Life is full of important decisions. As we age, we may have fewer decisions to make, but some of them are more important than others. A key decision is whether, in your years of declining physical ability, you stay in your home or elect to move into other housing options.
Ultimately, the decision to “age in place” will be based on financial considerations, home accessibility, overall health, and access to social support.
The determination to intentionally age in place vs. moving into an institutional situation ideally starts well before the need to decide is foisted upon you by circumstance. Whenever the decision is made, there are key considerations to factor in.
Most homes are not built with the needs of aging seniors in mind. This may require some modification of the home to accommodate aging in place. The addition of grab bars, removing tripping hazards, adding ramps, and widening doorways are a few modifications that may be appropriate. Planning is more challenging with a two-story home. Whether this means relocating to the first floor or changing homes to one that can accommodate your current and future mobility and accessibility needs are the obvious options.
Whether you can stay in your own home or decide to move to another house, consider the availability of transportation. Whether this is public transportation or relying on rides from family or friends, or even ride-sharing services like Uber or Lift, having reliable transportation is important. Also, consider the walkability of the location. Are key services like grocery stores nearby?
Access to healthcare facilities such as hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities, and pharmacies is an important consideration. If your decision includes relocating, research the availability of doctors you will need and the healthcare services available under your insurance plans. You may also want to investigate what home care agencies serve your area should you want to get help with daily needs as you age in place.
Social isolation can be a major factor in overall health when seniors live independently. Making the decision to age in place makes it important to develop and consistently expand your network of family and friends. Good sources of non-family relationships include neighbors and community resources like senior centers, social clubs, and religious communities.
Should your decision to age in place include relocation, make sure you take into consideration the cost of home modifications, taxes, maintenance, and future changes in your financial situation. Consider potential changes in your costs of healthcare and/or long-term care.
Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are those things like bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. In making the decision to age in place, having backup plans is critical. Home care is an obvious choice and should be researched. Alternative living arrangements such as family caregivers, long-term care services, and senior living communities should be options you have in your back pocket.
As you make the decision to age in place, assess your current and future needs for home accessibility, social support, healthcare access, transportation, financial considerations and personal health and care needs. Also, have advance directives in place should you become incapacitated.
Importantly, share your plans with others in your life, including family, beneficiaries, healthcare professionals, financial advisers, and attorneys. They can execute your healthcare, legal, and financial wishes if you are not able to do so yourself.