50 Ways to Safely and Comfortably Age in Place
According to a study by the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, a whopping 90% of seniors over the age of 65 would prefer to stay in their own homes as they grow old. Aging in place is no new trend, though. It even means more freedom, independence, and comfort for your loved ones as they live through their golden years. Aging in place is also a great way to potentially save money, as the national average for assisted living is currently $3,700 per month and steadily on the rise.
There are many things you can do to make it possible for your loved ones to stay at home and age in place. This list will walk you through a few easy things you and your loved ones can do to ensure health and happiness while aging in place. Remember, remaining at home is possible for strong-minded people as long as they find the perfect place to age and the ideal support system to help them.
1. Use a medical alert system or personal emergency response system
PERS Devices make it possible to comfortably age in place. They offer peace of mind for caretakers since they can call for help in an emergency, such as a fall.
2. Make a few simple home modifications
There are many things you can do to make your home safer without remodeling it altogether. You should start with easy ones, like handrails near the bathtub. You should also remove throw rugs and ensure there is a clear path to the bathroom, kitchen, and living room.
3. Monitor medications carefully
If you ever feel dizzy or unstable on your feet as a side effect from medication, make sure to speak up! A simple change in medication can be the difference between safety or an injury-causing fall.
4. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise can make your body stronger and more stable. By maintaining an active lifestyle you can prevent injuries as well as keep yourself in control.
5. Keep your home neat, tidy, and free of clutter
Clutter causes accidents! When planning to age in place, it's critical to do some housekeeping. Take stock of what can be thrown away or donated and get rid of it. Be sure to keep paths to the bathroom, living room and kitchen clear at all times.
6. Take supplements for bones and joints
As we age, our bodies start having trouble absorbing nutrients. We also have different nutritional needs as we get older. Its a good idea to take calcium and Vitamin D to ensure healthy bones and teeth. Talk with your doctor or nutrition expert to come up with a personalized plan to suit your unique needs.
7. Go in for regular check ups
It's always better to be proactive. Make sure to attend your check ups regularly to rule out cancer or other serious health conditions in its early stages. Following up with your doctor is an important part of aging in place. You need to keep an eye on your weight, vision, heart, and mind to ensure healthy aging in place.
8. Quit smoking
Smoking is bad for your health. As we age, we become more susceptible to conditions like cancer. It's best to kick the habit now than to wait for it to create a debilitating health condition you won't be able to manage on your own in the future.
9. Take Selenium
Selenium plays a crucial part in our immune system health. If you're susceptible to getting sick, its a good idea to take Selenium. Other immune system boosting nutrients include Vitamin C and Zinc. Be sure to talk with your doctor or nutrition expert to come up with a personalized plan to suit your unique needs.
10. Keep your brain active
As we age, we often lose valuable brain function. It's crucial to play games, do puzzles, and keep your mind active to help avoid dementia or Alzheimer's from creeping up on you unexpectedly.
11. Exercise feeds brain cells
While exercise nourishes the body, it also nourishes the brain. While we exercise, our brains release happy chemicals that elevate our moods and feed our brain cells. If you're not exercising to avoid chronic pain or keep your joints working smoothly, you should do it for your brain at the very least. It doesn't have to be a lot of exercise, just enough to get your body moving.
12. Eat fish
Omega 3s and other nutrients found in fish are great for our brains and circulatory health. Adding fish to your diet even once per week can keep your mind and body on a healthy track.
13. Low impact, recovery exercise is key
Swimming, yoga, and simple strolls are a great way to keep joints loose and muscles relaxed. Even if you can't devote a lot of yourself to exercise, try to devote some!
14. Add comfort wherever possible
Getting older takes a toll on our hands, feet, lower backs, and fingers as we gain and lose weight. If you suffer from arthritis or simply don't want to start, try using the foam from hair curlers around tough to grab objects like toothbrushes. You can also rely on squishy toilet seats, padded shoes, and a more comfortable mattress.
15. Get your bedding in order
We spend a lot of time in bed. Make sure your bed is comfortable and not too tall to get in and out of without help. Bed frames that move (such as the sleepnumber) are a great investment for the future since they make it possible to get in and out of bed with limited mobility.
16. Don't ignore symptoms of depression
Depression kills. If you start to notice symptoms of depression in your loved one, its important to get to the bottom of the problem right away. Sometimes its a simple loneliness issue. Other times, it goes much deeper. No matter what, if you see symptoms of depression, speak up!
You can't age in place without people who care about you! Humans are very social, and socialization is a huge part of aging in place while maintaining health and happiness. Adult day care centers are a great option, as are family and friends visiting regularly. You can also socialize with pets or on the phone.
18. Cut back on sugar, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol
Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods all put a strain on our metabolism, making it possible for us to gain weight. Additionally, these foods and beverages tend to curb our hunger, which messes up our ability to eat meals. On the other hand, they can cause you to gain weight, which can be detrimental to health
19. Maintain healthy brushing habits
Take care of your teeth! Make sure to brush regularly and use a waterpik instead of traditional dental floss. If you have dentures, be sure to clean them regularly to prevent getting sick.
20. Avoid daytime naps
Daytime naps can make it more difficult to regulate your sleeping and waking cycle. If you have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep at night, cut out the daytime nap!
21. Keep the bedroom dark
As we age, it becomes more difficult for some of us to produce melatonin. The bedroom should be limited only to sleeping and sex. Try to avoid using a TV in the bedroom and use room-darkening curtains to help you sleep through the night undisturbed.
22. Keep emergency contact information handy
Whether you use a personal emergency response system or not, you should keep a paper copy of emergency contact information handy. We recommend writing down a list of relevant people and phone numbers and placing them in a laminated pouch that can be kept on the refrigerator. If you use a PERS device, be sure to notify the central station of emergency contact information.
23. Use smart lights
Smart lights come on automatically when you go to enter a room. Installing smart lights is a great way to ensure that the home your loved one will be aging in will be well lit. Well lit homes are less likely to cause an accident.
24. Wear non-skid shoes around the house
Non-skid shoes are essential when you're not always steady on your feet. By wearing comfortable, no-slip shoes around the house you're much less likely to fall than you would be if you were just wearing socks or slippers.
25. Organize clothes and necessities
Prepare closets and pantries for easy stacking. Try to keep objects at hip level or higher to make it easy to grab things off the shelf. Clothes should also be organized and tidy so they're easy to pick out and put on even with a disability or limited mobility.
26. Use technology
There are lots of technologies available for seniors aging in place as well as their caretakers. Check out this blog on the subject.
27. Coordinate Care
If your loved one's care will be seen to by more people than just you, it's important to come up with a way to coordinate and communicate with other caretakers. You can use apps to keep in touch or simply text or email each other. That way your loved one never goes without and all of you can be in touch at once.
28. Plan meals
In order to age in place, you need to plan your meals. Who will make them? How will you get groceries? Will someone meal prep for you? Planning your meals is an essential step to aging in place.
29. Plan finances
You won't have full control over your finances all the time. Its a good idea to start planning how you will use your finances or your savings for your care. Will you have to pay your caretakers? Who will make sure your bills are paid if you can't remember? Do you have anyone who can take them over entirely? What about later in life?
30. Plan household chores
As we get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to get around. Basic chores and yard work can't go neglected, but they still need to get done. It's crucial for you to work with your loved ones to come up with a plan to get household chores taken care of.
31. Plan for healthcare
What would happen if you had an accident? Are you insured? Could you and your loved ones manage it? Your health will become increasingly expensive as you age, so be sure to include additional budget for health expenses
32. Prepare for the worst
While its difficult to talk about, its important to get your end of life affairs in order. In the event that you had an accident and got hurt, would someone be authorized to make hard decisions on your behalf? What about your finances and estate?
33. Plan how to get around
What will you do when you can no longer drive? Do you have a reliable support system that will be able to get you around? How about cabs and ride share services? What happens if you have limited mobility? Transportation is a big part of aging in place, so be sure to look into both public and private options.
34. Practice safe ways to get in and out of a seated position
Many accidents occur when getting up from a chair or out of bed. Always lift your body carefully with your legs and avoid jerking motions. The more you practice getting up and down, the stronger and more capable you will be when it normally becomes difficult.
35. Join a senior-friendly gym
Joining a gym is a great way to get your exercise in as well as get your social time in. Gyms offer a ton of great low-impact classes that help seniors stay fit and strong as they age. Most gyms even offer a senior discount!
36. Have food delivered
If you can't realistically get to the grocery store as often as you used to, you can always have food delivered. You can get groceries delivered with Instacart, or you can use meal delivery services like Schwan's to get ready to eat meals shipped right to your door. There's a subscription service for just about everything these days, including toilet paper!
37. Hire a caretaker to bridge the gaps
You realistically can't rely on your friends and family as often as you think you will. They have their own lives too! If you can't always be there for your loved ones, hiring a caretaker to come by and do light housekeeping, meal prep, rides, and socialization once a day can make all the difference. A day of freedom for you and your regular caretakers and loved ones!
38. Create at least one no-step entry into the home
Stairs become increasingly more dangerous as we get older. It's a good idea to make sure you can get in and out of the house via wheelchair if necessary. Temporary ramps make a great modification to the front or back door. You can also hire a contractor to pour a ramp of concrete for a more long-term solution.
39. Stir lifts, elevators, walk-in bathtubs and bidets
While these options can be a little bit expensive, they make a huge difference in quality of life for seniors. Best of all, they improve safety and make it less likely for your loved one to experience an accident on the stairs or in the bathroom. Mobility is freedom, and aging in place is independence.
40. Put a phone or PERS device in each room
If you choose to forgo a medical alert system, you should at the very least install a landline phone in each room so that your loved one can call for help in any room should an accident occur. Realistically, the cost of a PERS device with multiple pendents is about the same for a suite of landline phones.
41. Hire a contractor to make home modifications
Sometimes, you will need to make bigger modifications for your home. If you suddenly had to use a wheelchair, would it fit through your standard doorways? If not, you'll need to hire a contractor to make upgrades to your home or remodel it altogether. Contractors can also be used to install walk-in tubs and bidets!
42. Make time for the things you like
This is your life! You should be sure to make time for the things you enjoy doing. If you don't currently have a hobby, now is the time to get one! Not only are hobbies good for the social aspect, they can also help keep the mind sharp. Best of all, hobbies help us keep our spirits high.
43. Mount PERS devices in high-risk areas
Staircases, bathrooms and kitchens are high-risk areas for falls and other accidents. If you're not keeping a device in every room, be sure to use mountable devices like the Emergency Wall Communicator at the foot of the stairs or near the shower. Mounting these devices in high-risk areas makes it possible for your loved one to call for help without having to crawl to a phone, making the injury worse.
44. Set medication reminders
If you're forgetful with your medications, be sure to set reminders. While a simple timer might suit you, others may do better with an automatic pill dispenser. Either way, these devices make it possible for you to age in place without having someone monitor you.
45. Have multiple canes and walkers handy
If you have a multi-level home, its a good idea to have back up canes and walkers on each level of the home. It's also a good idea to make sure these devices are measured properly to your height and maintained regularly to prevent accidents.
46. Follow kitchen and bathroom safety tips
We've drafted up several safety tips for the kitchen and bathroom. The biggest takeaway: make sure everything is well lit and appliances are clearly marked ON/OFF. You should also be sure to wipe spills promptly and wear non-slip shoes in these areas.
47. Use glasses or contacts
Accidents happen when you can't see. Make sure you use your glasses and contacts during the day and at night to prevent an accidental injury.
48. Design a multi-faceted support system
A support system is a collection of any number of people you can rely on when the going gets rough. They are there for you when you need their help as well as when you're feeling lonely. Friends, family members, neighbors, your doctor, and other community members can all be a part of your support system. Even pets can be a part of your support system!
49. Think about the future
The best thing you can do is hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Think about your future as you age in place. What happens if you sustain an injury? Will you still be able to age in place comfortably? What if your support system dissolves? You can't realistically account for everything that could happen to you, but its still a good idea to plan for every possible outcome.
50. Look at other means of companionship and community in the case of long-distance caretakers
If your loved ones live too far to be your caretakers, you can still age in place. You can find companionship and community in your friends and neighbors as well as paid caretakers and even pets.