Is Aging in Place Always the Right Choice?
More elders are choosing to stay in their homes for as long as they can. They want to “age in place.” There are plenty of advantages to keeping things familiar, but every situation — every individual — is unique. Whether aging in place is the best option depends on many factors.
Assess your situation
Can you afford to stay at home? Aging in place comes at a cost. As you age, the cost of healthcare will most certainly increase your financial responsibilities, and living at home means costs for maintenance, repairs, gardeners, insurance, and property taxes. But deciding to stay at home is about more than money. You need to consider how mobile you are. Do you have a multi-level home? Can you climb stairs? Sometimes aging in place can leave elders at risk of being socially isolated. It’s important to stay connected. Will neighbors check in on you? Or maybe someone can live with you.
If you can afford the cost of living at home, have the physical capacity to take care of yourself, and can stay connected with friends, neighbors, and family, your chances of happily aging in place are good. While it’s important to be realistic about your limitations — physical and financial — you also want to take an honest look at where you want to see growth for yourself. Is staying in your home truly something you value or is it just easier to maintain the familiar status quo? Life seldom gets easier as we age. And we never know what the future may bring. If there were a crisis or natural disaster, would being at home put you at greater risk?
Check your attitude
The real secret to successful aging in place is having the right attitude. Seeking personal growth, being flexible, forming lasting friendships with people of all ages — these are the types of things that make life worth living. As capacity declines, aging may leave us with fewer options for personal growth. That’s why it’s essential to establish the right attitude now. We want to be comfortable making changes in our lives today so we’ll easily embrace it going forward. Adopt an attitude of flexibility and seek out fun and fulfillment as if you cannot go a day without it. Your attitude affects your outcome.
Often, we use the wrong criteria to understand where is the right place to live. To know what’s best depends on how willing an ager is to look at longevity as an opportunity to grow. Maintaining the status quo does not usually promote growth. It promotes consistency and the risk of stagnation. To be sure you’re not copping out of life’s opportunities, ask yourself where you want to be in 2, 5, and 10 years from now. What living situation best supports the kind of a life you want to potentially live? With the right attitude, you can live anywhere. When you let your passion out and adopt an attitude of flexibility, fun, and fulfillment, you can live anywhere.
How to determine your best living arrangement
1. What are your life goals for the next 2, 5, or 10 years? What can you do for yourself now, and what services can you anticipate needing along the way? This is a discussion you want to have with your physicians, family, friends — and architect if home modifications are needed.
2. Where are your sources of support — agency caregivers or family? Who will be willing to pitch in and do the “heavy lifting,” and on what basis? If finances are an issue, create a cost comparison between staying at home and where you might relocate to. Be diligent, and track all the costs of aging at home.
3. Could a family member live in? The challenge there is to clearly spell out expectations, and do it in writing. Create a detailed contract that specifies who will handle keeping up the household, including things like mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, and shopping. Include specifics that take into consideration how family members will be informed of any change in your condition, who will drive you to appointments, and to what extent companionship and socialization will be provided for.
4. The right living arrangement is one that enables elders to thrive, maintain a balanced lifestyle, and maintain connection and purpose. Life can be abundant when families continue to care for each other in ways that enable all to grow. It’s not so much where you live, but how you live that will affect your long-term happiness.