Aging in Place
Aging in Place is a fairly new expression used to describe something most of us want. We are generally more comfortable in a place that is familiar. It stands to reason that we should wish to stay at home as long as we can as we get older. In fact, according to “A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.
Some Good Reasons to Age at Home
The most compelling reason for wanting to stay at home is because it is home. Home is familiar. Home is comfortable. Home is full of memories. Moreover, we have probably spent years nurturing and learning the social and physical environment that is our neighborhood. Moving away from that not only represents, in part, a loss of who we are. It also signifies a loss of independence.
There are other reasons, like we know where things are, we have spent time decorating and getting things just as we like them, but the fact that it is home is really all the reason necessary for wanting to stay.
Hurdles to Aging in Place
So what is the issue? How could there be any reasons for not staying at home?
We all lose some of our abilities as we age. Our strength and bone mass decline. Our senses are affected, we don’t see or hear as well as we once did. We become, generally, less mobile. It is a fact that aging does affect quality of life, and all of this can impact one’s ability to live independently.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level. ”The instrumental word here is “ability”. People who are limited by a physical or cognitive condition might require more care than is possible in their home. At that time, an assisted living community becomes essential. Or in the case of progressing dementia, a memory care residence is recommended.
The ravages of age
As we age, things that were easy for us when we were younger become progressively more difficult. For example, at 20 years of age, or even 30, bounding up two or three flights of stairs was nothing. However, if you are in your fifties, sixties or beyond, stairs can be a real challenge. In fact, for many, just walking can present a problem. Other physical limitations that may crop up as a result of the natural aging process include:
- Eyesight and hearing often deteriorate
- Strength and coordination are affected, increasing fall risk
- Bones shrink and become brittle, making injury resulting from falls more likely
- Decreased mobility
Aging does affect quality of life, and any item on the above list can impact one’s ability to live independently. On the other hand, the normal effects of aging can very often be overcome and compensated for, allowing one to remain at home for the duration of his life.
There is a profusion of ideas and devices created specifically to help one live independently. These are called Aids for Daily Living (ADLs), and they help to perform Activities of Daily Living (also ADLs [?]).
Aids to Aging in Place (Aids for Daily Living)
The example of stairs being an impediment to living independently is really only an issue in a multiple story or split-level home, or one with steps to enter the house. If home is a single level ranch, for example, stairs are less of a problem. There are inexpensive solutions to stairs, especially when compared to the cost of moving to independent or assisted living. Assisted Lifting has stair lifts for as little as $1,700. Mobile Stairlift has a neat lightweight and portable model for about $3,000.
Walkers and wheelchairs offer ambulatory assistance when the simple act of walking becomes more challenging. Sometimes a cane is all that is required, and these come with a variety of features to increase safety, like special no-slip tips.
As beneficial as they are, canes and walkers and stair-lifts aren’t much help for anyone who experiences difficulty “scooting” themselves up to the table. Luckily there’s a chair for that. Unfortunately that chair will not be available until June of 2020. But spring will be here before you know it! The video below demonstrates how this chair on locking wheels can help extend one’s independence. If you are interested in this chair, contact us. We will put you on a list and let you know when it comes available.
Our old homes are often just that; old homes. Older construction and design is not always disability friendly, not always affable to one with declining physical skills. On the other hand, many of the design elements that make a living environment inhospitable or even dangerous can be remedied. The website Porch.com has more ideas to create a home that is more accessible to anyone with age-related limitations.
This Old House
Our old homes are often just that; old homes. Older construction and design is not always disability friendly, not always affable to one with declining physical skills. On the other hand, many of the design elements that make a living environment inhospitable or even dangerous can be remedied.
As we have seen, falls are one of the greatest risks to the health of an aging person, and one of the biggest obstacles to aging in place. There are some simple and inexpensive ways to decrease fall risk:
- Install grab bars in bathrooms, and particularly in showers and tubs
- Use non-skid flooring in areas that tend to get wet, like entries and bathrooms
- Install walk-in bathtub
- Inspect stair rails and replace any that are weak or otherwise inadequate
- Remove throw rugs and other tripping hazards, like high thresholds
- Ensure lighting is adequate
The Inspection Support Network has some really good ideas and tips to guide your home renovation for aging in place.
Reduce Falls with Exercise
An exercise program will greatly reduce the risk of falls, as exercise improves strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. See more about reducing fall risk in our post, Fall Related Deaths Increasing. Get some more ideas about redecorating for safety from Alzheimer’s Safety. This article was written specifically about creating a safe environment for people with dementia, but many of the suggestions apply to others as well.
The National Institute on Aging, part of The National Institute of Health has a website dedicated to improving and maintaining health as we age. This is one useful thing that your tax dollars pay for – we recommend that you visit the site.
At home care can fill in some of the holes in an elder care continuum. These businesses are often franchised, and are becoming popular as care communities becomes more expensive. Trained care providers will come to the home to provide companionship, personal care, transportation and a host of other services depending on need. That might be a few hours a week, or 24 hours a day while someone convalesces. Comfort Keepers and Visiting Angels are two of the better known and best reviewed In Home Care providers. A quick Google search will find companies in your area.
Technology has given us some ADLs that wouldn’t have been possible just a few decades ago. Electronics and the internet, for example, make communication easier and faster.
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