Living in your own home as you age can help you maintain the lifestyle you want in the home you've loved for years. Though living at home has many positives, it also comes with particular challenges. Knowing the challenges you may face at home can help you better prepare for the future.
What Is Aging in Place?
Aging in place refers to staying in your home as you age rather than going to a care institution. Older adults often prefer this approach because they can comfortably live in a familiar place. Here are a few reasons you may choose to age in place:
- Better-quality care: When aging in place, you typically have access to a personal caregiver, whether hired or a family member. You receive one-on-one attention and aid when you need it.
- More comfort: Often, living at home means staying in a place you are familiar with and have fond memories of. You can also maintain more independence.
- Lower expenses: Staying in your home means avoiding the costs of an assisted living or nursing home. While you will still face expenses, they may be less than permanent care.
- Stronger connections: You can stay in touch with your community and be closer to loved ones in the area. These relationships can make your living situation more pleasant.
What Makes Aging in Place Challenging?
While many older adults enjoy staying at home as they age, the situation can have unique challenges. Knowing these possibilities while deciding whether to age in place can simplify future planning. Once you know what may arise, you can prepare solutions to make living at home safe and enjoyable.
One of the biggest challenges of remaining in your home is the home itself. The house you spent your younger years in may not have all the upgrades necessary to suit you as you grow older. The most common challenge is mobility. Here are a few upgrades you may need to make:
- Installing better lighting
- Renovating entryways to remove steps or add ramps
- Adding instructions to appliances
- Making hallways and doors wheelchair accessible
- Lowering sinks and other fixtures
- Adding contrast tape to steps
These renovations often require homeowners to have the funds to perform all the necessary changes. If you rent, after you make the upgrades, you may be required to pay again to return the space to to the way it was when you moved in. Beyond renovations, other expenses include regular home and emergency maintenance. Depending on your needs and preferences, you may need to hire someone to perform tasks you did on your own, like mowing your lawn.
Physical and Cognitive Changes
As we age, we face new physical and mental challenges like:
- Hearing loss
- Vision loss
- Declining memory
- Heart disease
When aging in place, you must plan for these potential health changes. You might rely on family or a partner to remind you to take medication or assist you with accomplishing everyday tasks. When living in a nursing home, someone else would be supporting you with certain health related needs.
Isolation and Loneliness
Aging in your home could mean spending significant time alone or with a partner. Many older adults enjoy the added privacy of staying at home, but time spent away from friends, family, and community may also cause social isolation, which can contribute to:
- Cognitive decline and illness
- Higher risks of cognitive disease
- Weakened immune system
- Depression or mental illness
Caregivers and aging adults can prep for these potential challenges and plan strategies for social interactions by spending time with family, attending a class in the local community, using technology like video calls to stay in touch, and much more.
Family Caregivers Lacking Support
When we want to live at home as we age, younger family members like children often step in as voluntary caregivers, devoting their time and resources to creating a comfortable living situation. These caregivers can also perform personal care tasks and help older adults with daily living activities.
As caregivers devote themselves to caring for older loved ones, they might face burnout, which could lead to a lower quality of care. The caregiver and older adult can watch for these signs and make plans to support them both. These plans may involve having multiple people you can call when the primary caregiver needs a break or extra help.
High Long-Term Care Costs
While aging in place is often more affordable than moving to a care facility, you could face a higher cost of living than in your younger years. Your income and health plans may not cover services like:
- 24/7 in-home care
- Grocery shopping
- Meal deliveries
- Personal care assistance
Trouble With Transportation
Transportation provides freedom for older adults. It allows you to go to the grocery store, attend community events, and attend doctor's appointments. Many older adults also give up driving for safety reasons or due to poor health. In a rural environment, you may lack access to public transportation.
This challenge means you may need to contact loved ones for transportation or plan other ways to get around. You might even use ride-hailing services to get where you need to go.
Limited Social Programs
Social programs provide access to basic needs like food, housing, and transportation. These services can make it possible to live freely at home. However, these programs are limited and sometimes have specific entry rules. Some also struggle to get funding, so the money you receive may be less than you need. Nonetheless, there are benefits out there. You can find benefits applicable to you online and through government websites. Helpful information about benefits is available on credible sites like benefits.gov and the National Council on Aging.
Setting Up a Plan for Aging in Place
While aging in place comes with challenges, it also provides a fulfilling home where you can spend your older years. To get the best out of aging in place, it helps to plan early. If you're already aging in place, here are some tips that can be useful.
Evaluate your current situation and how it might change as you grow older. If your mobility is slightly limited, but you can still move around your home freely, consider what your mobility might be in six months or a year. Maybe it's a good idea to plan to add handrails for your bathtub or make other adjustments before you need them. These updates mean the support will already be in place when you need it.
If you have illnesses or medical conditions, you can also talk to your medical professionals about how they might impact your personal and medical care needs in the future. Using their advice, you can create a plan for a year or five years from now.
Aging in Place Tips for the Best Quality of Life
Aging in place is often a positive experience, especially when you plan by considering your future health. You can also use the following tips to combat the challenges of living at home while you age.
Reach Out to People You Know
Family, friends, and neighbors are excellent resources for older adults living at home. Consider your needs and talk openly with your loved ones and acquaintances about how they can assist you. You can also offer to help them with various tasks based on your abilities. For example, if you could ask your neighbor to grocery shop for you, you would cook them a meal in return. This trade saves you from paying for public transportation or shopping services and also deepens your relationship with your loved ones.
Research Available Resources
While social programs can be limited, they still give an excellent source of aid when needed. You can search for social programs in your area to see what is available. You can also look into free events for older adults at the local library or recreation center. These events often let you enjoy social interaction and time away from home.
Outfit Your Home
Your home can become a sanctuary as you age by making a few simple changes. While your budget may not allow for a complete renovation, a few low-cost changes can make a significant difference. Increase mobility by removing fall hazards like area rugs and adding no-slip strips to tile and wood surfaces. Ask your family to rearrange furniture for more effortless movement, and ensure all the necessities are on one floor, even if it means moving your bedroom or bringing a TV upstairs.
As an older adult, you may struggle with maintenance tasks like mowing your lawn or changing your furnace filters. Caregivers may also lack the time and knowledge to address these home tasks. You can ensure they get done by scheduling maintenance visits like weekly lawn mowing or a yearly furnace inspection.
Prepare for Emergencies
Add peace of mind while living at home by wearing a medical alert device or at least keeping phones nearby. You might do this by having a landline in every room or carrying a cell phone. Caregivers can also provide an easy-to-read list of emergency phone numbers that older adults can contact for help. A good way to ensure you always have a way to contact your loved ones nearby is to wear a medical alert device. Being that you wear it, the device is always on you and can be accessed in any situation you find yourself in; not just medical emergencies but any emergencies.
Live a Freer Life With Medical Alert Devices
Despite the challenges of aging in place, you may desire to live at home as you get older. Medical alert devices allow you to maintain your independence and freedom while giving you more confidence when moving around your home and performing everyday tasks. Because the alert is always close by, you are always a button push away from help when you need it.
Medical Guardian has a diverse range of medical alert systems to keep you protected at home. With these devices, you can avoid the high costs of moving to an assisted living facility while gaining the advantage of help that's there whenever you need it. Browse our products to find the right fit.