Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Three Keys to Aging in Place

A growing number of aging senior citizens consider staying in their homes a priority. In the last few years a new term as emerged identifying those who desire to stay put.

The term? Aging in place.

Recent studies show approximately twenty-five million U.S. households are headed by someone over sixty-five. That number will grow as the leading wave of aging boomers arrives on the scene. With eighty-five percent wanting to remain in their homes, the challenge to do so will increase.

The following three factors are key in making that happen.

1. Physical and mental health. To age in place, seniors must be able to care for themselves. Families can prepare ahead of time by obtaining physical and mental examinations to determine what needs may arise and what services are required, if any.

Assess what community services are available. Often nearby family and friends are able to lend a hand. Public transportation, senior citizen centers, and programs such as Meals-on-Wheels quite often are available. Paid or unpaid caregivers can provide much needed assistance.

2. Financial Health. Especially vulnerable to forced moves are the low to moderate-income elders. Unable to pay for upkeep or expensive repairs on a house, many people must move in with other family members or make other less desirable living arrangements.

Experts say mortgages should be paid off prior to leaving the work place in order to reduce the likelihood of future financial stress. Some may consider an alternative course of action such as a reverse mortgage. Make sure to discuss options with a trusted financial advisor.

3. Physical condition of the home. If possible, make sure the senior’s home has been properly maintained. Homes are in constant need of upkeep and as people age, they will not be able to do the work themselves. Addressing as many needs as possible will assure a pleasant living experience.

Sometimes people know their needs ahead of time and are able to remodel. For example, removing steps and adding a ramp will make the home wheelchair accessible if health concerns warrant. Widening doors and adding grab bars to the bathroom will help the handicapped senior live alone. Remodeling a home to make it handicap accessible should be a priority.

Many people desire to remain where they feel a sense of warmth and comfort. They are familiar with the neighborhood and may still be active in the community. Their home is comfortable, convenient and feels safe. Strong memories and traditions are difficult to leave.

Helping people age in place will contribute to healthier, safer, and happier lives for millions of older Americans. Using wisdom and preplanning may allow many more of our aging population to remain in their homes.

No comments: