Better Living at Home

What is Aging in Place?

September 30, 2022
What is Aging in Place?

Much like trends in fashion or interior design, trends around living have changed quite a bit in the last several decades. For example: Whereas American children used to commonly leave the nest at 18, recent years have seen upwards of 25% of young adults still living with their parents or older family members.1 Similarly, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have waned in popularity as older adults and seniors find alternative ways to spend their retirement — with aging in place being the top pick for many retirees. 

The decision by older adults and seniors to age in place has several motivators; this pathway can be far less expensive than moving to a retirement community, and aging in place resources allow seniors to enjoy retirement in a comfortable, familiar environment. Perhaps its greatest benefit, however, is the independence this living arrangement provides when compared to any assisted living facility and nursing home. Despite the numerous benefits of aging in place, this living situation is not for everyone. Read on for a better understanding of this popular alternative to other retirement options, and decide if aging in place is the right way to spend your golden years.  

What Is Meant By “Aging in Place”? 

Aging in place refers to the deliberate, thought-out decision to age or spend retirement exactly where you are. This would mean that older adults and seniors choosing to age in place would remain in their current home, as opposed to relocating to a retirement community or moving into assisted senior living. Aging in place can be done in a home, a condo, an apartment, a beach house, or any other type of familiar domicile. Essentially, if you’ve built a life (or a portion of life) there, then it’s suited for aging in place. 

A key component of aging in place is that adults pursue this pathway for as long as they can, and eventually, a different arrangement may become necessary — particularly in the event that health and care need change and more consistent supervision is required. With that said, many adults choosing to age in place may (and should) receive in-home care from a health care professional or family member to ensure that their health needs are being met. Needless to say: Aging in place is not a spontaneous decision and will require years of careful planning to ensure that any elderly person choosing to age in place will be properly supported in the years to come. If done properly, however, aging in place can be a great way for seniors to enjoy their “golden years” in an environment that is familiar, comfortable, and private. 

Which Would Be an Example of Aging in Place? 

In many ways, the classic television show The Golden Girls is likely the most popular example of aging in place. While the character “Blanche” is technically the only one aging in place — as it’s her home that the other Golden Girls move into — this decision to age in a comfortable and familiar environment is the aging in place ideology in action. The girls not only provide companionship to each other during their golden years but also provide reliable transportation and divvy up household chores which can become burdensome alone. 

A more traditional example of aging in place might see a retired couple deciding to stay in the home they have built their life in as opposed to uprooting their lives for a retirement community or a long term care facility miles away. To make this situation work, it’s likely that they have family or trusted friends in close proximity to count on in the event of emergencies and do not have any major medical complications which would require ‘round-the-clock care. This isn’t to say that aging in place is limited to older couples or friends; those who live alone may enjoy the same benefits of aging in place. However, the increased likelihood of harmful falls paired with other health concerns can make aging in place alone far less sustainable.

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Is Aging in Place a Good Idea? 

90% of adults over the age of 65 said they would prefer to stay in their homes instead of relocating to a retirement community, long-term care facility, or an assisted living facility.3 This is not unsurprising, as the costs of aging in place average $23,000 per year while assisted living facilities and nursing homes can top $60,000 and $86,000 per year, respectively.4 Still, while these costs can far outweigh those of aging in place, this option isn’t for everyone — and we have outlined a few benefits and disadvantages of aging in place to help decide if this is the right choice for you. 

Pros of Aging in Place

On top of the attractively low cost of aging in place relative to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, aging in place can be a great option for those looking to make their retirement fund last as long as possible. Additionally, aging in place means: 

  • Older adults retain their freedom
  • Homeowners can continue to enjoy an environment that they worked to cultivate
  • Seniors can age surrounded by friends, trusted neighbors, and nearby family
  • Those struggling with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are in a place they’re familiar with, which has proven to be beneficial.5 

Further, with the addition of services like TaskRabbit and food delivery apps, older adults choosing to age in place can outsource grocery shopping and other laborious tasks to professionals in the event that these become too cumbersome — or dangerous. 

Cons of Aging in Place

As we mentioned earlier, aging in place is not for everyone — and these limitations of aging in place may outweigh the perks for some older adults. 

  • Relying on others for things like transportation and care can be challenging
  • Aging in place carries some risk in the event of falls, injuries, or serious health conditions
  • Regular home maintenance can become difficult and hazardous
  • Home modifications (both minor and major) may be necessary in order to safely age in place

Those aging in place alone or couples who struggle socially may also encounter loneliness, which many believe can negatively impact the health of older adults and seniors.6

Understanding Your Wants and Needs

In addition to the above pros and cons of aging in place, deciding if aging in place is the right strategy for you will take some careful consideration — and a closer look at your own wants, needs, and goals. If independence is an absolute must, and you feel that the only way to enjoy your golden years will be on your own terms, few options are as compelling as aging in place. However, if you’ve long envisioned spending your retirement on a permanent vacation surrounded by retirees from all walks of life, the price tag of a retirement community may start to seem a bit more tolerable. This period may end up being a significant portion of your life, so be sure that you’re spending it in a way that brings you fulfillment and happiness. 

How to Make Aging in Place Work for You

While aging in place is (in many ways) simpler than selling your home to afford entry fees at a retirement community or comparison shopping for the right assisted living facility, this arrangement will take work in order to be effective. Generally, those considering aging in place should begin planning years in advance to ensure that they will be properly supported. These are just a few of the ways to give yourself the best chance at effectively (and safely) aging in place.

Create a Trusted Support System 

Prior to making the decision to age in place, make sure that you have the network to support this effort. This will likely include a mix of nearby family, friends, reliable neighbors, and care professionals, as each of these groups will play a role in ensuring you are aging in place safely. While it’s possible that you won’t need extensive support from these players, even something as simple as knowing you have someone to call for a ride to the grocery store or a nearby neighbor to help in the event of an emergency can make aging in place easier.

Make the Necessary Home Modifications

Aging in place might mean enjoying your golden years exactly where you are, but that space might not remain exactly the same. Slippery bathtubs, high cabinets, steep steps, and high carpet can all turn into hazards — and there are a number of home modifications, such as an aging in place bathroom design, which will need to be made to make the home safer. We have outlined the most pressing changes in our aging in place home modifications guide and home maintenance checklist. It is important to evaluate how suitable your home is for aging in place prior to committing to this arrangement. 

Capitalize On Your Health Benefits

Although aging in place can be an inexpensive alternative to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, this approach is far from free — and some expenses can begin to add up. Many expenses, however, may be covered by Medicare or VA benefits. Costs of transportation to and from medical appointments, mobility assists like scooters, and even visits from home health aides may fall under your coverage, so be sure you know how your plan fits into the aging in place picture.

Understand When a Change is Necessary

One of the key tenets of aging in place is that older adults and seniors will remain in their current situation for as long as they can — with the understanding that there may come a time that this arrangement is no longer feasible. Therefore, those preparing to age in place should also prepare for the possibility that a change may eventually become necessary. Whether this change means bringing in professional care or moving into an assisted living facility or a senior care facility, this may mean sacrificing some of your independence in exchange for your well-being. It may be 10 years before this change comes, it may be 20, or it may never come. In any case, being ready for when it does will make the transition far easier. 

The Final Word on Aging in Place 

As aging in place continues to grow in popularity, it’s likely that more and more older adults will begin to explore this option as an alternative to nursing homes, retirement communities, and assisted living facilities. With thoughtful preparation and careful evaluation of your wants and needs, this approach can end up being a sustainable lifestyle solution — one which feels like a fitting reward of several decades of hard work. However, not everyone will see the same benefits, and there may be far more fitting (and enjoyable) ways to spend your golden years. 

Should you decide that aging in place is the perfect way to enjoy this chapter of your life, Truehold’s sale-leaseback agreement can help you enjoy both personal and financial freedom by tapping into your home equity. Plus, our team will cover your home’s maintenance — ensuring that your time and energy are spent on the things that matter most to you. 

To learn more about Truehold’s Sale-Leaseback, and for more aging in place resources, visit the Truehold website. 

Sources:

1. CBS News. 1 in 4 young adults lives with a parent or other older family member, study shows. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/young-adults-living-with-parents-pew-research-2022/ 

2. WebMD. Why Do Older Adults Have More Falls? https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/why-do-older-adults-have-more-falls 

3. AARP. Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices. https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/ppi/liv-com/aging-in-place-2011-full.pdf

4. APHA. As senior population grows, aging in place gains popularity: Communities conducting outreach. https://www.thenationshealth.org/content/43/8/1.2 

5. Alzheimer’s Project. The Importance of Routine and Familiarity to Persons with Dementia. https://alzheimersproject.org/the-importance-of-routine-and-familiarity-to-persons-with-dementia

6. SeniorAdvisor.com. The Very Real Dangers of Senior Loneliness. https://www.senioradvisor.com/blog/2016/01/the-very-real-dangers-of-senior-loneliness/ 

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