Would you like to live in your own home for the rest of your life? You’re not alone. According to the 2015 United States of Aging survey, 75% of older adults plan to live out their days in their current home.
Aging in place is an attractive option. Rather than moving in with your family or paying for a retirement home, you can prepare for the future by downsizing or modifying your current home to accommodate your changing needs.
Establishing a plan for aging in your home plan allows you to live more independently than you would in an assisted living situation. It’s a lifestyle choice that allows you to make small changes over time so that once you are physically challenged you can continue living autonomously.
While it may feel too early to start making changes, it can also be daunting to try to make all of the changes at once. Renovations to your home can displace you for weeks or months, and you never know when an unprepared home could become a health hazard.
In this guide, we’ll show you what you should do to begin planning to age in place. Using the navigation below you can skip ahead to the part that interests you the most.
What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place involves changing your living situation to accommodate your needs as you age by making home renovations and modifications. The practice includes arranging your life and making adjustments to your living situation so that you can remain independent. It is a viable option for those who want to keep their independence and continue living in the home they know and love.
Not everyone is a good candidate for aging in their own home. The goal of these modifications is to allow a safe place for you to live. Thus, you will need to be in relatively good health for this to make sense. Those who need a doctor or nurses assistance every day or those who have fluctuating health may not be good candidates for this lifestyle choice.
You should also be reasonably mobile. If you can move around your home, even in a walker or wheelchair, you’re in a good place to remain independent. Mobility extends beyond the home too as you will need to be able to travel to doctor’s appointments, buy groceries and run other errands. If you are unable to drive you will need to arrange this transportation.
It’s helpful if you have friends or family nearby that can help you around the house or keep you company. Having a spouse or a roommate under the same roof is an added bonus if you plan to age in place. If living alone is likely to cause isolation for you it may not be the best option.
Benefits of Aging In Place
Maintaining your sense of independence and connection to society is important as you age. The prevalence of depression increases with age and is highest amongst those 85+. The ability to care for yourself and live life on your own terms is a major factor in beating the odds when it comes to depression.
Living in your own home is also more cost effective than living in an assisted living facility. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, expenditures for nursing homes are more than three times those for noninstitutional long-term care services. Even less intensive care facilities can be expensive. Aging in your home may require an initial investment but can save you money in the long run.
Staying in the home you’ve lived in for years can also help you stay connected to your social network. Living near the friends and neighbors that you have had for years makes it easier to keep in touch.
Options for Aging in Place
There are several options available for you if you want to age independently. They vary depending on how mobile you are, how healthy you are and how much work you want to put in.
Stay in Your Home
If you stay in the home you raised your family in there will likely be changes to make to ensure it’s a safe environment to age in. You will want to make home renovations and modifications to ensure you are still able to cook, use the restroom, bathe and move about safely.
You will likely need to hire professionals to help you clean, care for the yard and maintain upkeep on the house. You should have a list of trustworthy people on call that can help in the case of a maintenance emergency, medical situation or unexpected event.
Downsize to a Smaller Home
If your home is too large for you to maintain or has stairs to important areas, like your bedroom, you may want to consider purchasing a smaller home. Look for a home that allows for the similar necessary updates and renovations but already has everything you need on the same floor.
A first floor apartment, condo or townhouse is also a good option when downsizing. The built-in community that comes with these homes is beneficial if you’re hoping to stay connected.
Live with Relatives
While you are not technically in your own home, we are listing it here because it is still an option that allows you to live comfortably in a familiar environment. Depending on your relationship with your family this may be a nice and most affordable option.
Choose an Independent Living Community
There are several different types of communities designed for those 65+ that can allow you the independence of living alone but with some assistance options nearby and readily available. If you require very little assistance you may want to consider an active adult community.
If you need assistance with one or more daily activities (like transportation or medication management) you may be more interested in a retirement community. Since these options still allow you to live mostly autonomously they are considered within the aging in place options.
Spotting Safety Hazards
Once you decide where you will be living you will need to scan the residence for possible safety hazards. If the home you are living in does not allow you to move around safely and efficiently it will make aging in the home more difficult.
Things to look out for include trip hazards like out of place cords, ill-placed furniture, boxes or pet accessories. You will also want to look out for slipping opportunities like floors that are slippery, slick countertops or steps outside your home that may collect rainwater or ice.
You will want to ensure that you are able to hear your doorbell or smoke alarm. If you’re not able to hear either, install lights that you will be able to see. To stay safe you will want to make sure that you can easily reach the phone in case of an emergency or call for help if needed.
You can avoid dropping items or having something fall onto you by keeping things you use often within reach. If you are mobility challenged you will want to ensure your home has the proper safety ramps and other modifications.
Finally, clear out any clutter that could impede movement or fall down on you. As you age it’s important to evaluate your belongings and either get rid of, store or pass down the items you no longer use. Clutter-free homes are easier to maneuver in and will ensure you are safe in your home.
Aging in Place Design and Remodeling
If you plan for the future it will make your transition into older adult living much easier. Be sure to always think ahead and plan accordingly. Considering possible injuries or future limitations can help you slowly ease into independent older living.
There are several things you can do to make your home a safe and convenient place to live. These will vary according to your level of mobility and do not have to be done all at once. If you think it’s possible you may need modifications, even several years down the line, it is wise to begin the renovations now. Here are some ways you can update your home for safety and convenience:
Ensuring your bathroom is safe is one of the first steps you should take when modifying your home for aging. Be sure to eliminate any slip hazards by installing non-slip surfaces to areas of the bathroom that might get wet. It’s a smart idea to install handrails to assist you when getting in and out of the shower or tub and adding modifications like a zero edge shower that can help you get in and out more easily.
The kitchen is another place where it’s easy to injure yourself if modifications aren’t made. For example, pull-down shelves and lower countertops can make it easy to cook without the risk of dropping something on yourself. Buying appliances with larger buttons or setting up a seated work area can make it easier to cook normally with physical limitations.
In the living room, you will want to ensure that you can move around freely and without the risk of falling. You may need to widen doorways or hallways to accommodate a mobility device. You can add extra or sensor based lighting to make sure you are always able to see clearly, as well as easier to read thermostats and remote controls.
You don’t want to ignore the outdoors when upgrading your property. Adding an automatic light in the entryway will ensure you can always see who is outside or get inside your home easily. Install low maintenance exteriors and an automatic sprinkler system to minimize upkeep you will have to do on the exterior of your home. Adding a non-slip deck and stairs will make it more difficult to slip if it’s rainy or snowy.
Throughout your home look for things that could be improved to make your day easier. Automatic pet feeders are a great way to ensure your pets are always well taken care of. An intercom system and direct line to emergency services are a great addition to make communication simple and efficient. If needed, you can add a wheelchair ramp or elevator chair.
Technology for Aging in Place
As technology advances living in your home as you age becomes more feasible. Smart home technology can make it easier to communicate, remember to do things, get around safely and allow your loved ones to know you are safe.
For example, there are now devices that can assist with medication disbursement. MedMinder is a digital pill dispenser that looks like a regular seven-day pill dispenser, but each day locks except for the one you are to take that day.
Another great piece of medication management technology is Reminder Rosie, a voice-activated talking clock that tells you to take your medicine at a certain time. You can set other reminders as well.
GrandCare Systems is a multipurpose system that tracks daily activity and has medical monitoring for glucose, oxygen, blood pressure and weight. An interactive touch screen allows the user to watch videos, view social media, listen to music, read the news or make a call.
There are also several monitoring devices that are similar to Life Alert but much more advanced. GreatCall 5Star Urgent Response systems use GPS technology to track you anywhere you go and administer help if needed.
Mobile Help is a personal emergency response system that tracks health, sends medical alerts, tracks movement and more. It’s an affordable, all in one system.
If you or someone in your household is able to drive it can make aging in place much easier. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. If you are not able to drive you will need to arrange transportation to do things like go to doctors appointments, get groceries and supplies and attend social outings.
If you have a friend or family member that lives nearby they can be a great resource for transportation. For times that they are not available, there are private transportation options in many cities. These companies specialize in senior transport and many times will have experience in assisting seniors. They can help with getting into the vehicle, collapsing and loading up a power chair, and other tasks that a taxi or rideshare service might not be able to accommodate.
Depending on your level of mobility and the options in your community public transportation might be an option for you. Taking the bus, the subway or a train is inexpensive and often convenient. The drawbacks are that on public transportation there are no trained professionals nearby to keep you safe in case of a fall or health emergency.
Ride Sharing Services
Rideshare options are popular in most US communities these days. They allow you to download an application where you can call a car to come get you, much like a taxi.
There are now programs available that allow you to take advantage of rideshare services like Lyft or Uber without actually interacting with the apps. GoGoGrandparent allows you to call and speak to an operator to order you a rideshare service. They offer custom pickups, scheduled services and more.
Sometimes it’s easier to have the things you need delivered to your home. Many seniors choose to hire regular meal or grocery delivery. Many grocery stores (including Walmart, Safeway and HEB) allow you to place an order online to be delivered. Amazon Fresh allows you to order your groceries off of Amazon’s website.
Maintaining a Supportive Community
Maintaining a community is a large part of feeling fulfilled in your older years. If you have family that lives nearby then you are very lucky, but often families live across the country. In this case you will need to make an effort to stay connected.
Technology to Stay Connected
Technology can allow you to talk “face to face” with family or friends who don’t live nearby. You can use social media or email to communicate with those around you and see how they spend their time.
Family and Friends
It helps to make a list of family or friends that you can call to help you with something or spend time with you. Whether they live across town or down the street, having a list of people that you can rely on can make all the difference.
If you’re religious many times you can lean on your church or churches in the area to stay connected. You can develop friends in your faith community. Often they will have programs designed to help seniors who may not have a large network.
Nonprofits for Seniors
Many towns have their own social services, senior adult and family services and human services offices. Options available will vary by location but many can be found by doing a Google search for “your location” + “senior citizen nonprofits”.
Meals on Wheels is available in many cities and they deliver meals to seniors who are living at home. There is also the Independent Transportation Network that provides “door-to-door, arm-through-arm service” for transportation. You can find more non-profits and resources in the section below.
National Aging in Place Council and Other Resources
There are so many resources available to senior citizens that it would be impossible to list all of them. Here we’ve collected some of the most well-known services:
- Rebuild Together: Rebuild Together provides free home repairs and modifications to low-income homeowners and promotes affordable homeownership.
- US Department of Veterans: They provide veterans with options for healthcare, benefits and assistance with housing.
- Older Americans Act: This act funds services that keep older adults healthy. They provide meals, job training, senior centers, caregiver support, transportation, benefits and more.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator: This nationwide service connects seniors and caregivers with information about senior services. You can search by community or contact their national office.
- Brainhealth.gov: BrainHealth allows you to challenge your brain through engaging exercises, provides information about your changing brain and offers information about brain health.
- Alzheimers.gov: This organization provides information about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia care, research and support.
Planning and Information
- Age in Place: A helpful site that provides information about aging in your home and helps you find services you might need, offers practical advice and even offers local chapters.
- Aging in Place.com: This site helps connect you with services related to living in your home as an older adult.
- Retired Brains: This site offers a wealth of information for seniors ranging from home and family to jobs to travel and entertainment.
- AARP: AARP provides articles, advice and resources for seniors.
- LongTermCare.gov: This page supplies the information needed to plan ahead and consider your options as you age, including Medicare/Medicaid, your living situation and how to apply for financial assistance if needed.
- National Center on Elder Abuse: If you or someone you know is the victim of abuse you can find information here to understand and stop the situation.
- National Council on Independent Living: NCIL advances independent living and the rights of people with disabilities.
Making a plan to remain in your own home for the rest of your life is a smart decision. If you anticipate what you may need later on in life you can make it an ongoing process. Make changes to your home slowly and begin looking for possible safety hazards that need to be rectified. If you remain vigilant about your aging plan, there is no reason you will not have a smooth transition into your older years.