Here on the AgingOptions blog, we’ve written thousands of words about aging in place. Everyone seems to agree that growing old in one’s own home is the preferred plan for the vast majority of American seniors, and with good reason: “home” represents familiarity, security, comfort, and support. Even though many if not most U.S. houses are actually ill-equipped for seniors to age in place, that doesn’t change the stubborn preference of most of us to stay put as we age.
Aging in Place May Become Not Just a Preference, but a Necessity
However, a recent article on the International Policy Digest website puts a somewhat different slant on aging in place. Written by reporter Kate Harveston, the article suggests that growing old at home may become much more than a preference – it may become a necessity. “Your home is your castle, and if you’re like many of today’s Baby Boomers, you prefer to remain in it rather than move to an assisted living facility,” she writes. “For some, where they live is not a matter of preference, but rather, pragmatics. It costs a pretty penny to move into a care home, and many of today’s seniors can’t afford to do so.” According to Harveston, simple economics is helping drive the trend to remain at home. “As the cost of 24/7 care continues to soar, many senior Americans find that aging in place is more desirable,” she writes.
But as the article warns, while aging in place might save seniors money, the challenge lies in discovering how to remain at home in a way that’s healthy and safe. “While you might share the opinion that remaining in your home is preferable to moving on, safety considerations prove paramount,” says Harveston. “Many accidents occur at home, and the injuries that result can rob much of the joy from one’s golden years.” As the trend toward aging in place continues, seniors and their families – not to mention society at large – are going to have to figure this one out. There’s also a related issue facing seniors growing old at home: is anyone going to be there to help you when you need it?
Aging in Place Versus the Rising Costs of Assisted Living and Nursing Care
Harveston’s article offers something of a primer for those seniors considering alternatives to remaining at home. As a senior grows frailer, many families find themselves choosing between assisted living and skilled nursing care. “Assisted living facilities offer various levels of care,” the article explains. “Some residents receive aids such as medication reminders and the knowledge that someone is a button away if they need help. Other residents may participate in physical therapy or receive help in administering injections.” By contrast, nursing home residents typically require a higher level of medical care, up to and including round-the-clock attention. Residents in nursing homes are much more closely monitored than those in assisted living residences.
The cost of senior care is the biggest challenge for families. Surveys show a median cost for assisted living in the U.S. of around $4,000 per month, but that figure is generally higher here in the Pacific Northwest. Nursing care costs can easily top $7,000 monthly. Low income residents who qualify may receive assistance from Medicaid or the Veterans Administration, but for most, even those with sizeable savings, care costs can prove prohibitive. “For such individuals, selling the family home and moving to a facility presents a risk,” the article states. “If they run out of savings, where will they go? Many decide it’s safer to remain at home than risk severe economic hardship during some of their most vulnerable years.”
Successful Aging in Place Will Demand Healthcare Changes
In order to promote healthy aging in place, Harveston’s article states, our society is going have to make some critical changes. For example, we’re going to need more paid caregivers. “If aging in place is indeed the wave of the future, we need to find ways to get more people to enter the home health care field,” she writes. “Currently, burnout levels remain high among home health care aides, and for understandable reasons.” Also, employers may need to reexamine their policies concerning paid leave for family members with caregiver responsibilities, in order to alleviate some of the caregiving burden. Currently, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with more than 50 workers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but many employees can’t afford to take that time off with no paycheck.
Meanwhile, seniors and their families should take whatever steps they can to make home a safer place. This infographic from the National Institute on Aging lists some basic home improvements to make aging in place safer, including:
- Getting rid of area rugs and runners that can be trip hazards;
- Installing grab bars near toilets and showers;
- Replacing door handles and faucets with types that are easier to use;
- Improving lighting and making switches more accessible;
- Installing flooring that can prevent falls;
- Adding a handrail and a ramp to outside entrances.
If Aging in Place Is Part of Your Retirement Future, Start Planning Now
If aging in place is your goal, Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions advises you to take articles like this one from the International Policy Digest very seriously. “This article and others like it represent a loud and clear wake up call,” he warns. “These are serious issues affecting almost every senior. Shortage of care workers, increasing costs, a growing population of seniors, dwindling financial resources – what does all this add up to? What should people without a lot of savings do?” Fortunately, there’s an answer: a retirement planning strategy called LifePlanning. Pioneered by Rajiv Nagaich, LifePlanning is a revolutionary approach to retirement planning in which the key elements all work together, including how to protect your assets, how to decide where to live, how to guard yourself and your heirs legally, and how to make certain your medical care is provided for. A LifePlan will help you avoid becoming a burden to those you love as you prepare to age in place securely.
Please accept our invitation to join Rajiv at an upcoming LifePlanning Seminar where he’ll show you the power of LifePlanning. It’s free, and there’s no obligation or sales pressure of any kind. For a listing of currently scheduled times and locations, visit the Live Events page on our website, or give us a call. As Rajiv says, “We will all age – the real question is, how?” You can grow old on your terms with an AgingOptions LifePlan. Age on!
(originally reported at https://intpolicydigest.org)