Aging in place is the “gold standard” for seniors, at least according to many working in the senior care fields. But, is it really a viable alternative to retirement homes, assisted living, nursing homes and other care options? It is appealing to consider staying in the home you have known and loved for all of your life, but most homes and communities are not designed to provide for the needs of people as they age. There are some options and ideas that are working, so you might want to consider these concepts as you get older.
You might want to lobby your town to reduce or eliminate some of the costs for projects to adapt homes. In Sausalito, California an advocacy group worked with municipal officials to start a program where building permits are free or reduced-cost when the project is under $10,000 in total and its goal is to provide accessibility for elders or the disabled. This can save many people hundreds of dollars on the cost of making a home elder-friendly.
In Porto, a town in Portugal, they have a program where they match up older residents with students who need a place to live. The older people get companionship and some assistance, and the younger people get free housing in exchange for their help to the senior. This system works to reduce social isolation and loneliness among elders, which can be tied to poor health and decline. This program could work anywhere so consider trying to start one in your community.
There are several programs around the US and the world where not-for-profit agencies coordinate repairs and upgrades to seniors’ homes. Sometimes for reduced cost and sometimes for free. You should look around to see if there are any near you, or advocate for them in your area if none are available. Sometimes the difference between staying home and having to go to a nursing home is some simple home repairs or alternations.
Another program idea that can really help people stay at home is having assistance with some of the normal household chores such as cleaning, repairs and safety enhancements. In northern New Jersey a program (cleverly called “CHORE”) helps older residents continue living in their homes by providing volunteers to make minor home repairs. In addition to actually making repairs, the volunteers often just chat with the elder and provide a level of companionship and look out for other problems (physical, social, or medical) that might otherwise be overlooked.
In most towns around here, your local Senior Center (sometimes called a Council on Aging) is the first place to look for any programs that might help you. Also, our Area Agency on Aging (Elder Services of Merrimack Valley) is a larger agency that has many programs designed to help seniors stay at home. If you are planning to stay at home as you age, you need to do a lot of research and planning to make sure you remain healthy and happy at home as you Age in Place.