When you reach a certain age, you might feel like the only way to age safely is to move to a senior living community. But what you might not realize is there are ways you can age while maintaining the independence of homeownership.
Most older homeowners want to stay in the homes they love as long as possible. But it’s hard to know where to start. Today, there are more senior living options than ever that don't mean giving up the benefits of owning a home.
One option is Age Well at Home™, a home modification and senior homeowner support program from Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. The program helps homeowners live safer, healthier, and longer lives in their own homes.
We created this resource to explain what aging in place is, how to age in place, and how Age Well at Home™ can help you do it.
Every adult should have the right to live independently. That gets harder to do with age when life slows down and we rely on others to get by – but for most people, it's still achievable. It's called aging in place: making the home you love fit your changing lifestyle so you can stay in it longer.
As Americans get older, the need for aging in place solutions grows. Consider the following statistics on aging:
Research shows that older adults don't want to leave their homes, but aging in place comes with a set of challenges difficult to take on alone. That's why we started Age Well at Home™ (formerly Age in Place).
Through Age Well at Home™, we partner with healthcare providers and volunteers to make safety and mobility enhancements to seniors’ homes. We want to make sure your home fits your life – not the other way around – so you can live at home longer.
With support from your community and organizations like Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, you can age in place instead of moving into a nursing home or senior living community. You'll find aging in place can help you lead a happier, more independent life.
Don't underestimate how important your living space is to your health. When you've lived in one place most of your life, it's more of a home than a house. It can be hard for you as a senior to let go of the emotional attachments you have to your home, let alone the connections you've made and the communities you're a part of.
Everyone's situation is different, but with the right resources, you can improve your quality of life by living at home longer. Studies have even shown a reduction in overall cognitive decline if seniors can maintain a sense of community while aging in place.
For seniors, moving can have a bigger impact than it does for young people. Uprooting and moving into a new space can affect their physical, mental, and emotional well-being and add confusion and stress to their later years. Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS) is defined as the anxiety and loneliness that can follow moving to a new place. RSS can aggravate common aging symptoms (like depression and stress) and lead to decreased cognitive function – all of which have been associated with lower quality of life and shorter life expectancy.
Additionally, socialization only becomes more important with age. Aging itself can increase feelings of depression and isolation in seniors, so it's vital to make sure every senior has the tools and opportunities to be with other people as they age. Many senior living communities offer social programs for residents, but nursing homes are often unfamiliar places. Many older adults may prefer to socialize from home. It can be as simple as regular calls with family, joining friends for volunteering and games, or even just being in public – things that are hard to come by at a nursing home, but which can be a regular part of aging in place.
You can't put a dollar value on your lifestyle, but counting the cost of aging at home and comparing it to other senior living options can help you narrow your search. As of 2020, Americans spend around $83 billion per year on assisted living and senior communities, and that number is expected to increase over the next seven years.
It's important to remember that no two seniors' living situations are exactly the same, and there are many factors aside from cost that can help decide whether or not aging in place is right for you. With that in mind, here's a comparison of the costs of senior living options in Minnesota:
The cost of aging in place depends on your current cost of living. It includes many costs you're already used to, like mortgage payments, utilities, and insurance. The costs of home modifications and healthcare will depend on how much you're modifying your house and the level of care you need.
Aging in place isn't right for everyone – but with the right resources, aging in place at home can be a safe, productive way to live out your later years. You and your family should talk to healthcare professionals and specialists to help decide what level of care you need and whether or not you're ready to age in place.
Aging in place looks different for everyone, so setting expectations early can help you avoid hiccups down the road. Talk to a loved one and make a list of questions. Try these to start:
If you know what kind of life you want to live, aging in place might be a good option. Dig a little deeper and ask these questions to find out if it's right for you.
No two seniors' home lives will be exactly the same, so take your goals and experience into consideration. Loved ones and caretakers can help you sort through your options while you figure out what you want your golden years to look like.
When seniors do decide to move away from home, it's usually for a few common reasons. But today, aging in place is a more realistic living option than ever, and those reasons aren't as strong as they used to be.
Here are four reasons you might move away from home, and alternatives that can help you make the right decision for yourself and your family.
The risk of falls increases dramatically as we age, and each fall has the potential to cause serious damage. We often don't think about the layout of our living spaces, but in our later years, it becomes harder and more dangerous to get around than it used to be – and when some seniors realize that, they decide to leave rather than deal with it.
But aging in place home modifications can help your home fit your changing lifestyle. Living on one level, creating plenty of room to move, and making sure there's always something to lean against (like walls, handrails, or grab bars) are simple ways you can make the home you love work for you.
Your house is very important to your day-to-day life. That's why aging in place usually means adapting your daily routine in one way or another. Senior living communities can help manage medication schedules and health concerns, but there are effective ways to address your daily needs right from your own home.
There are plenty of ways to navigate daily life from home. Here are just two:
Isolation has a huge impact on your well-being. Physical, mental, and emotional metrics trend downward as we age, and that trend gets worse when we can't see our friends. For some older adults, moving out of the house and into an organized senior community seems like a simple way to inject their lives with social interaction, but they're often far from family and disconnected from their existing social circle.
The truth is that aging in place can be a social experience, too. In fact, it's the backbone of senior living options like home sharing and the Village to Village Network. With reliable access to transportation, you can ensure a consistent level of social engagement while aging at home.
Aging in place can feel like a pricey option when you're living on a fixed income. But the monthly costs associated with living at home are typically much smaller than the average cost of an assisted living facility. Aging in place at home gives you more control over your lifestyle, day-to-day schedule, and pocketbook.
Nobody should have to move out of their homes because of everyday health, safety, socialization, or financial concerns. With resources and assistance from aging in place programs, living at home in older age can be a realistic option for almost anyone.
So how does aging in place actually work? We've broken it down into steps that make it easy to plan for staying at home longer.
Safety is one of the main reasons seniors move out of their houses. It's understandable: one in four Americans over 65 falls every year, making falls the leading cause of injury for older Americans. But there are more ways now than ever to make your home safer for aging by making modifications to your living space.
Most homes simply aren't designed for seniors. Home modifications can improve your everyday quality of life by reducing stress, eliminating risk, and removing barriers. Some changes are simple, while some are more involved, but they're all about making your home fit your lifestyle. Look at your needs and consider what adjustments would have the greatest impact on your quality of life.
Here are some of the most common home safety features and easy-to-learn technologies that can help you age in place safely:
Depending on your square footage and level of mobility, you may consider even more home modifications. Some examples include handheld showerheads and heightened platforms for the oven, dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer.
The CDC's "Check for Safety" checklist can help identify the areas of your home that could be a potential safety hazard. If you're unsure whether or not your home is safe for aging in place, help is available: Minnesota's Senior LinkAge Line connects seniors to services like at-home care, inspections, and more.
No matter how long you've been living in your home, there are ways it can work better for you today. It could be simple hardware, ramps, or even moving to a new home entirely. The important part is that staying or moving isn't an "either/or" decision anymore – it's more of a spectrum of choices.
Maybe you love being a homeowner, but you don't need all that space. Maybe you don't need all the bells and whistles of a senior living community, but you still want to socialize and see loved ones. Every older adult wants something different from life, and living options for seniors have evolved to match.
Consider these aging in place options that can keep you at home longer:
At-home care, senior care, and assisted living: Some seniors find themselves stuck between health needs and independent living. Home care can help strike that balance, providing the care services you need without forcing you to relocate.
Downsizing homes or moving closer to family: If you moved into your home with a family who's moved away, your house might feel a bit roomy these days. In that case, you may decide to move into a smaller home closer to your family, preserving a sense of independence without letting go of their connections with loved ones.
Accessory dwelling units: What if moving out didn't have to mean moving away? Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are an increasingly popular living option for seniors because of their simplicity. In most scenarios, a younger family member will buy a home from their aging parents, who will then relocate into a smaller unit on the same property. Accessory dwelling units let you live close to family – without being tied to their schedule, the pace of life, or living space.
Senior homesharing: Remember Golden Girls? Senior homesharing is a little bit like that: Services like Silvernest pair seniors aging at home with other seniors as roommates. Ideally, both parties benefit from a homesharing agreement: the homeowner earns income while both receive companionship and peace of mind. Click here to read about more of the benefits of senior homesharing.
Senior villages: A senior village is a community of seniors within a larger region. Because they live near each other, they help take care of each other. It's simple, but effective: Members of a senior village advocate for one another in many ways, including on-the-ground services like grocery delivery and other necessary goods. Visit the Village-to-Village Network's website to find a senior village near you.
If you feel like you can make friends at a nursing home, it might be the right social outlet for you. But you can still stay connected with friends, family, and your community while aging at home.
In the connected world, we've discovered so many easy ways of keeping in touch that doesn't mean being near each other.
Health, hygiene, and wellness are some of the most important things to focus on later in life. From physical limitations to cognitive decline, we all need help when we age. We'll all need help bathing, getting around, taking medication, controlling spending, and staying sharp and responsible.
Unfortunately, few senior living communities offer enough affordable services for aging adults. But that doesn't mean you don't have options for maintaining your health and quality of life.
Note: Age Well at Home™ currently does not provide caregiving or healthcare services to clients, but Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity continues to advocate for the improved availability and affordability of these services in Minnesota. We believe it’s good for seniors, good for families, and good for the community.
Some seniors choose to hire in-home caregiving services to assist with ongoing health needs. These can include intravenous medication, impulse control, or physical therapy. Other times, adult children take over caregiving duties and Powers of Attorney to handle day-to-day affairs like finances.
For most seniors and families of seniors, the right path is somewhere in the middle: a combination of in-home care, community activism, and assistance from family or friends. Services like Age Well at Home™ are designed to reduce confusion and stress for you and your family, letting you focus on the most important parts of aging in place.
Remember that no two seniors' aging in place experiences will look the same. That fact bears repeating because it will guide every decision you make with regard to aging in place. Hopefully, aging in place resources like Age Well at Home™ can provide information and direction.
When it comes time to make a decision, follow these steps to make sure you're on the right path:
Step 1: Do your research to understand all of the options available. Make sure you've considered every angle, eventuality, and outcome you possibly can to make the best decision. Aging in place simply might not be right for you, but no single factor should disqualify anyone from being able to live in their own home.
Step 2: Speak with family and loved ones about your options. Make sure you know how they feel about your senior living options, including aging in place. Be open-minded and assume your loved ones only want the best for you. Listen to their concerns and the ideas they have about your living situation.
Step 3: Contact the service provider. If a move is in your future, call and visit the community to get a full picture of what life will be like there. But if you've decided aging in place is the right decision, compare what you need against what they offer. For senior home modifications and aging in place design in the Twin Cities, contact Age Well at Home™.
Aging isn't a pipeline from your home to a senior living community. Older homeowners like you have invested time, money, and emotion in their own homes. You deserve the right to stay in your home as long as possible but might not know the resources are out there to help you do so. When it comes to aging in place, education is power – know your options and you'll be empowered to make the best decision.
With Age Well at Home™, we want to open the eyes of Twin Cities seniors to the spectrum of living options available – and then help you live the life you want, regardless of your age.