With today’s abundance of modern healthcare technology and affordable home modifications, aging in place has become easier than ever. Today, more and more seniors have the choice to live out the rest of their lives in the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to senior facilities and nursing homes.
In this article, we will talk about the benefits of aging in place–particularly how it can save you money–and how to plan for your future if you want to go this route of aging.
The Benefits of Aging in Place
Although it varies from person to person, aging in place can yield significant benefits for older adults, such as:
One of the most difficult parts of moving to a senior facility is adjusting to a new environment. For seniors who have lived in their homes for so many years, suddenly moving to a new home is a drastic change, and one that can often be stressful.
In contrast, aging in place keeps you in familiar surroundings. As a result, you may feel safer, are more likely to maintain independence longer, and don’t experience the stress of moving somewhere new. The familiarity of your neighbors, as well as the area that you live in, can also provide comfort as you grow older, especially if you have long since formed relationships with the people living around you.
- Maintaining independence
Aging at home helps you maintain control over your routine, habits, activities, and decisions. While it is possible that you may need help from family, friends, or professionals at some point in time, aging in place gives you far more independence than living in a senior care facility.
Why do older adults in senior care facilities have trouble maintaining independence? The driving factor is often increased dependence on healthcare staff. In a facility, many seniors tend to become increasingly reliant on staff to meet their needs, which eventually leads to them losing much of their independence–even if they are still physically and mentally able to accomplish some tasks themselves.
On the contrary, living at home makes you rely more on yourself. Although you might not be fully independent forever, aging in place gives you a better chance of maintaining a greater degree of independence as opposed to moving to a senior facility where you are expected to rely on others for help.
- Lower risk of mental health problems
As we’ve mentioned before, suddenly moving to an unfamiliar place is often a drastic and stressful change for seniors. This can result in a great emotional burden that can increase your risk of depression and anxiety, which, consequently, can accelerate physical and mental decline.
Aging at home lowers your risk of experiencing mental health problems associated with sudden and drastic changes. Aside from staying in the place that you love and are familiar with, you have more opportunities to do what makes you happy, which may not be possible for seniors in care facilities.
- Healthier environment
Studies have shown that residents in nursing homes are at a higher risk of infection than seniors who age in their own homes. One reason is that there is a high amount of contact with others in nursing homes, both with healthcare staff and other residents. Another is that seniors are more prone to infectious diseases due to immune system decline. And in a group setting, this means that residents are more likely to pass infections to each other.
In contrast, aging at home limits your contact with other immunocompromised individuals and people in general, thus lowering your risk of acquiring a serious illness.
- More freedom
Aging in place gives you more freedom in many aspects. For one, you have the ability to modify your space however you want unlike in a care facility where modifications are typically limited. More importantly, you get to maintain the freedom to do whatever you like and go out as you please without having to let someone else know.
- Cost savings
Many families cannot afford to send their elderly relatives to a senior care facility.. In 2020, the average cost of staying in a nursing home is $93,075 annually for a semi-private room and $105,850 for a private room. These rates may not include additional fees for specialized care and disability management. Assisted living facilities are cheaper with an average rate of $51,600 per year. However, this amount is still far too high for many families.
How Aging in Place Can Save You Money
Aging in place can give you better control over many aspects of your life, including your finances. Most of us don’t even spend $10,000 a month on all our basic needs–which is what an average room in a nursing home will cost–let alone make that much money in retirement.
Let’s talk about this scenario as an example:
You spend around $2,500 a month on food, utilities, transportation, and entertainment. Even if you are still paying the mortgage, your monthly expenses won’t amount to the cost of a room in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Moreover, staying at home means you have more control of what you spend your money on. For instance, you can save money on groceries if you want to. In a senior care facility, there is no such option. You are paying for the entire package (housing, food, care); there is no way to modify your expenses.
Furthermore, living in a senior care facility may mean you are paying for services that you don’t even need (or at least not yet). If you can still take care of yourself most of the time, you are essentially paying a premium amount without making the most out of your money. But if you age in place, you can pay for services only when you need it (in-home care, housekeeping, etc.), and generally have the freedom to decide how much you want to spend.
How to Prepare to Age in Place
Ample preparation is key to aging in place comfortably. Here are some of the most important steps to make your home as safe, healthy, and comfortable as possible for the next chapter of your life.
- Make the necessary modifications
As your body declines due to aging, some basic activities will become harder to do. For example, it may become harder to get up from the toilet without experiencing pain in your knees. To work around this, many seniors raise their toilets and install handlebars nearby to take the pressure off their joints.
Handlebars and seats in the shower also become necessary at some point to prevent accidents and make showering as comfortable as possible. Some seniors also replace hardware such as doorknobs and faucet handles with levers to make them less painful on the wrists to use.
Here are other home modifications that you might need:
- Brighter lights, especially in hallways
- Wheelchair ramps
- Wider doorways
- Higher counter heights
- Newer flooring
- Buy a medical alert system
A medical alert system is essential for seniors who age in place, especially those with high-risk health issues as well as solo dwellers. It will allow you to easily and quickly call for help in the event of an emergency, be it a fall, a medical issue, or any other event that requires a swift response.
- Improve your home security
Seniors can be more susceptible to burglaries and other criminal acts. With that in mind, it is imperative that you improve your home security if you plan to age in place.
Here are several ways to do that:
- Install additional locks on all entrances, including windows
- Install security cameras around your property and inside your home
- Improve outdoor lighting
- Invest in a smart home security system
- Secure outdoor buildings, e.g. sheds and boathouses
- Never hide spare keys around the property
- Remove climbing aids, e.g. trellises
- Consider building or fortifying your perimeter fence
You may also want to consider allowing your loved ones remote access to your security cameras. This way, they can check in on you in case you don’t respond to their calls and can act quickly if they see that something has happened to you.
- Prepare your finances
Although aging in place is significantly less expensive when compared to a nursing home, you still have to ensure that you have sufficient income to sustain your lifestyle.
If you are not retired yet:
- Estimate your retirement income from pensions, retirement funds, etc.
- Calculate your future expenses based on your target lifestyle
- Find ways to increase your income if your expenses will be higher than your income or;
- Reduce your expenses
If you are already retired and want to increase your retirement income, you can get a job, start a small business, or tap into your home’s equity.
For the last option, there are several ways you can do this. For seniors, a reverse mortgage is often the most viable choice. A reverse mortgage is a type of loan that eliminates your future mortgage payments (if you are still paying off your home) and instead pays you (either through a lump sum, term payments, or a line of credit). You use your home as collateral, but still retain full ownership of it.
Alternatively, you can opt for refinancing or home equity loans, but you have to pay back these types of loans after a certain number of years. With a reverse mortgage, the loan does not become due until you pass away, move away permanently, or fail to keep up with loan obligations.
- Share your plan with loved ones
Let your family know that you plan to age in place so that they can prepare for it as well. Even if you want to be fully independent for as long as possible, you may still require their help in certain instances (e.g. medical emergencies, sick days, home maintenance problems, etc.).
In addition, talk to them about what you want to do if you lose most of your independence someday; whether you want to check into a care facility or hire an in-home professional. Setting clear expectations from the get-go will help you avoid miscommunication in the future, especially during stressful life events such as serious illnesses.
Aging in place can not only save you large amounts of money, but it can also help you maintain a greater degree of independence, stay close to your loved ones, and make the most of the rest of your time here on Earth. If you think aging in place is the right route for you, use our tips above to prepare your home, yourself, and your finances for the future ahead.
Want more tips on how to prepare for retirement? Check out more of our articles here.