Aging in place is described as the practice of living in one’s own home throughout the later years, as opposed to moving in with family members or into an assisted living facility. The majority of American senior citizens (those aged 65 and older) prefer to continue living in their own homes.
There are many benefits that come with aging in place, but it also has some downsides. Here’s a look at the good and the bad that come with aging in place, plus how it compares to other senior living arrangements.
Advantages to Aging in Place
Better Quality of Life
Overall, seniors who age in place tend to have the best quality of life. They’re able to maintain their independence, which supports both mental and physical health. Seniors who age in place are also likely to live longer than those who live in certain types of assisted living.
Comfort and Convenience
Aging can bring fear and uncertainty, and facing these challenges can be extremely difficult when you’re in a different place. The comfort of one’s own home helps keep anxious feelings grounded. Living elsewhere and having to rely on others can also be inconvenient— for both the senior and the caregiver.
Established Routines and Familiarity
Some research has suggested that older adults have more difficulty adjusting to new environments because of changes in the brain. With that being said, it’s no wonder that the majority of senior citizens want to stay in their own home. Aging in place allows seniors to continue on with their daily routine, free of sudden changes (for the most part).
Disadvantages of Aging in Place
Expensive Home Renovations May be Necessary
For aging in place to be successful and for seniors to reap all of its benefits, their home must also be safe for them to live in. This means that there may need to be some changes made in the home. Seniors who use wheelchairs or walkers to get around will need their doorways widened and possibly ramps and stairlifts installed. Bathroom renovations (such as higher toilets and walk-in showers) are also very common.
Isolation and Poor Health are Possibilities
Seniors aging in place are still at risk for certain mental and physical health issues. Isolation is a definite possibility— especially if the senior is widowed or unmarried— and this can lead to depression. On the other hand, certain health issues can go unnoticed. This is why aging in place is more successful with a support system that helps the seniors age gracefully.
Managing a Home Can be Troublesome
Daily household chores still need to be done, and even this can be taxing on an aging senior’s body. There’s also the risk of overextension and accidental falls. Fortunately, with a good support system, seniors aging in place can overcome these barriers.
Aging in Place Compared to Other Living Arrangements
Living With Others
The most similar living arrangements to aging in place for seniors would be moving in with family, or moving into a retirement community. Isolation and managing a home are two disadvantages that are immediately eliminated, and so is home renovations with retirement communities. The only downside to retirement communities is that it’s an ongoing cost.
Another option is another type of assisted living facility, a nursing home. Nursing homes differ from retirement homes in that they’re more similar to a hospital setting than they are a home setting— which is what a retirement home more closely resembles. Nursing homes also provide specialized medical care for people with serious conditions (such as Alzheimer’s), whereas retirement homes provide basic medical care and daily assistance.
Nursing homes also allow for less independence than retirement homes, and certainly much less independence than aging in place. Unfortunately, many nursing home patients have a very poor quality of life due to the substandard care they receive in these facilities. Still, high quality nursing homes are the best option for seniors who need constant medical care.
Overall, aging in place is both the best and most preferred option when it comes to senior living options, but it must be done correctly for seniors to reap all of the benefits. First and foremost, their home must be safe and comfortable for them to live in. They must also have a strong support system, whether it’s family, friends, neighbors, or simply members of the community checking in on them from time to time and helping them remain socially and physically active.