In our previous post we discussed the benefits of aging in place for seniors and we mentioned maintaining independence, socialization, (which we defined as being close to their home, possessions, family, friends, and activities), and the freedom to maintain their routines as being among the benefits. In this post I’d like to consider three additional benefits: safety, health and minimizing costs.
Safety. Those who have lived in their own homes for a considerable length of time are familiar with the act of maneuvering around in their home. Even in the dark most people can navigate fairly easily around their home, without bumping into things. Our minds are so familiar with the location of tables, chairs, rugs, etc. that we automatically walk around them, even when we can’t see them.
When we’ve lived in one place for a long period of time, we develop a “repetitive routine of use,” as it’s called. And when that routine is disrupted, if someone leaves a toy in the hallway or moves a rug, we are more likely to trip. This can be especially dangerous for the elderly, as they become less stable with age. Falls are a major source of severe injury. If they remain in their own home, in a familiar space, they may be less likely to bump into things, trip or fall.
Health. The home may act as a “health protectant” in a number of ways:
1) The avoidance of Institution-acquired infections. By living at home (instead of institutional-type housing) exposure to multi-drug-resistant organisms (MDROs) can be minimized. MDROs have been on the rise for the last several decades due to:
- Poor health care provider hand washing and high staff turn-over
- The era of aggressive antibiotic use creating “super bugs”
- Increased numbers of immune-compromised patients/residents
There is greater control over exposure to pathogens (“bugs”) in your own home.
2) The prevention of “Relocation Stress” or “Transfer Trauma”. “Relocation stress” is a set of symptoms and outcomes that result from a transfer of an older adult from a familiar to an unfamiliar environment—the symptoms range from:
- Sleep disturbance
- Cognitive decline / confusion
- Perceived loss of control
3) Preserve brain function. Meeting the challenges of living at home may actually help support a healthy aging brain with activities such as:
- House cleaning-maintenance and laundry
- Yard work and gardening
- Riding the bus and driving
- Negotiating for goods and services
- Paying bills
- Taking care of pets/ walking them
- Using computers
In addition, those activities which require an element of physical activity, such as house cleaning, maintenance and laundry, yard work and gardening and walking pets can significantly benefit regular brain functions and help keep the brain active, which can prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. It may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Unchecked, this might lead to the need of assisted living services at home or in a facility.
In Part four of this series we’ll take a look at the importance of planning.