Aging in place does not mean you simply continue to live in your home with no planning or changes. To age in place successfully, you need timely planning and action.
In my experience working with hundreds of older adults, I’ve seen the dramatic impact that smart, informed planning can make on an individual’s ability to stay in their home. I’ve also seen many unfortunate outcomes of not taking a proactive approach to the process of aging in place.
With smarter living today you can live better tomorrow; here are nine essential steps to successfully age in place.
Table of Contents
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #1: Stay Healthy to Stay Independent.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #2: Consider What Makes You Happy.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #3: Ensure Your Home is a Safe Setting.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #4: Build Stronger Social Connections.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #5: Explore Service Providers.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #6: Make a Plan for Transportation.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #7: Build a Budget.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #8: Complete Important Legal Plans.
- Steps to Age in Place Successfully #9: Stay Adaptable.
- Final Thoughts
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #1: Stay Healthy to Stay Independent.
Take time for an honest appraisal of your overall health. Do you have current conditions that should be addressed? What steps can you take to maintain or enhance your physical and cognitive health?
If maintaining your independence for as long as possible is truly important to you, good health is the foundation. Your overall health will impact your ability to stay independent more than any other factor.
Your body and mind need nutritious food, water, movement, sunlight, quality rest, and engagement to thrive. Take time to take care of you!
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #2: Consider What Makes You Happy.
Do you love spending time with your family, but live too far away for regular visits? Has a decline in mobility prevented you from getting out to fulfill your social needs? Do you love to garden in your raised beds, but worry about navigating the steep steps down to the yard?
Before you decide to age in place, it is important to consider whether a house with a different location or layout might be a better choice, or if you might prefer the social aspect of a community living environment.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #3: Ensure Your Home is a Safe Setting.
To age in place successfully, it is essential to assess the safety of your home and determine whether it will be safe for you to live in if your physical and mental fitness decline.
Do you have current or developing limitations in mobility, vision, hearing, strength, or cognition? In any of these cases, it is important to consider your home’s design and features, and what alterations may need to be made now and in the future. Proactive planning can allow you to make the proper modifications before an accident occurs, allowing you to spend more years in your home.
Remember, even if you are currently in good health, physical declines will occur as you age, and it is sensible to take reasonable steps in case of a future decline.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #4: Build Stronger Social Connections.
Social connection is a factor many overlook, but having a plan to engage with others as we age is essential. Long recognized as important for emotional well-being, more recent scientific studies have shown that social connections are also essential for cognitive and physical health.
As isolation and loneliness can be hazardous to your health, it is important to find a type of group activity or social gathering that you enjoy. There’s no shortage of options: volunteering, part-time work, hobby groups, exercise classes, bible studies, or adult education classes are all possibilities. Virtual interactions may not be as fulfilling but can be an adequate alternative if distance is an obstacle.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #5: Explore Service Providers.
Household tasks, such as maintaining a yard, cleaning, cooking, and running errands, can be taxing and time-consuming. With age-related decline, you may reach a point where these tasks are beyond your ability to do safely or effectively.
There are a variety of services that can help with everything from prescription and grocery delivery to lawn care. An internet search should allow you to research the services available in your area and the associated costs. For additional assistance, your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find low-cost or free options.
Even if you have not yet experienced significant cognitive decline, you may want to consider getting accustomed to periodic home delivery of groceries and other supplies. It is easier to become familiar with these options before health circumstances make them a necessity, and you have the flexibility to make one change at a time, rather than needing to sign up for a dozen services at once.
If you require personal care assistance with activities such as dressing, bathing, and meals, or simply safely navigating your day, non-medical home care might be necessary. As Medicare does not typically pay for this care, understanding the costs and options for in-home care services is an important part of planning for your future.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #6: Make a Plan for Transportation.
Driving safely requires alertness, sharp vision, good hearing, and quick reflexes, all of which can decline with age. Physical conditions such as arthritis can limit our ability to turn our heads enough to look for oncoming traffic. Cognitive decline can impact judgment or the ability to remember familiar routes.
Driving is an integral part of many people’s sense of independence, and most seniors are reluctant to stop, but driving under these conditions is dangerous for the senior and others on the road.
There is technology available that can help enhance driving safety, but until we have fully self-driving vehicles, the driver’s skills will be critical to safety. Driver safety programs for seniors are a great refresher, especially as these courses teach skills to compensate for the changes that come with age. To learn about these programs visit the AAA website and click on “Roadwise Driver.”
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #7: Build a Budget.
A long-term budget is critical to aging in place. These four factors will impact your short and long-term cost forecasts.
- Health and Mobility
- Support from Family and Friends
- Home Renovations and Modifications
- In-Home Care and Other Services
It is not possible to anticipate every future need, but a current budget and roadmap of likely future needs will allow you to plan and make informed, considered decisions.
For more tips on forecasting your budget, Shelly Gigante’s 2020 Mass Mutual article, How to Project the Cost of Aging in Place, is a terrific resource.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #8: Complete Important Legal Plans.
If you are making plans to age in place, you should be considering all end-of-life decisions to ensure that your wishes are honored. You will want to discuss the details with your lawyer, as there are different titles and options available.
Steps to Age in Place Successfully #9: Stay Adaptable.
Life circumstances can change. Our physical and cognitive health will not last forever, and unanticipated events can occur.
As part of planning for your later life years, consider alternatives if aging in place becomes unsafe or unmanageable. If a continued decline causes the cost of in-home care services to rise, the burden on family and friends can become unmanageable, and it may be necessary to consider alternatives.
During my time in Senior Living, I advised many older adults who were proactively exploring options for Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, and Nursing Homes. Typically, they planned to stay in their current residence as long as possible but wanted to maintain control and make their own choice for an alternative if the need arose, a wise measure.
Where and how you live will shape your later life; your senior years can be a very happy, fulfilling period, but you need to take the time to make thoughtful decisions. By addressing each of these steps, you can develop a complete strategy to give yourself the best chance to age in place successfully.