By 2020, 56 million Americans will have reached 65 and by 2025, this number will grow to 84 million.
People are living longer than ever before and as a consequence, the amount of their lives they’ll spend needing care is increasing. It’s estimated that 70 percent of these Americans will need assistance at some point in their life. Because of this, people are thinking more and more about the idea of “aging in place.” With 9 out of 10 Americans planning to stay in their home for as long as possible, aging in place has become the most common goal among the baby boomer generation. Unfortunately, many Americans are failing to prepare enough for this to be a viable outcome. The lack of preparation is due to many reasons, but one common misconception is that aging in place is reserved for the elderly. We are here to challenge this perception and to encourage you to start planning to age in place today so you’ll have the option to do so when the time comes.
Your family may not be able to care for you
Though 70 percent of Americans over 65 will need assistance, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll need to move into an assisted living home. Many seniors just need a little extra help with everyday tasks. Historically, this job was mostly carried out by relatives referred to as “family caregivers.”
The reality is, relying on family to care for you when you need it is becoming more and more unrealistic as the ratio of caregivers to family caregivers increases. There are numerous reasons you shouldn’t rely on your family including the following:
Changes in the ratio of family caregivers to those who need care. We have more people 65 and older than we have ever had. There are currently more people who need care than there are family caregivers available. The ratio is only going to divide further as a larger percentage of the population ages.
Distance. Your family may live/move too far away to be able to play an active role in your care.
Caring for others. Another possibility is that they could be caring for other members of the family – like young children (this is referred to as the “sandwich generation” phenomenon). They simply don’t have the time to take on another person.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand your family may not be able to provide you with the care you need. Because of this, it’s a good idea to start getting used to the idea of hiring outside help. Having a person there to provide a few hours of home care can be tremendously beneficial. Studies have shown that having assistance for just a few hours a day can prevent trips to the hospital and even keep you out of a nursing home. Assistance can start with anything from helping you prepare meals or accompanying you on your errands. The best thing about this option is you can increase the amount of care you receive as your needs change.
Why wait to improve your quality of life?
Aging in place should be thought of as adapting to the different stages of your life. One way you can do this is you can start viewing the changes you need to make as “upgrades.” Many of these upgrades can benefit people of all ages.
One common modification is the incorporation of smart home technology. Some examples include:
Motion sensor lighting. Is there anyone who couldn’t enjoy the benefit of a light turning on when they walk in the room?
Voice activation devices. Voice activation devices are another great option to consider. You can ask questions about the weather or the score of sports game.
Smartphone/tablet activated appliances. Many appliances today can be controlled right on your smartphone or tablet. You can control anything from your thermostat to your locks.
Making these upgrades periodically can reduce the financial burden and make them less of a nuisance. And really, why wait to start reaping the benefits?
“A goal without a plan is just a dream.”
Planning to age in place is similar to purchasing a life insurance policy in that many people make the mistake of putting it off until it’s too late. Taking this approach leaves you paying a higher price in situations that could have been avoided. On the other hand, you could end up making important decisions without enough time to weigh your options. This makes the planning process significantly more stressful.
The decisions you make will have an affect on the way you live out the rest of your life. Here are some common changes that occur with age that you may want to begin thinking about.
Reduced vision. Many people have increased difficulty seeing as they age. For this reason, it is a good idea to think about the colors in the home you plan to age in. For example, if you have trouble seeing and you have a countertop that is the same color as the floor, you could have a difficult time distinguishing between the two. As a result, you may run into the corners of the table and injure yourself. Colors are something many people forget to think about when prepping their home for their future needs.
Decreased mobility. Another change you may want to prepare for is decreased mobility. This could result in you needing a wheelchair or a walker. You don’t want to be in a situation where you require one of these and it doesn’t fit through the door.
Increased risk of falls due to balance. Something else you may want to prepare for is a decreased ability to balance. Many seniors end up with serious injuries caused by falls they could have prevented by investing early in simple improvements such as slip-resistant flooring. Do you have stairs in your home? Stairs are hazardous for all ages but they are especially dangerous for seniors with poor vision and difficulty balancing. Reduce your risk of injury by ensuring your floors are slip-resistant and replacing the steps with a ramp.
Other possible difficulties you might encounter include decreased strength or endurance, reduced mental processing capabilities, decreased hearing, and increased risk of illness.
All of these require planning and they extend far beyond the inside of your home. You also want to think about the location of your home. Is it close enough to the grocery store, can you easily make your doctors appointments, is the upkeep realistic for you in the long run? Make sure to think about your proximity to friends and family. One of the last things you want is to invest a bunch of money modifying your home to realize the location is not ideal.
Ultimately, taking the initiative to plan to age in place will help you understand what you need to do to prepare your home and figure out how much it will cost and how much time it will take. You will be able to get an estimate of how much time and money the modifications will cost giving you time to weigh your options and spread out projects over time. Doing this will give you a realistic picture as to whether or not your home is really the right place to age in. Plan now to ensure you get to control how you live the rest of your life.
The Truth About Aging in Place
At the end of the day, planning to age in place is not just about having the ability to age at home. Aging in place is about accommodating your needs throughout the different stages of your life and extending your independence. It about being in control over how you get to live out the rest of your life. But more than anything, having the right to age in place is about preserving your dignity.
“Shocking Realities That Will Make You Start Planning to Age in Place Today,” Ashley LeVine, Amada Blog Contributor.