“The only way I’m leaving my home is horizontal!”
For many seniors, the idea of “aging in place” is an expectation that doesn’t require questioning. In a blog about senior living you might expect a long-winded discussion on how the world should shift away from that idea. It may surprise you that our position is the opposite – albeit with the suggestion that seniors should always be informed of the options available to make the best decision for their unique situation.
Seniors today have many living options that we break into three categories – home, senior living, and skilled nursing care. Since skilled nursing is really more of a medical necessity, aging in place is an idea that really centers around remaining at home or moving to a senior living community.
So how to decide? Here’s a look at aging in place options and some of the pros and cons.
Traditional staying at home
Seniors often plan to remain in their homes as they age for many reasons including paid-off mortgages, close proximity to people and places they love, family memories, and a feeling of security. Many feel their home, in which they raised families, is the best place for them because they are in a comfortable, familiar environment.
Let’s be candid – why would anyone even consider leaving their home if they didn’t need to? For many seniors, alternatives aren’t even a consideration. However, there are also downsides to staying at home, some that can be planned for and some that grow to affect seniors’ health and wellness.
Seniors who like the concept of staying home should plan ahead for these downsides. An obvious example: houses with multiple levels can be especially difficult (and sometimes downright dangerous) for seniors who have to go up and down stairs multiple times each day. Here are some of the pros and cons of aging at home.
|AGING IN PLACE AT HOME||PROS||CONS|
|Mortgage often paid off.||X|
|Sense of security.||X|
|Moving is stressful.||X|
|Sense of independence.||X|
|Connection to community.||X|
|Isolation, depression, and anxiety.||X|
|Lack of personal assistance.||X|
|Cleanliness, clutter and chores.||X|
Even seniors in good health may eventually find it more and more difficult to live safely in their home without making changes from minor to major, depending upon their needs and situation. So, when creating a plan to remain at home, follow the advice of the AARP in their article, “‘Aging Friendly’ Improvements for Most Every Home Remodeling Project,” for lessons shared by a remodeling contractor.
Aging in place at home is a challenging topic for many seniors because many of the cons associated with living at home don’t become a crisis overnight. Instead, most challenges can take months or even years to reach a point where they become an issue. Here are a few examples:
“My mortgage is paid off, so it’s cheaper to live at home.”
For many independent seniors, this statement is absolutely true. However, we all experience normal aging issues that slowly shift the tables. Most seniors bring on landscaping assistance. The home requires regular maintenance and often large repairs like roofing, plumbing and heating issues are normally performed by licensed professionals. Smaller jobs, especially those that require ladders and physical stamina, become more difficult (and often more hazardous) for seniors. Gutter cleaning and leaf raking in the fall, snow shoveling in the winter, ect. become an issue. When seniors begin a search into alternate living options they may find that their monthly expenses, including utilities, insurance, internet, cable, pest control, landscaping, cleaning, food, etc. have actually caused their supported lifestyle at home to cost more than the bundled rate of a senior community.
And then there’s the scenario where in-home medical care is needed. Yes, it may never happen, but it very well may, so factoring the possibility into the equation is a good idea. Depending upon the medical crisis, hours of help needed, and geographic area, in-home medical care costs vary. To compare real-world costs, try the resources in the payingforseniorcare.com blog, “Calculating the Cost of Assisted Living vs. Home Care.”
“I’m ok living at home alone.”
This is such a critically important topic that we wrote an entirely separate blog discussing the risk of loneliness, isolation, and depression. Some seniors create a social network that can help. However, actions and data speak far louder than words – despite a senior saying they are fine. Many things lead to social isolation – chronic health problems, limited mobility, the deaths of friends and acquaintances, hearing or vision loss, etc., but the reasons tend to all have one thing in common: they aren’t dramatically different from day to day. It’s the classic “can’t see the forest for the trees” argument. When looking over a longer period of time, it can be remarkable how much loss has truly occurred and how that isolation can domino over time into major health crisis events.
The best way for seniors to remain at home is to plan, and those conversations can be uncomfortable. Nobody wants to go through personal, emotional “what if” ideas. However, proper preparation, honest assessment, and early action can really set the stage for successful aging at home.
Aging in place at a senior community
Senior living is a quality alternative for many seniors, and like staying at home, it has its pros and cons. One interesting similarity is that it also allows seniors to “age in place,” just in slightly different ways. Senior living immediately relieves many of the cons seniors experience living at home. In active and independent living communities, for example, seniors have all the freedom of home with physical accessibility built in, and more on-site security. In continuum-of-care communities, emergency or daily help is also close by. Depending upon the community, there may be little to no maintenance required of residents, instead, their time can be spent meeting with friends, attending events and taking part in activities they enjoy. Of course, senior living isn’t without its list of challenges, just like any lifestyle choice. Take a look at some of the pros and cons of aging in place in a senior living community.
|AGING IN PLACE IN SENIOR LIVING||PROS||CONS|
|No costly home repairs.||X|
|Senior-friendly apartment design.||X|
|Excellent dining options.||X|
|Safety and peace of mind.||X|
|Personal care available when needed.||X|
|Friends and neighbors in the same age group.||X|
|Daily events and entertainment.||X|
|Trips to local venues and events.||X|
|On-site barber and hair salon services.||X|
|Diverse outdoor areas to enjoy.||X|
|Wellness center for age-appropriate exercise.||X|
|Freedom to enjoy life.||X|
|Sticker shock bundled cost.||X|
|Perceived loss of privacy.||X|
|Smaller living space.||X|
|Rules to follow.||X|
So, then, what does it mean to “age in place” at a senior community? The simplest example of aging in place at a senior living community is that many communities offer several lifestyle options from independent living to assisted living to memory care. That means in the event a higher level of care is needed, a resident can stay on the campus, transition easily into the next level, and forego all the stress of moving from a family home to a senior community during a health crisis.
Of course, senior living communities also offer a full range of amenities seniors just cannot get at home, including diverse and engaging social activities, trips to places near and far, regular exercise programs, great cuisine options, on-site transportation, and much more.
Then there are the intangible aspects that include peace of mind, having friends nearby, and living in a safe and welcoming community. All of it can be enjoyed with the knowledge that should physical or mental health needs change, the community is standing by ready to help. If you’re still wondering which is the best move, check out the aginginplace.org blog, “Aging In Place Vs. Assisted Living” for more information.
At Arrow Senior Living our goal is to make each day the best it can be for every resident. Visit our website to learn more about senior living. To speak with one of our senior living counselors, contact us anytime.