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Aging In Place: Staying Independent In Your Own Home

older couple staying independentAs we grow older, our bodies change. This means that we need to adapt to these changes by making lifestyle adjustments. This may include changes in your living situation, whether it is making a move to a more suitable home, downsize or making your existing home a perfect place to age in place. For many people retiring and growing older, it makes them look at their living situation. 
  • Does it make financial sense to downsize or stay in my current home?
  • Is my house safe as I age?
  • Can I physically and financially keep up maintaining my home?
  • Would a new living situation suit me better as I age?
Staying in your current home is an attractive option and is what most people think of when discussing aging in place.  Your existing home is what you know and love and provides many with a sense of security. By carefully planning, you may make your existing home one where you can remain independent and gracefully for a long time to come.   Aging in place isn’t always about keeping your existing home.  There may be times when a different home, assisted living or moving in with a family member may make logistical or financial sense for you.  Make sure to explore all your living options. While you can be presented with many different housing options as you age in place, this article will focus on making your existing home a perfect place to age.

Definition of Aging In Place?

What is aging in place? Aging in place is a term that is often used to describe a way of life that allows people to remain active and independent as they age in the home they have always known and loved, or potentially a new home that will suit their needs better as they age. By creating a long term plan, it allows you to take the steps you need to continue living independently in your home for many years to come. That plan may include modifying your existing home, buying a new home that suits your needs better, or even an independent living facility.

An Example of Aging in Place

Mary finds herself using a cane to get around the home.  She can no longer drive.  To stay in her own home, she has moved her bedroom to the first floor, arranged the floorplan of the downstairs of her home to prevent tripping hazards.  Mary has added grab bars to the staircases entering her home as well as the shower to aid in getting safely into the home and the shower. A companion has been hired three days a week to drive her on her errands and the grocery store as well as to help her with chores around the house.  She has also signed up for meals on wheels three times a week to lighten the burden of cooking. Mary also has plenty of family nearby to help with maintenance and social visits as well as friends that stop by and bring her to her weekly bridge game. By making a few changes in the home and hiring a companion as well as relying on family and friends Mary can still remain independent in her own home.

The Benefits of Aging In Place

A study from AARP shows that 77% of adults over the age of 50 want to stay in their home long term. The benefits of aging in place are many.  First and foremost, staying in the home you have lived in is what you know.  It provides comfort and security.  You probably enjoy your home, why not remain there. But, aging in your familiar home provides other benefits.  It keeps you in the community you know and interact in.  It keeps you close to family and friends.  Financially, it may be a less expensive alternative to assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Finally, lets face it, moving and adjusting to a new home is stressful.  Staying in your existing home eliminates that stress.

Creating The Plan To Age In Place

Realize as you start your plan to age in your existing home, you need to think short term, as well as long term and everything in between.   Your needs will change, and that can happen quickly.  Your plan to age in place will have to change as well. The first thought that many retirees have is “how do I make my current home function for me as I lose mobility and physical capabilities?”  Assess your home to see how you can remain independent as you physically lose mobility and age. Consider how easy it will be to gain access from the interior of your home to the driveway as you come and go.  Even a half staircase to enter your home from a garage or the exterior of your home can become a challenge as you age. At 62, you may not experience many of the issues that hinder your independence, but as you age the issues slowly creep into your life. The whole point of aging in place is allowing you to remain as independent as possible.  Think about how you can overcome the following in your home and if your home is conducive for aging in place:
  • Decreased Balance
  • Decreased Vision
  • Reduced Hearing
  • Mobility Limitations
  • Reduced Cognitive Abilities
  • Reduced Endurance and Strength
Involve friends and family while creating your plan.  They may be a vital part of maintaining the life you want in the home you already own.

A Few Tips To Age In Place

Everyone’s needs can be very different.  Some retirees start thinking and planning in their 50’s while others don’t start thinking about making changes until it becomes obvious to them that their lifestyle is changing.

Review Finances

The first conversation to be had when talking about living in your existing home as you age, is money.  Many older adults live on a fixed income, and your goals need to match your finances. An independent living facility can moderately cost $3500- $6000 a month.  That is pretty much all in, including a small efficiency apartment, meals and most utilities.   More luxurious places and/or facilities that start offering you a certain level of care and those prices can climb to upwards of $10,000 to $14,000+ a month. Living in your existing home with a mortgage that has been paid off and a few moderately priced modifications and paying for a few services can certainly be less money a month.  But more importantly, you are keeping yourself or your loved one in an environment they want to be in.

Create A Budget

Consider the following:
  • What will your home cost on a monthly basis? Remember taxes, insurance,  and any current mortgage balances.
  • Home maintenance, including unexpected repairs, regular maintenance like lawn care, snow removal and finally long term maintenance and replacement of furnaces, roofs, etc…  
  • In your monthly budget, determine what basic living expenses like food, clothing, transportation, entertainment, etc… will cost on a monthly basis.
Once you have a monthly budget in place, think about additional funds you may need to alter your home to make it work for you, either now or the foreseeable future.  Aging in place can mean making home renovations to make your home more liveable as you face the challenges of ageing.  Ramps, stair climbers, widening doors and altering your bathroom and kitchen can be fairly significant investments that may be critical to help you age gracefully in your home. Finally, as we talk about finances, think about what services that will help you live happily and independently at home.  You can get almost any type of services in your home for a cost.

Aging In Place Services To Consider

  • Meal services or gorcery delivery.
  • In home care.  It could be as simple as someone to help bath and personal care several times a week, all the way up to a live in CNA.  Occasional care can be billed at anywhere from $17-35 an hour.  24/7 live in care could be anywhere from $9000 to $18,000 a month.
  • Housekeeping or someone to help with household chores.
  • Companion services that could include light housekeeping, help with meal prep, running errands, getting you to an appointments and just plain companionship.  Unlicensed help could run from $17 to 30 an hour.
  • An aging in place specialist.  A certified aging in place specialist is knowledgeable about the challenges an older person may face in their home.  They will help you find solutions to everyday challenges for you to stay in your home as long as possible.
Be realistic about the funds you have to work with and aging in your existing home.  Skimping on preparing your home or bringing in the proper services can only lead to a fall or another catastrophe that will make a difficult, expensive situation for you in the long run.

Technology As You Age In Place

Technology has changed the way we live our lives in many ways.  And technology can provide considerable assistance when we talk about aging in place.  Smartwatches, smart appliances, Alexa, etc… can all aide in helping older adults live a better life at home. First and foremost, many of these devices can assist if you are home alone and there is a fall.  Smartwatches have accelerometers that can detect a fall and help you dial out hands free for help. Devices like Alexa or Google Assistant can allow you to make a phone call without having to get up.  But, beyond making phone calls, they can control many smart devices in your home.  You can power on lights, change the temperature in your home, remind you to take medication, control blinds, monitor home surveillance, lock and unlock doors and more….!! Technology can be an important tool in helping you live longer at home as you age in place. technology and aging in place goggle alexa  

Getting Around The House

Helping with mobility and keeping you safe around the home can be multi-faceted. Start with opening up floor plans by moving furniture and look for tripping hazards like throw rugs.  To help with stability, think about using a cane and adding grab bars in door openings. Stairs start to become problematic as you lose strength and endurance.  Grab bars, lift chairs and ramps can all be helpful in navigating stairs and help you utilize all the areas of your home. A simple fall as you age in place can greatly alter your future. Make your house safe from tripping and falling hazards, and be realistic about your own mobility.  Talk to your physician, they may order a visit from an occupational therapist to help you prepare your home as you age in place.

Getting Around Town

Getting out of the house to shop, go to doctor’s appointments and socialize can be very important to your independence and emotional well-being. Know what your limitations are when it comes to driving yourself.  There may come a time when you are no longer comfortable driving or a doctor suggests you stop driving. That leaves you with the task of using public transportation, tapping into elder services or family for rides or paying a companion to bring you to the places you need to go.  Uber or Lyft can also be utilized to help you run your errands and make it to your appointments. Just because you lose your license does not mean you can’t still get around with a little creative thinking.

Assistance In The Home While Aging In Place

There may come a time when you need some additional support in the home.  You may need help bathing, getting dressed, meal prep, cleaning your home or even just some regular companionship. Consider house cleaners, caregivers, grocery delivery services, companions, licensed care, etc… that can all be hired to help you with daily activities.  And, don’t overlook family and friends who are willing to help.  There are certainly many home care companies and organizations to provide help as you age in place. A little bit of paid help can go a long way to maintaining your independence. home health care and aging in place


One area often not considered is socialization.  While everyone has different socialization needs, some requiring more than others. You cannot live in a bubble to maintain your emotional well being.  While living in your home is great, you cannot go day after day or even weeks on end with no socialization.  Part of your aging in place plan should include getting out and socializing and doing the things you love. It could be going to the local senior center to play cards, or partake in other activities.  Getting a ride to the golf course, or to go bowling could be important for you.  Make sure your plan to age in place does not isolate you. Freinds and family visiting can be a vital part of maintaining your happiness. Make socailization an important part of your care plan.  For many, without it you won’t thrive.

Be Realistic

Looking at the potential of losing some level of your independence and some physical and cognitive  capabilites is certainly scary.  By not being realistic about your current circumstances, you can create problems that you don’t want. It is important to get ahead of your aging in place plan.  This gives you time to find solutions that work for you where you still have control over your own destiny. A hospital stay from an injury sustained from falling or tripping  can lead to a series of events that cause you to be reactionary and make rushed decisions.  Or worse, medical professionals preventing your from going home because they feel you are not safe.

Getting Help

There are plenty of resources available.  Start by involving family and friends. They may be willing to take up some of the slack with meals, maintainence around the home and rides. Beyond your family and freinds, there are also plenty of other resources.  Consider consulting a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. If living independently at home starts to become a challenge physically, talk to your doctor,  they could order a visit from an occupational thereapist or the Visiting Nurses Association to help you in creating your plan.

Aging In Place Resources:

There is a multitude of resources on aging.  Here are just a few:
  • Meals on Wheels  Meals on wheels can provide daily meals for you temporarily or long term at a very low cost
  • Council on Aging Many communities have a council on aging that can be a great resource in tapping into local services for those over the age of 60.
  • AARP  A national organization that brings you some great information about living your best life as you age.
  • National Council on Aging A national organization with tons of support and resources for adults as they start to age.
  •   A resource to find in home care.  Housekeepers, rides, licensed health care professionals, can be found to help you find the services you need.
  • Instacart  A grocery delivery service that will deliver to your door.  Use them occasinally or for every shop!
  • In Home Health Care Agencies  Google in home health care agencies for a start to finding in home health services.

Summary On Aging In Place

To help avoid age-related problems and improve the quality of life, it is important to start taking steps now to prepare for them. Aging in place means living as comfortably and independently as possible within your current environment. There are many things that you can do to make your home more accessible and comfortable, such as modifying the layout of your home or getting help from family or friends. However, there may be some gaps in your knowledge or need for assistance that you should address before moving forward with aging in place preparations. Aging in place means living comfortably where you are now while making adjustments where necessary due to changing needs to live a happy healthy life.

Other Real Estate Resources:

  This article is brought to you by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Realty.  Kevin has extensive expeience working with the aging population and their housing needs.  Kevin can help someone decide to stay in their existing home or it is time to move on.  Call Kevin at 978-360-0422 for a free consultation.

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