Nearly 80% of Americans over the age of 50 want to stay in their home as long as they can, but less than half believe they will be able to do so.1 While retirement income may be a major reason behind that belief, another reason to consider is whether or not all retirees have the physical or mental capacity to perform the daily tasks involved with living independently.
Trained caregivers work tirelessly in care communities throughout the country, and countless more come into the homes of those aging in place to assist with household chores or everyday activities. But many older adults living at home are doing so with little to no outside assistance. If care is needed, the adult children might move back home or have their parents move in with them. More common than that, however, is that a fellow aging spouse shoulders the burden of providing round-the-clock assistance to the one they love.
But what happens if the caregiving spouse becomes injured while providing that care? Moving a loved one from the bed to the wheelchair is no small task. Moving them up to or away from the dining table while seated in a chair risks personal injury at every mealtime. The possibility of both spouses losing their mobility means they might no longer be able to safely stay in their own home.
For those desiring to age in place, a little planning in advance can make the difference between living many more years at home and being forced to take up residence in a nursing home. Here are some practical steps you can take to make your years at home last.
Strength building – Resistance training and aerobic activity have the means by which an older adult can build the strength and endurance they need to continue performing daily tasks and activities. Also, one’s ability to heal quicker from an injury and the resilience to avoid injury altogether comes from simple, practical activities that promote a more vibrant, physical health. Related: 4 Muscle-Building Exercises for Aging Gracefully
Mental wellness – It is said that the body is only as good as the mind that runs it. Mental health is a growing concern at every age demographic in the United States today, and many aging in place deal with a host of emotionally difficult situations, from a limited retirement income to the pressures of one person providing round-the-clock care for the other. But similar to physical health, the strategies to keeping a strong mental and emotional well-being need to be implemented into the daily routine of older adults. Related: 10 Easy Ways Seniors Can Boost Their Mental Health and Well-Being
Seek professional assistance – One reality of aging in place is that few people have experience doing it until that time actually comes. A common scenario for many older adults is that life carries on like normal until someone develops a significant condition or injury limiting their mobility. Fortunately, there are many home care professionals today who can provide solutions for near any challenge an aging person or couple might experience. From home modification to financial management to in-home medical care, today’s retirees have options available to them in their efforts to stay in their homes as long as they can.
- Geriatric care managers – These trained professionals go into homes and assess the specific medical needs of older adults as it relates to their day-to-day activities. Getting out of bed may require additional measures, such as the use of medical equipment or a nurse who can assist. They also can help their clients build a consistent medication schedule. Those working in geriatrics can recommend a host of solutions as it relates to your medical needs. Related: Aging Life Care Association
- Home modification professionals – What changes need to be made in the homes of older adults to prepare them for easier living? Many home modification professionals have been trained with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and hold the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) certification. After an initial consultation with the homeowner, they can assist with the installation of shower rails and stair lifts. They can sell lift chairs and mobility-enabled dining chairs. Related: CAPS Directory
- Occupational therapists/physical therapists (OTs / PTs) – Similar to geriatric care, occupational therapists also provide more non-medical solutions in the home. They assist with daily tasks such as getting dressed, shopping needs, transportation for appointments, and even finding financial advice. Physical therapists can provide treatment and ongoing therapy for improving one’s mobility and overall health. Related: American Occupational Therapy Association and the American Physical Therapy Association
- Family physician – As is the case with all things, most of the challenges associated with aging should involve regular consultation with a family physician. Their training is comprehensive and they can make specific recommendations about the kind of help you could seek in your day-to-day activities and who to recommend in many situations. The years ahead for an aging person or couple should be precious and filled with meaning and joy. Proactive thinking can open the door to such a life.
1 AARP Research. “2018 Home and Community Preferences Survey: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus.” https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/liv-com/2018/home-community-preferences- survey.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00231.001.pdf
Scott Cyre is the director of education for ComforTek Seating in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. A leader in specialized seating for over twenty years, ComforTek’s recent line of mobility-enabled dining chairs seek to transform the home care industry by providing seating solutions at the dining table with the caregiver in mind. If you wish to connect with Scott, he can be reached at [email protected].