Imagine growing older and the significance “living at home” will have. Over time, we develop deep attachments to the home as the social center for friends and family. Home is a source of pride, social status and the sense of connection to a community. And perhaps most importantly, home becomes a source of stability in the midst of loss and change associated with aging. So it may not come as much of a surprise that nearly 90 percent of people over age 65 want to live at home as long as possible, according to an AARP survey.
Living at home and staying in a familiar community may offer benefits to seniors’ emotional well-being, but research indicates that a staggering number of seniors who should be receiving assisted living care services are still living at home, in many cases, alone. To some of us, the answer is obvious: make the move to an assisted living facility where social activity, health monitoring and medication management is included. However, moving to a senior care facility can be an emotional and difficult decision, and many people may not be able to afford it. The AARP survey also found that:
• Living under one’s own rules is a key reason for staying in one’s own home, with 42 percent of seniors choosing it as one of their top three considerations.
• Even if they begin to need day-to-day assistance for ongoing health care, 82 percent of seniors would prefer to stay in their homes. Few express a preference for moving to a facility where care is provided (9 percent) or for moving to a relative’s home (4 percent).
• Most pre-retirees expect they will be able to live independently during retirement; relatively few (14 percent) expect they will need day-to-day assistance or ongoing health care at any point during their retirement.
The reality says otherwise: on average two-thirds of older adults need some kind of assistance to go about their daily lives according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Thankfully, a variety of independent living products and services are now available to help seniors remain in their own homes despite changing physical needs, delaying — and in many cases, totally avoiding — moving into assisted living or nursing homes.
Older adults and their caregivers can learn more about independent living products and services at the In-Home Care Fair taking place 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, at Community Thread. Representatives from 14 in-home care and support service agencies will be available to answer questions and provide information. Community Thread’s senior centers are hosting the event to connect older adults and caregivers to services that promote “aging in place” safely, comfortably and independently.
Older adults who approach this chapter in their lives proactively can ensure they’ll be able to live comfortably where they want to live and do what they want to be doing. My mother, who is 95, wears an alert button, and she recently started using a walker. I think it gives her peace of mind, and research bears this out. While some people may resist relying on walkers or wheelchairs, a University of Michigan study found that these devices help with more than just mobility and safety. Seniors who used devices to help them participate in daily activities were as happy as those who could manage without the extra help.
Technology will continue to play an important role for the aging-in-place movement, but help from caregivers will also remain essential for many seniors. In the University of Michigan study, nearly 80 percent of seniors said they were able to manage on their own without assistance from others. The rest, however, count on regular visits from home caregivers.
The In-Home Care Fair helps people plan ahead, making this major life transition go better for both the senior and their family. So join us Sept. 24 to learn about choices that may allow you or your loved one to call a house a home for a lifetime. The event is free and open to the public. Community Thread is located at 2300 Orleans St. W. in Stillwater.
Sally Anderson is the executive director of Community Thread, a Stillwater-based nonprofit that serves seniors and provides volunteer opportunities. She has a master’s in health administration, and her professional experience includes starting a nonprofit mental health clinic and managing programs that serve aging and disabled populations.