By Maureen Hewitt
A majority of older adults want to age in place and middle-age adults—those around 45 years old—are already anticipating they’ll be able to do so. There are many benefits for older adults who want to age in place, but concerns, as well. Two often rise to the top: cost and community.
My mother, Margaret, was among those who wanted to age in place. She was a strong, independent woman who spent her life in business. My mother didn’t want to live in a nursing home and told me so many times. She wanted control: to live on her own in her own home. She moved in with my daughter and lived across the street from me. She had independence, a home of her own, a sense of community and family nearby.
Turns out she wasn’t alone in her desire: up to 95 percent of older adults say they want to age in place.
Aging in place doesn’t have to be expensive and, on average, is far less costly than alternative forms of care. There are many free and creative ways to make aging in place easier and safer, while engendering a sense of community. One way is using free video conferencing or engaging through Facebook. Both allow families to keep in touch throughout the day. More expensive technologies can be installed in the home to allow remote monitoring for falls or lack of movement.
Simple home improvement projects like changing faucet handles and door knobs to levers make using them much easier. Many times ramps can be built or purchased inexpensively for those who use walkers or wheelchairs. It gets more expensive, of course, when structural modifications are made, like building wider doorways.
(Aging in place usually isn’t always practical option for those suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Depending on circumstances, additional programs and services may be needed.)
Once the living situation is sorted out, it’s time to look at community. Programs like PACE (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) are important to establishing and maintaining community. Socializing and friends—both critical to psychological well-being—are especially important for older adults.
PACE keeps older adults engaged in the community by providing coordinated medical and dental care, events and trips, social supports and meals. All are designed create a micro-community; these activities are designed to help older adults maintain and build relationships. Transportation for participants to and from the center is provided, so it’s not necessary to own a car or be able to drive. PACE is an innovative program from Medicaid and Medicare that supports aging adults 55 and older.
Assessing the finances, and physical and cognitive needs and abilities of older adults are necessary to determine if aging in place will be a fit. With so many older adults wishing to age in place, we need to do everything we can to make it possible.
Maureen Hewitt is the President and Chief Executive Officer of InnovAge, a Denver-based provider of comprehensive healthcare services for older adults in California, Colorado and New Mexico. Hewitt has held this role since 2006 and has led for-profit and nonprofit health care organizations for more than 25 years. Hewitt’s experience includes leading skilled nursing/sub-acute care facilities and acute care and rehabilitation hospitals, as well as serving in volunteer board positions. http://MyInnovAge.org.