Who would’ve thought older adults would adapt to the many changes in retirement and elder care by simply staying put?
Thanks to medical advances and the reduction of diseases that often led to mortality among older Americans, U.S. life expectancy has increased dramatically over the last half a century. Americans today live 79 years on average, up from 68 years in 1950. And while lifespans increased, the traditional family structure underwent its own sort of transformation. Many families shifted away from the “pyramid” shape — in which each generation remained close to home and tended to have more children than the last — to the modern “beanpole” shape — referring to those who retain strong generational bonds, but are spread out across the country, or even the world. Factor in the increasing number of older adults who are working well into their 70s and even 80s, and it’s no surprise that aging in place has become an attractive option to many older adults.
“Aging in place” is a term used to describe the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely and independently, even as circumstances change. The vast majority of older adults (90 percent) say they want to stay in their own homes as they age, according to a recent survey from AARP. Even among those who need a caregiver’s assistance or ongoing home health care, 82 percent said they’d still prefer to stay in their homes, rather than moving to an assisted living facility. Baby Boomers, who prize their ability to remain active and independent, are among the many older adults who value the comfort and convenience of staying in their own homes they mature.
Yet thinking about getting older can be daunting, and in some families, talking about mortality and aging still remains taboo. However, preemptively making changes to your home long before mobility or functionality becomes an issue can help you and your family be prepared down the line. If and when medical issue do arise, it’s generally not an ideal time to make home improvements.
You might still be unsure about aging in place, it’s worth looking into. Even for individuals who remain healthy overall, the natural aging process can decrease flexibility and balance. At some point, most older adults benefit from small home modifications, like grab bars and accessible fixtures and appliances.
Many modifications that allow for older adults to stay in their homes are aligned with universal design principles. Adding grab bars in the shower, lever-style door handles or motion sensor lighting, for instance, are simple modifications that run under $100 each and appeal to homeowners of all ages. To start, check out a room-by-room guide to aging in place.
Down the line, modifying your home to age in place may require more extensive changes, like building a stair lift or accessibility ramp. It’s crucial to start careful planning early and work with a professional certified by the National Age in Place Council. Last week I had the opportunity to visit with two outstanding certified aging in place remodelers right here in the Chicagoland area, and each offers estimates and bring insight and expertise to the job.
Lifeway Mobility Chicago, formerly EHLS: Working with some of the leading architects and builders in Chicagoland, Lifeway Mobility can customized elevators, chair and stairlifts, wheelchair access ramps and more to your home. They have a clear understanding of how to help you or your family live in safety and comfort, and their highly skilled builders can put an elevator in nearly any home. With an extensive showroom where you can try out a variety of accessibility products, Lifeway Mobility is a must-see if you’re planning to age in place in Northwest suburbs.
Home for Life Advantage: If you’re looking for guidance on where to start modifying your home to age in place, then Home for Life is for you. They’ll provide a free assessment of your home, and help you and your family prioritize. For those who are bringing family members home after spending time in a facility, they often partner with physical or occupational therapists to learn more about individual needs and facilitate a smooth transition. Accessibility ramps, stability railings, automatic doors and chairlifts are among the myriad services they offer.
Thinking about aging in place? Here’s where to start:
- Do your research
- Call your local senior care provider for a quote
- Create a timeline