According to the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), “…more than 90 percent of older adults would prefer to age in place rather than move to senior housing.” Aging in place means remaining in your home for as long as possible as you age. Research studies have shown that aging in place can provide an overall cost savings and life transitions related to declining physical and mental health are often easier for seniors.
However, NAIPC also “acknowledges that a gap exists between [older adults’] desire [to age in place] and the reality of the modifications their home may require.” Likewise, for seniors whose support system is shaky, aging in place can present more challenges than benefits.
The minimal changes a home requires to best accommodate aging occupants typically include installing grab bars (not just in the bathroom), expanding doorway width, relocating bedrooms to the main floor and adding a stair lift. Building a ramp instead of or in addition to entry steps and motion-sensitive lights are other updates that improve an aging in place environment.
While these home updates are less expensive than, say, remodeling a kitchen, they can pose a challenge for seniors on a fixed income. And a remodeled home remains a traditional home to which accommodations have been added. Senior living communities, by comparison, are designed and built with aging adults in mind. Even the best in-home modifications remain a runner-up to senior living community layouts.
But home modification limits pale in comparison to the challenges that aging in place seniors face if family doesn’t live nearby or if they have a weak (or even no) support system. Isolation and lack of activity are among the leading causes of senior depression and depression can affect a senior’s appetite and inclination to care for him- or herself. Most senior living communities have built-in support systems that include activity directors and wellness checks.
Aging in place is getting quite a bit of attention lately because of the concerns about caring for an aging population. It’s definitely one option for decision-makers to consider, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Every possibility has its own pros and cons and, like any important decision, careful review of all issues (not just cost) must be carefully reviewed.
The CarexTech and SMILE TM Program teams are passionate about making a difference in the lives of our seniors. Our research supports programs that ensure that seniors don’t feel isolated and remain active to make a positive impact on seniors’ minds, bodies and spirits.