Is your house your home? Are you planning to stay where you are as you age? Then you might want to start planning now to make sure you can Age in Place! If you’re in your 30s, 40s, maybe even in your 50s, you probably think you can just skip over this blog post. But don’t. No matter how old you may be, we really suggest that you read on.
Like financial planning for retirement, the smartest, best thing to do regarding aging in place is to plan early – and plan often. No matter how remote the notion of old age is for most of us, anyone who has attained it will tell you that it comes faster than you think – with consequences that you may want to consider while you have the flexibility and finances to do so.
What is aging in place, anyway?
Aging in place is basically deciding where you want to live as you age while maintaining a high quality of life. It means planning so that you can enjoy all of the comforts of your home as you age, safely.
While some people prefer moving to retirement communities or if necessary, assisted living, many want to stay in their own homes. Early planning to make sure your home can accommodate your possibly changing needs is key to ensuring you can. Planning for the eventualities of old age is simply smart. No matter how fit you might be now, aging changes us all.
While excellent diet and exercise, as well as keeping your brain active, can hold some of these debilitating factors at bay, Mother Nature really didn’t intend for us to live forever.
A few statistics…
If you are a member of the baby boomer generation, you will have a lot of company as you age. Many seniors (ages 65 and up) live either alone or with a spouse in their own homes. In 2000, there were just over 34 million Americans aged 65 or older. By 2030, according to the US Census, this number will increase to about 70 million Americans. This means almost 20% of the total US population will be creating social, economic, physical, emotional – and of course medical – challenges
So, planning your personal approach to aging in place is of paramount importance. Competition for resources, particularly if you want to live independently, may become a significant issue. According to AARP Magazine, almost 90 percent of Americans 65 or older are planning to remain in their own homes. You want to make sure your golden years are assured – and as happy as advanced planning can make them.
So how do I decide what’s best for me – while maintaining my quality of life?
In considering your alternatives, you want to ask yourself (and your spouse) some probing questions about what is important to you (both) as you grow older. How do you see yourself living during your retired years? Is it important that you stay in your current home – or possibly move to a smaller, more easily maintained home, while still remaining independent? Or would you prefer to live in a retirement community? Do you have special health considerations that will need to be addressed, such as a chronic disease? What will happen to you in case of accident or an unexpected illness?
Based on your answers to these questions, you should then consider your daily activities and how growing older may affect them. Keeping the list of possible physical and mental issues in mind, consider if you:
- Can leave and return home without accident or anxiety.
- Have a plan for when it is no longer wise for you to continue driving. Is public transportation readily available in your neighborhood – or are necessary shops and services within easy walking distance?
- Can continue to have a rich social life with friends and family, taking into account that your friends may themselves decide to change where they live.
- Will be able to maintain your home, both inside and out.
- Can maintain your health, including having access to healthy food and continuing a regular fitness routine.
How do I plan for this future?
If you decide to stay in your current home or relocate to one that is more easily maintained, you want to consider both your financial and physical environment. Certain parts of your home are particularly prone to create obstacles as you grow older, including stairs, kitchens, and bathrooms.
Can your home accommodate a wheelchair or walker, should one be needed? Is your shower low or no threshold? Can you easily turn doorknobs and faucets?
You will want to assess your current living conditions and, if remodeling is in your future, put some changes in place that will help address these issues. It’s natural for MrSteam to focus on your bathroom safety – and, in fact, you may want to review our recent blog post, “Creating a Fabulous and Safe Bathroom for All Ages” for tips on how to create a space that will grow old along with you. This includes such critical safety considerations as providing enough space to move, appropriate lighting, non-slip flooring, and innovations to showers and bathtubs, including low- to no-threshold showers, shower seats, and walk-in tubs. You may even be able to plan for grab bars – something that becomes critical for seniors as they grow older – without actually having to put them in place right now
Because part of what you are trying to accomplish with aging in place is to ensure your comfort in your later years, you may also want to consider adding a steam shower to your bathroom. This will provide you with years of luxury to come, and will be of special use in alleviating the aches and pains of older muscles. It is particularly helpful if you suffer from arthritis, and will add to your flexibility and mobility, especially if you take a steam shower first thing in the morning. See the blog post, Physical Therapist Praises the Benefits of Steam, to learn more. In addition, it can help you to a better night’s sleep – which can often be a problem as you age.
As you grow older, you should stay current with resources that help you “age in place.” As the current baby boomer generation turns into senior citizens, the number of organizations and websites that address their needs are increasing. A sampling of these include:
- Home by Choice: A resource for keeping
youhome for life
- National Council
- The National Aging In Place Council
- Age In Place
- Senior Living.org
Planning early for aging in place means that the choices for how you spend your golden years are