Aging In Place – What Does Aging In Place Really Mean?
Aging in place means a person in their golden years making a conscious decision to stay in their home for as long as they can. They will enjoy the comforts that are important to them and still able to access the things they require in their daily life. As they age these may include adding supplementary services to facilitate their living conditions and maintain their quality of life. It may also include renovating their home or moving.
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 the ability to help them maintain a well rounded life, in the residence of their choice.
Aging in Place should be 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 comfortable as possible, financial and economical plans should be put in place from their earliest working years.
Aging changes everyone. No matter how fit we are and how much we take care of our bodies, eat right, exercise and keep our minds well trained and souls happy with mindfulness and being grateful, aging changes us despite all this. Realistically we are looking at certain inevitable physical, mental and emotional changes. Not all of them need be negative. For instance some aging changes can be highly beneficial, like learning to be more patient and tolerant as opposed to impatience and rudeness in our younger years. What is undeniable is our bodies and our mental capacities do change irrevocably. Some of the subtle and not so obvious changes usually include some of the following:
- Poorer eyesight
- Reduced muscle mass and hence less strength
- Diminished endurance both physical and mental
- Higher risk of accidents due to bone fragility, less balance while walking
- Reduced hearing capacity
- Diminished mobility and agility
- Decreased flexibility
These changes are inevitable, whether you get some of them at 50 or do not experience any until after you hit 70.. Aging in place well means planning in advance for any future changes. These physical, mental and emotional changes affect the daily life of seniors. We can see the way they affect them in their daily activities. Collectively we call them Activities of Daily Living.
Some common examples of ADL may include the following:
- Ability to go out and come back home without incidents or anxiety
- Taking public transportation easily and without mishaps
- Be able to drive safely, able to navigate congested roads, confusing exits and highways
- Making it to social events without difficulties
- Maintaining one’s home and outdoors easily without strain
- Taking care of one’s health, which includes being able to eat healthily and doing regular fitness or exercise routines without hardship.
When you see it is getting harder to manage one or more of these ADLs, it’s time to make some changes for your loved one.
What it Means to You and Your Family
Can the older person continue to live in their home of many years? Can an older person manage a home with stairs? Often, changes will need to take place– changes typically include renovating existing homes for easier accessibility, or even moving to a smaller, easier to maintain home and garden.
Deciding the level of aging in place —what does one want, requires and can be the best suited – either independent houses and apartments, individual housing but in senior communities, care homes but with minimal assistance. The choices are many and varied to suit all needs, tastes and budgets. What is important is one needs to make a list of what is of utmost importance to them and be honest about what they can and cannot do, put up with and afford.
Resources and technology, such as medical alert systems, allow seniors to live at home safely for a much longer period of time. And far from being a distant phenomenon one’s needs to think of in their later years, aging in place is something most of us need to think about and provision for as early as we can.
Some families say they ‘promised’ mom or dad that they could always live in their home. This works, until the parent is no longer safe at home. Unfortunately, sometimes things have to get worse to get better. It may take the parent falling or being spooked by burglars or having the electricity turned off because he forgot to pay the bills for the realization to dawn that the parent can no longer safely reside in the home. Even then, it may take the strong urgings of health care providers and extended family members for the parent to accept the inevitable.
If your parent can ‘safely’ age is place, that is good. If you are constantly worried about them being alone, than moving them to an assisted living is your best recourse.