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Aging in place and Independent Living… what does it mean exactly? How do you prepare for it?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

By Shannon Faulkner, Marketing Director

Senior couple holding each other on the beach soaking of the breeze -Senior Independent Living
What does it mean to age in place?

Aging in place means exactly what it seems. You live in your own home or possibly an independent living community with the assistance that you need to “age in place”. As more and more baby boomers are becoming senior adults, there is a greater push for a more independent living lifestyle. I imagine that this is due in part to the independent nature of the “boomer” generation.

In “Aging in the United States”, a study by Population Reference Bureau (PRB), there are several factors that are at play in the baby boomer generation:

  1. Older adults are working longer before deciding to retire. The study shows that in 2022 27% of men and 20% of women over the age of 65 are still in the workforce.

  2. The poverty rate for seniors over the age of 65 is just 10% (down from 30% 50 years ago).

  3. Seniors are more educated than in previous generations. In 2014, 25% of seniors were college educated. This is up from 5% just 50 years ago.

  4. Life expectancy has increased for seniors 65 and older. The average life expectancy for seniors has increased from 68 years in 1960 to 79 years in 2013.

What does all this mean? It means that what was once expected for an aging adult is not accepted by seniors today. In the past, it was inevitable that a senior adult would either live with their children or go to live in a retirement or nursing home. The current generation of seniors are more educated, working longer before retirement, more financially sound, are living longer and desire a life that is more independent.

Living Independently or “aging in place” does require some pre-planning. If you are married, then the two of you need to plan for your independence and make sure to share your plan with your loved ones. The first thing you need to do is review your current health needs. Will your current health issues require outside assistance? What kind of care will you need as your health declines? Make sure to talk to your doctor about your concerns and have them give you some local resources to help you create your plan.

If you find that you will need care as you age, start now looking at your options now. There are many local and state agencies with resources for seniors. You can also contact your local senior center too. Here are some of the areas you may want to consider in your plan:

Home Care or Home Health Care

Home health is prescribed by your doctor and usually paid for in full or partially by your health insurance plan. This care is usually for care after a surgery or injury that requires wound care, an RN, occupational therapy or other more skilled care. Home care is typically for non-medical care. Although medication reminders can be provided if needed. Home care agencies usually provide light housekeeping services, help with bathing and/or dressing, meal preparation, transportation to appointments and running errands. Home care assistants can also help with overnight care, dementia care and hospice. Each agency has their own strengths and weaknesses. It is good to evaluate and interview a few of them. Hiring a home care agency might help you and your partner or spouse age in place more comfortably.

Housekeeping and Maintenance

It is important to consider who will be helping you with your home maintenance and housekeeping. You can sometimes depend on your home care agency to help with the light housekeeping, but for deep cleaning and maintenance you will probably need a house cleaning service and handyman service. There are many companies out there that can provide these services. It is a good idea to look for reviews and interview a few of them before making your final decision. Price is important, but quality and customer service is essential to aging comfortably at home.

Shopping and errands

Your home care agency will provide you with some of the help you need to get to medical appointments and some errands, but you might want to talk to your family and other friends to see if there is anyone that will commit to helping you in this area. Sometimes a younger cousin, sibling, child or even grandchild might be willing to help. If you can set up a fund to help with the gas and other expenses, this would definitely be appreciated.

Money and Financial Management

The big question is do you have enough money to age in place comfortably at home? There are options to help with this. If you have at least 60% of the equity in your home and you and your spouse are both over 62 you may qualify for a retirement mortgage loan. You could also check your long term care policy to see how much you can expect to receive from your policy. If you have a financial planner, this is a great time to contact them and discuss your financial plans for aging in place.

Entertainment and Senior Daycare Options

If you and your spouse are healthy and mobile, then going to the local senior center for entertainment and social activities could really increase your enjoyment in your retirement life. However, if you do not have a spouse or you are now a caregiver for your spouse, it might be a good idea to check into some local senior daycare programs. You can often get a referral from the senior center, the Veteran’s administration and/or a senior services directory. Assisted living and independent communities can also be a resource for referrals. Sometimes these communities have their own senior daycare programs and are available to those who live outside of their communities.

Independent Living

Aging in place can be a wonderful option for independent seniors. However, often, when planning for aging in place it can be discouraging when you look at the cost and all the services that are necessary to do so successfully. This is a great time to look into some of the independent living communities in your area or maybe some that are closer to family members. These communities often provide many of the household, meal prep and other social activities and services that you need to age in place. An independent living community might be a great compromise to aging in your own home. Most communities allow their residents to come an go as they please. They provide parking for those who can still drive and transportation for those who need it. Some communities even have their own home care agencies and most have an RN on-call.

Whatever you decide for you and your family, having an aging in place plan will help you to be more in control of your life. Planning also starts the dialog with those who you love and care deeply about. It helps you create open lines of communication with your doctor, family and other important people in your life. Don’t let things just happen. Take control of your own life and make your own decisions about aging in place.

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