AARP research recently found that 77 percent of adults age 50+ want to remain in their homes for the long term. That number has remained consistent for more than a decade, giving us good reason to believe it will continue.
Given the long-standing desire to age in place, aging adults and a number of active older communities have become more savvy about how to make it a reality. But it isn’t as simple as just deciding not to move—you’ll still need to prepare, both mentally and with physical accommodations. Here are five things you’ll need to successfully age in place.
Maintaining an active social life and points of personal connection is important at every stage in life, but it’s also something many find more challenging as they age. Find ways to ensure social outlets remain accessible and frequent and build time into your calendar each week to connect with others—beyond a phone call.
As we age, our response times and reflexes aren’t always what they once were and, unfortunately, this often means a need to find alternate transportation. If you live around public transportation options that are easily accessible, you may have a built-in solution. But if not, consider what your plan will be if the need occurs—whether it’s tomorrow or in another 15 years. Are there senior shuttle options? Do your healthcare providers or other services offer driver services? Or would you need to rely on a nearby family member or friend to get to necessary appointments and social commitments?
Clean water and food
Too often, as seniors age, they are less able to move about the kitchen to prepare full meals and maneuver the cleanup. This often leads to convenience meals, which are full of unhealthy additives, excessive sodium, and limited nutrients. Finding ways to ensure nutritious meals throughout the day, along with clean water and a way to remain reliably hydrated, are key to safely aging in place.
Many homes can be modified to better accommodate aging residents, but there are certain components that will prove more challenging than others. One-story living is ideal, as many aging adults will find stairs a challenge in time. However, beyond that, take care to ensure areas are well-lit and traffic patterns are defined with a lack of clutter. Over time, you may need to modify bathrooms to include a walk-in shower with safety rails. Particularly if you’re living alone, consider upgrading appliances that have safety features, like alarms to alert you if a burner is left on.
While safely and reliably managing your own medication schedule may not be a concern today, over time that could change. To safely age in place, you’ll need to ensure measures are in place to refill prescriptions, properly allocate them for the week, and ensure adherence. Planning ahead and establishing routines now—before you need them—can pay off in the years to come. Depending on your state as you age, you might consider enlisting the help of a family member or paid service to ensure your safety.