Aging in Place Comfortably: How to Make the Most of Your Golden Years

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Learn about independent living and how to make your home safe, comfortable, and inviting.

Summary

  • Aging in place requires careful planning and resources, but it’s the preferred housing option for most adults over 50 in the U.S.
  • You can make a house comfortable and safe for aging adults by planning ahead, saving up some money, and doing an age-friendly home remodel.
  • You should focus on style, comfort, and functionality when you redesign your home.
  • Medical alert systems and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) can make it easier for you to age in place.
  • While aging in place is not the best option for everyone, there are alternatives available.

Even the fanciest retirement village can’t compete with a home that’s filled with a lifetime of memories — and there are statistics to back this up.

A recent survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) showed that 77% of adults 50 and older prefer to continue living at home as they get on in years. 

However, aging in place requires planning and preparation. Your house may need some modifications before it’s safe for an aging adult to live in.

But creating a home for a person who’s getting older isn’t just about removing the hazards or installing grab bars. The home you live in during your golden years can be beautiful and functional, too.

In this article, we’ll show you how to prepare to age in place, and what you can do to ensure that your home is comfortable, inviting, and safe.

What Does it Mean to ‘Age in Place’?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines aging in place as “[t]he ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

Aging in place gives adults a sense of identity and freedom that retirement or nursing homes may not. 

Who Should Age in Place?
Someone who prefers to age in their home and has the time and money to invest in remodeling their house so that it’s age-friendly, could consider aging in place.

However, adults who have physical or mental impairments may not be suitable candidates for aging in place. People who are prone to falling or injuring themselves, or those who need constant medical care, may be safer when living with a relative or caregiver.

If you’re wondering if aging in place is the right choice for you or a loved one, consult a healthcare professional or Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) — more on this later.

How Can I Age in Place Comfortably?

If you plan to create a forever home for yourself or a loved one, there are a few general things you probably already know. 

For example, non-slip flooring should be installed, doorways should be widened, and grab bars should be placed in the bathrooms.

But did you know that a lot more goes into creating a home that promotes independent living?

Making a home where you feel comfortable during your golden years takes some careful planning. Below we’ve listed the main things you can do to prepare for your future.

Plan ahead

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail — this definitely applies to aging in place. 

It’s never too late to start creating a living space where aging adults can feel safe and independent, but it’s also never too early.

Aging in place requires a lot of preparation, and the sooner you start, the better your chances of living independently when you reach retirement. 

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Manage your money

The costs of aging in place can be quite steep, especially if you decide to do extensive home renovations, and to hire a home health aide that can cost over $50,000 per year.

It’s important to manage your finances responsibly and start saving for retirement early. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a few tips on how to prepare. 

This includes determining your retirement needs early on, reducing your risks when investing, and being strict about not touching your retirement savings.

No matter how you choose to retire, you’ll probably need money, so manage your finances well and get expert advice if you need it.

Prioritize your health

This is a no-brainer. If you keep up to date with your health checks, have few chronic conditions, and are generally fit and healthy, you have a better chance of living comfortably on your own.

By prioritizing your health early in life, you’ll feel confident doing household chores and other activities of daily living, such as bathing, showering, and getting dressed — this makes you a better candidate for aging in place.

Choose the right home and location

The two-story house you raised your family in might not be the best home for you to age in place comfortably.

When you choose a forever home, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is it located in a safe neighborhood near grocery stores and other essential services?
  • Do you have easy access to healthcare and wellness centers?
  • Is there safe, reliable transportation available?
  • Do you have easy access to support services, such as home health aides and meal delivery services?
  • Does the neighborhood offer opportunities to socialize, such as sports clubs, or places where you can volunteer, like museums and libraries?
  • Is the house you’re looking to buy affordable and easily accessible to family members, friends, and other visitors?

Choosing the right house and location is a very important step to aging in place. 

Prepare for the challenges you’ll face

Growing older is a process, and the changes you’ll need to make to age in place won’t happen overnight. Always assume that moving or remodeling will take longer than expected. 

Some other challenges you may face when you age in place include:

  • Financial constraints: Aging in place can be costly, and you may require long-term care as well.
  • Loneliness: Unlike people who live in retirement communities and interact with adults of the same age group, aging in place can leave you feeling isolated and alone if you don’t make an effort to connect with friends and other people in the community.
  • Health issues: If you’re struggling with health conditions, this can make living alone challenging — and sometimes not possible. 

There may be ways around the challenges you face when you age in place. 

But other times, it may simply be impractical for adults to live in their own homes — in which case, alternative housing options should be explored.

Make gradual changes to your home

Modifying your home so that it can accommodate your changing needs as you age can be a lengthy process. 

You’ll need to anticipate what your requirements will be and start making these changes over time.

Start with the most important or the easiest renovations first. Doing a remodel over a period of time will be easier on your pocket than completing all the changes at once.

Be organized

Research has shown that a cluttered home not only raises stress levels, but also makes it easier for aging adults to trip over hazards — which increases the risk of falling.

By clearing the clutter, you’ll have more time, feel less stressed, be able to think more clearly, and reduce the risk of injuries.

A well-organized home can help you age in place comfortably.

Have an aging-in-place checklist

The list of modifications you need to make to your home can be quite extensive. Keeping track of everything can feel overwhelming. 

You’ll need to know which changes you’re going to make in each room and how much they’ll cost.

To simplify your planning, create a checklist where you list everything you need to do, in the order you need to do it. 

Will you install the curbless shower first, or is it more important to carpet the stairs to avoid slipping? A checklist will help you answer these questions.

To learn how to make a checklist and find out what you can include in it, take a look at one of our articles

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Use empty rooms to your advantage

If you have a few spare bedrooms, the extra space can help you to declutter your home and find new ways to unwind.

Some ways you can repurpose an empty bedroom include:

  • Turning it into a reading room.
  • Converting it to a home gym or yoga studio.
  • Using it as a hobby room.
  • Using it as an entertainment room or guest room.

Focus on style and comfort

Aging in place isn’t just about practicalities — though this does play a role. Your home should ideally combine both form and function. 

Aging adults may spend long hours indoors, so they should feel as comfortable as possible in their living space. The future as a retiree should look bright and promising. 

Here are a few things you can do to ensure that you enjoy the next phase of your life:

Create a place you and your family will enjoy

Aging adults living alone may have concerns about not seeing their family and friends frequently enough. 

Human connections are important, and they may struggle to feel a sense of community and support.

Research shows that family involvement can help aging adults with social companionship and also ensure that they feel supported and cared for. 

To improve the quality of your family time and make sure that your children feel comfortable visiting you, create a home that feels warm and welcoming.

If you have grandkids, having a floor that’s clear of clutter and tripping hazards will not only benefit you, but also little ones with lots of energy.

Use color to make your home more inviting

As adults get older, their eyesight may be affected and they may not be able to distinguish certain colors, or they may lose their depth of perception. 

When it comes to interior design, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) suggests using warm colors, such as reds and oranges, and relying on color contrast to help objects stand out clearly. 

For example, if you paint the door frames and light switches a color that contrasts with the wall, they’ll be more visible.

Surround yourself with wonderful memories

Life can sometimes become quiet and even dull if you spend most of your days indoors, so focusing on the positive can make a real difference. 

Putting up pictures of your loved ones or displaying gifts that they gave you can help brighten the surroundings.

Make beneficial lifestyle changes

Certain lifestyle changes can prepare you to age in place comfortably. We’ve outlined some of the things you can do below.

Exercise and eat healthy

Physical activity and a balanced diet are beneficial to almost everyone. 

Eating well and staying active will help you maintain muscle mass and decrease your chances of developing diseases that can make it challenging to age in place.

Having a daily exercise routine and preparing your own meals can also give your days more structure, ensuring that your mind stays occupied, which in turn may delay or prevent certain cognitive impairments.

Get quality rest

Rest is very important; adults between the age of 18 and 60 need at least seven hours of sleep to function optimally.

By getting enough quality sleep, you allow your body to recover from injury, increase your memory and concentration, and also boost your immune system. All of these things are beneficial to adults who want to age in place.

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Have daily routines

Routines are great for everyone, but they have some special benefits for aging adults. A routine can give you purpose and energize you for the day ahead.

Some other benefits of daily routines include:

  • Building good habits.
  • Reducing stress levels and anxiety.
  • Improving sleep patterns and sleep quality.
  • Increasing the level of physical activity.
  • Reducing the burden on people responsible for caring for an aging adult.

Rediscover things you enjoy

Life can be quite the journey, and can be easy to lose sight of the things you really enjoy. 

After you’ve built a career, raised a family, and then watched that family create a family of their own, you may feel like you’ve lost a sense of who you are.

And that’s normal. But once your kids have left home, you can claim the space as your own again. 

Arrange your home in a way that makes you happy. Move the furniture so that there’s space for you to do your morning yoga or meditation. Redo the bathroom in that shade of orange you love.

You could also get involved in your community through various volunteer opportunities. Not only will it enrich your life, but also the lives of those you help.

Find ways to rediscover — or discover —things you love and make them a part of your new life.

What Are Some Tools or Resources for Aging in Place?

Whether you’re planning for your own future, or considering aging in place as an option for your parents, you’ll likely need help and resources to prepare your home so it’s ready for an older adult to live in.

There are two important resources or tools you can use when you start your journey.

Medical alert systems

A medical alert system is a device that can be installed in the home or worn around the neck or wrist of an adult.

These devices allow you to communicate with emergency responders or family members — and some models offer features like fall detection, blood pressure monitoring, and GPS tracking.

A medical alert system is an invaluable resource for anyone who’d like to age in place as it allows an older adult to contact emergency services should they sustain a fall, or be injured while carrying out daily tasks.

A system like this can also allow other family members or caregivers to check in with someone at any time and make sure that they’re okay.

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS)

These professionals specialize in designing and remodeling a home so that it can accommodate someone who wants to age in place. 

They will advise you on the changes you can make to your home to ensure it’s safe for an aging adult. 

CAPS often work with other professionals when redesigning your home. 

If you use the services of CAPS, they will ensure that your home complies with all the building and safety regulations.

To find a CAPS close to you, get in touch with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) at 800-368-5242.

What Are Some Alternatives to Aging in Place?

While aging in place is the preferred option for most people, it may not be a practical choice for some. 

Be sure to consult your healthcare provider, social worker, or physiotherapist about alternatives to aging in place.

Some other housing options for aging adults include:

  • Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC).
  • Mother-in-law cottages or granny flats.
  • Cohousing.
  • Home-sharing.
  • Memory care.
  • Adult daycare.
  • Assisted living communities.
  • Nursing homes.

Where Can I Learn More about Aging in Place?

Are you ready to retire in style and comfort? Not willing to give up the home you love? Logicmark can help.

We offer in-home and mobile medical alert devices that make it safer to age in place.

Our technology protects the people you love by giving them easy, direct access to emergency staff or caregivers. Explore the full line of products here