A study from AARP found that 90% of retired people would prefer to stay in their homes as they age instead of moving to an assisted living facility or even moving in with loved ones. This decision is called “aging in place,” and in addition to being their preference, it also provides many health and financial benefits.
“Living at home can add to a loved one’s quality of life because most people find comfort in their own surroundings and want to maintain their independence and familiarity,” says Andrea Pezel, caregiving expert for Grayce, an organization that provides advice, care, and support for the aging, ill, disabled, and vulnerable family members. “In your own home, you can decide on meal preferences, décor, pet ownership and control the amount of activity. Staying connected to one’s own community with familiar neighbors, religious communities, established medical providers and local friends can provide a significant amount of social support and joy.”
While it can be a good idea, aging in place requires forethought and tough decision-making to do it successfully.
How to Plan to Age in Place
Planning is key, and seniors should prepare ahead of time. Pezel suggests family members answer these questions:
- Can your loved one call for help in the event of an emergency?
- If your loved one needs a mobility device, does it fit through the doorways?
- How will your loved one get to their appointments?
- Who will maintain the home, including tasks like shoveling snow or cleaning gutters?
- Who will help your loved one when they need personal care services, such as bathing and dressing?
“While these questions may sound overwhelming at first, there are many ways to plan ahead and prepare,” says Pezel.
For example, you can leverage technology, such as online bill pay and shared calendars to create a schedule and keep everyone current. Have a safety assessment team evaluate your loved one’s home to ensure it’s safe. And perform regular check-ins.
Common Concerns for Aging in Place
The benefits of aging in place are strong, but there are also challenges.
“Many people purchased their home years ago without consideration of future accessibility needs,” says Pezel. “They may have stairs, narrow doorways, or showers not wide enough for mobility devices. Home modifications can resolve these concerns, but they may be costly and take a significant amount of time to remedy.”
Coordination of your loved one’s needs is another consideration when deciding between staying in their home and moving to an assisted living facility.
“Managing the day-to-day operations of grocery shopping, medical appointments, transportation, and household operations can be time-consuming and take additional resources,” says Pezel. “Most assisted living facilities have easily accessible transportation options to alleviate this concern, but these facilities may not be able to accommodate all preferences and specific requests.”
Financial Issues to Consider
Paying for daily needs and care is another challenge, as these additional costs weren’t previously part of the budget. Assisted living facilities’ fees typically include rent, utilities, housekeeping, and meals.
“While they will likely charge extra for caregiving services, the hourly rate tends to be much more affordable than a private caregiver for an individual residence,” she says. “However, assisted living facilities’ monthly fee can be out of reach for many on limited budgets.”
People who have built up equity in their homes may find that a reverse mortgage can create a revenue stream to supplement other retirement income, such as Social Security. It can be a good idea to explore this option before it’s needed as part of the planning process.
Aging in Place Help and Resources
When looking for help, Peter Ross, CEO of the in-home senior care provider Senior Helpers and president of the Home Care Association of America board of directors, suggests finding caregivers through agencies.
“Do not hire a caregiver through Craigslist, the newspaper, or even a friend’s recommendation,” he says. “Only use a bonded, insured caregiver agency.”
Ross says using an agency is helpful for a few different reasons. First, they will handle the caregiver’s screening, hiring, firing, pay, and taxes. If the worker is sick, the agency can send a substitute. An agency can help you assess your needs and provide an individual with the necessary skills, such as someone skilled in physical or occupational therapy or someone well-trained in Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s care. And the cost of caregivers hired through an agency may be partially covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
Aging in place is a big decision that should include all family members. By developing strategies to address the challenges before they become emergencies, you can create a successful age-in-place plan for yourself or your loved ones. For more resources on aging in place, visit the CDC website.
This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. For more information about whether a reverse mortgage may be right for you, you should consult an independent financial advisor. For tax advice, please consult a tax professional.