In Part One of this series we defined the term “Aging in Place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level”. When Dorothy clicked her ruby red slippers together in the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and repeated over and over, “There’s no place like home; there’s no place like home,” her adventures in Oz became a symbol of how attached we become to our homes. Our homes play an important role in our lives and, like Dorothy, when we are away from home, we never truly relax until we are finally home again. Even the immortal Bard himself, William Shakespeare, once said, “People usually are the happiest at home”.
Besides the obvious benefits of happiness and maintaining an individuals’ quality of life as high as possible for as long as possible, the ability to remain in one’s own home has additional benefits that may not be immediately apparent, such as:
Maintain independence. The reason for the desire to age in place expressed most often by seniors is the wish to live by one’s own rules. Many senior citizens hold fast to their homes as a symbol of independence and familiarity. When asked what they fear most, in a 2007 survey conducted by Clarity Products, seniors said they fear a loss of independence or being put in a nursing home even more than they fear death.For many adults the loss of independence feels infantilizing and disempowering; aging in place preserves peoples’ independence, allowing them to reserve the right to eat dinner at 3pm or 11pm, to take a walk after breakfast, go see a movie in the middle of the day, and feel in control of their own lives.
Socialization. In short, this implies being close – not only to their home and possessions, but also to family, friends, and activities. Individuals who age in place can have visitors whenever they wish (instead of at prescribed times only) and keep beloved pets; in situations where one member of a couple is healthier or more mobile than the other, the two can remain together. While remaining in the home they love can be critical to aging individuals’ happiness, it’s important to remember that rates of loneliness range from 20-60% in older populations; socialization is key to aging in place happily and healthily.
Maintain routines. Drastic changes in routine are distressing to most people, especially those who may have had the same schedule and habits for 50 or more years. Aging in place is less disruptive because it may only involve a few smaller changes (for example, the installation of a home monitoring system or weekly visits from a new professional caregiver) instead of a move to a new place with new people and a new schedule.
In the next installment of this series we’ll take a look at three additional benefits of being able to age in place – safety, health and minimizing costs.
Until next time!