You may see yourself aging in place in your family home; it’s relaxing and familiar. Aging in place may be fine during the early years of your retirement, but as time goes by, aging your home may not be as ideal as you think. It may become a place that presents physical and mental health risks.
Aging in place at home may be fine for now but will it be when you grow older? Your home may not be as accommodating when you consider the changes brought on by aging like reduced vision and physical strength and balance problems. For example, carpets and rugs can pose fall risks, stairs may become hard to safely manage and bathrooms can make it downright scary to perform your personal hygiene routine.
The kitchen, where all kinds of once easy practices, becomes more risky whether you’re handling sharp knives, climbing to reach objects in upper cabinets or using hot appliances. For a look at more risks you may encounter when aging in place, checkout the U.S. News & World Report’s Home Safety Checklist for Seniors.
It’s a sad fact that the older you get the more likely you will lose people you love. Spouses, partners and friends move or pass away, making aging in place a lonely endeavor. What you may not realize is that the consequences of aging in place can be every bit as detrimental as the physical risks noted above.
According to the National Institute on Aging’s Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks, if you’re living alone you have a higher risk of physical and mental health problems including hypertension, heart disease, obesity, weakened immunity, depression and anxiety, cognitive decline including Alzheimer’s disease and a shorter life span.
You may be thinking aging in place ensures you’ll continue to be independent. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in many cases. As mobility decreases and it’s more difficult to manage outings on your own, you may find that it’s just safer to stay home and give up things you love to do and places you love to visit including visiting friends and family.
Another aspect that you may feel is a long way off is that of giving up driving and leaving transportation to family or public facilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Older Adult Drivers, not only do crash rates increase as you age, so too does your vulnerability to injury. In fact, every day in the U.S. 20 seniors die and almost 550 are injured in car crashes. Among the many causes are vision problems, loss of physical ability, cognitive problems with reason and memory, medications and some diseases that make driving safely no longer possible.
You love your home but taking care of it, inside and out, will eventually challenge you both physically and monetarily. Keeping up with vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning the kitchen and bathroom(s), and other chores will take their toll and may cause injuries. Often families can pitch in or you may need to hire cleaning services, which according to Angi can cost $30 to $50 per hour, with square footage determining total costs that range from $90 to $600 per cleaning.
Then there are outdoor chores like lawn maintenance, leaf raking, snow removal, gutter cleaning and other physically demanding and sometimes dangerous tasks that must be routinely performed. The costs of these and other ongoing home care needs are explored in the U.S. News & World Report’s How Much to Budget for Home Maintenance.
After you examine the safety and costs for aging in place at home, you may reconsider your decision and look into senior living communities. Spacious and brightly lit, senior living communities are designed for accessibility and safety. If you ever need to use an assistive device (e.g. walker or wheelchair), you’ll still be able to easily move around. Bathrooms provide grab bars and non-slip flooring. Emergency systems (e.g. motion sensors and pull cords in homes and wearable pendants) allow for instant response to a call for help.
If you’re thinking senior living communities mean sacrificing quality of life for safety, think again. Gone are the nursing homes of yesterday. Today’s senior living communities are bright and vibrant featuring a variety of housing options in what feels like a neighborhood. Luxury amenities and on-site services (e.g. salons, restaurants, local transportation, fitness center, pool, tennis court, daily activities) offer convenience and endless opportunities to engage in life. But best of all, most of the responsibilities and costs of aging in place at home disappear!
Learn more about senior living from our Senior Living Options: The Pros and Cons blog post.
Although aging in place at home may seem like a good idea now, you should plan for a time when it’s no longer the ideal place for your physical and mental health. Planning now will help reduce the stress if a new health condition(s) or emergency arises.
For more help with deciding between aging in place or senior living, download our Stay or Go Guide.