Yard beautification
- Exterior maintenance such as cleaning gutters and windows
Personal care services
At times, caring for yourself at home may require assistance from friends, family members, or other caregivers. According to the National Institute on Aging, it's a good idea to plan ahead for the costs of in-home support. Here are some of the personal care services you may need help with.
- In-home haircuts
- Shaving and other grooming needs
- Dental hygiene
- Bathing assistance
- Mobility assistance
- Fitness and balance training
- Fall prevention program
- Incontinence care
- Support for nutrition programs
- Medication management
- Help with managing health care system
Aging at home may require assistance from a caregiver or community health worker. If you live alone or a family member who lives with you is not able to provide care, you may need to hire an in-home caregiver. This service is often available hourly, part-time, full-time, or as needed.
You may also need assistance with transportation. Some caregivers offer assistance with driving to appointments, grocery stores, and other outings.
Computers, tablets, smartphones, and access to a good internet connection make aging at home easier and safer. Technology gives older adults the ability to use telemedicine services, videoconferencing, access to ordering and delivering of groceries and other home goods, banking needs, and many other services.
Home safety for seniors often requires modifications in common areas like the bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. This often includes:
- Securing loose rugs
- Putting up handrails throughout the house
- Rearranging furniture
- Moving and securing cords
- Door levers
- Installing a walk-in tub with a low step-in threshold and seat
- Raising the toilet seat
- Positioning grab bars throughout the bathroom
- Slip-free mats in the tub or shower and on the bathroom floor
- Adding extra lighting in traffic areas like the bathroom, hallways, and bedroom
- Security system or cameras
Medical alert system
A medical alert system with fall detection can provide safety and a sense of security when aging at home. These devices provide emergency monitoring through a wearable help button you press if you need assistance.
When activated, the medical alert system calls a dispatcher who connects you to emergency services or a loved one who can help. You can upgrade to a medical alert system with fall detection. When the device senses a fall, it sends a signal to the monitoring company.
Home safety for seniors checklist
Posting a home safety for seniors checklist in a common area reminds you to periodically do a walk-through of the house to check for safety hazards and improve fall prevention features. Here are three checklists to help you get started.
If you or a loved one has questions about aging in place, consider sitting down with your doctor, a senior health expert, or a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist from the National Association of Home Builders.
You can also get information from a local Area Agency on Aging. The agency members can help answer questions, go over plans, and brainstorm ways to make your home safe and secure for many years to come.
Sara Lindberg is a mental health and fitness expert who enjoys writing about health, wellness, nutrition, parenting, and education. With a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science and a Master of Education degree in counseling she's spent the last twenty years helping people improve both their physical and mental health. Her work has appeared in publications such as Healthline, VeryWell Health, VeryWell Fit, Livestrong, Men's Health, SheKnows, Runner's World and many more.