Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” But truly, no matter the stage of life, we all need support. For seniors who want to age in place, a “home team” makes all the difference.
As the over-50 population grows, more seniors want to age in the very places they’ve lived forever (or those they’ve adopted for the amenities they want most). But even though remaining independent and staying close to what we value is important, some of us face aging with a certain fear that we won’t be able to manage it.
Per an AARP survey, “While 76% of Americans age 50 and older say they prefer to remain in their current residence and 77% would like to live in their community as long as possible, just 59% anticipate they will be able to stay in their community.”
The main goal for seniors aging in place is to maintain their health and stay in the home they enjoy. However, as we age, our body changes and causes a long list of limits in mobility. This makes falls the biggest rick for seniors living on their own.
Age Safe America tracks the statistics on this issue: “falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of those admitted will never return to independent living and 25% will die within one year.”
Select Four Members for Your Home Team
Forming a plan to age in place means learning all that you can about how to “age-i-size” your home. By selecting your team of professionals equipped to do just that, you’ll have the support needed to make solid decisions and worthwhile investments for your health and safety.
First base: your indoor pro. The National Association of Home Builders considers home remodeling for clients aging in place one of the fastest growing segments in their industry. The population of elders is growing rapidly, as reported by the United Nations: “in 2018, for the first time in history, persons aged 65 or above outnumbered children under five years of age.”
This means more people are seeking services and solutions to help them age well and stay home. If your aim is to retain your independence, you’ll want someone reliable who can help your home adapt with you.
Certified Aging-in-place Specialists (CAPS) are trained to address the types of modifications specific to those aging. Given that the aging process is gradual, CAPS are suited to help their clients manage current needs for the house and also advise for possible projects down the road.
Given that CAPS are certified professionals, sometimes their work may be covered by Medicaid. Research this, but even if the expense is yours, working with a pro could save you money in the long haul because the work done will be done right.
There are a number of resources detailing the types of projects—both large and small—that you might consider to prepare your house, such as those listed over at National Institute for Aging.
Here, we highlight three broad areas to consider where a CAPS pro can help:
- Lighting: As we age our eyes strain to adjust to changes in light, our ability to focus is reduced. One basic but significant fix is to add lighting to stairs and passageways. Even a specific coat of paint can change the impact of lighting. By selecting lighter non-glare colors for walls and white ceilings, light is refracted, making it easier for you to see in a space.
- Mobility: Stairs and bathrooms are the problem-points for falls for seniors. Interestingly, it turns out that many falls occur on flat surfaces, too. Adding handrails wherever there is motion (particularly when someone shifts from one position to another) is a good way to stay safe.
- Accessibility: Making frequently used spaces such as interior and exterior stairs easier to reach helps seniors with access and reduces the likelihood of injury, too. Ramps are an option to eliminate stairs. Restructuring kitchen spaces and bringing washings machines to a main floor improves user experience and reduces injury risk, too.
To find a CAPS expert in your area, visit National Association of Home Builders and use their directory.
Second base: your outdoor pro. One of the more overlooked issues for preparing to age in place is budgeting for ongoing costs of home maintenance, inside and out. Beyond modifications, your home exterior will also need upkeep.
Plowz and Mowz is a free app tool that allows users to check out contractors and read reviews. Angie’s List is another trusted resource where providers are rated. Finding the right professional is easier now than ever before so you can build your real “dream team.”
You can also tap into old fashioned methods to find your outdoor pro referral, such as word-of-mouth and suggestions from other local service providers. Ideally, by establishing a relationship with a service provider, you can secure regular and trusted help at fees you can incorporate in your budget for better planning.
Third base: your organizer/cleaner pro. As you’ve added in years, your home has likely accumulated stuff. Unfortunately, some of those things end up clutter that pose a fall hazard.
Even if you’ve decided to age in place in a home you’ve lived in for years, bringing order to those familiar spaces can provide you and your home a fresh start. Consider a consultation with a professional organizer to walk through your rooms and things. They can help you decide what to consolidate and remove entirely.
Home Advisor, Angie’s List and Find My Organizer are online resources where you can begin your search. Chat about pricing and services and think about what your home could be like with a bit less stuff and cleaner, more open spaces.
You can also make a word-of-mouth inquiry with friends and other service providers in your community for organizers and house cleaning services. If you have light housekeeping, laundry and meal preparation needs (or desires) too, check out a one-stop service like Home Health Companions to arrange these tasks for you.
Home Plate: your total resource pro. Information is essential to aging in place successfully. And as long as you can gather tools and ideas, you will have options in how you live your life.
Depending on the complexity of your health situation and in-home needs, consider working with a professional advocate trained to help seniors: an Aging Life Care professional. These certified providers become the person who helps you make sense of medical needs while also linking you to valuable resources for aging comfortably in your home.
If you feel overwhelmed trying to track all the treatment information, differing medical details and instructions, for example, an Aging Life Care professional helps streamline and make sense of it all.
The Home Run Is Preparation!
Every stage of life is new to you, so it’s no wonder you have questions! We all face a period of learning as we grow older, especially with the new normal of aging in place. Don’t be afraid to dive in and discover the resources and options in this remarkable part of your life.
And remember, being independent doesn’t mean you should expect to do all of this alone. It’s okay—and prudent—to create your home team to help stay healthy and safe.