What Is Aging in Place?

Many older Americans wish to stay in their homes as they age. They want to avoid moving into retirement homes or long-term care. This is ‘aging in place.’

According to an AARP survey, 77% of people 50 and older want to stay home. But aging in place isn’t as easy as staying put. It takes careful planning to ensure seniors living independently stay happy and healthy.

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Why Is Aging in Place Important?

Aging in place lets people stay near their friends, neighbors, and the local community. They can also enjoy the comforts of home — their gardens, cherished furniture, and personal items.

Many people feel a sense of agency by aging at home. They can decide what to eat and when, for example. That’s unlike a retirement home with structured meal times, menus, nursing, and activities.

Another benefit is that aging in place can be more affordable than living in a retirement home. A retirement home may charge a monthly fee for rent, meals, and nursing assistance.

But seniors living independently can buy just the services they need. This might mean grocery or meal delivery, cleaning help, rides, and home maintenance.

Are There Drawbacks to Seniors Living Independently?

People who age at home may feel lonely, harming their health. Research shows that lonely people are at a higher risk for heart disease, depression, and dementia. Talking to and spending time with people lowers stress and stimulates the brain.

Those who age at home are also at risk of injury. They could hurt themselves from doing yard work or slipping in the bathroom.

People aging at home also miss the recreation that retirement homes offer. For example, missing out on aerobic classes meant for older adults may make it more difficult to meet exercise goals.

How to Keep Your Loved One Safe and Healthy As They Age in Place

If you have a loved one aging at home, you can help them live safely and fully. You can help them create healthy routines, find support services, and add safety features to their home. If you hope to live independently as you age, these tips will also help you.

Promote exercise

Staying active keeps the muscles strong, which prevents injury. Plus, research shows that exercise also helps keep the mind strong. Adults 65 and older should do:

  • Aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes each week. That could mean 30 minutes of brisk walking five times a week. If you exercise vigorously, such as jogging, do at least 75 minutes weekly.
  • Strength training (lifting weights or using resistance bands, for example) at least twice weekly.

People will be much more likely to exercise if they make it part of their routine and do it with others. Encourage your loved one to join a cycling group or attend a senior exercise class.

Prevent falls and injury

You can prevent falls by moving furniture and adding safety devices to the home. A grab bar in the shower helps people get in and out if they fall. A walk-in shower also avoids falling when stepping into a tub.

Add a chair lift on the stairs or move their bedroom to the main floor to prevent knee strain. Other ways to prevent falls include night lights, cutting clutter and cords, and avoiding rugs that can bunch up or slide.

See the AARP’s room-by-room guide for more ideas to promote healthy aging at home. An occupational therapist can also visit your home and suggest safety improvements.

Think about healthy meals

A balanced, nutritious diet supports the aging bones, muscles, brain, and heart. Experts suggest diets low in sodium and saturated fats. Older adults should also continue to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

To support someone aging at home, you can help them get groceries delivered to their home or take them grocery shopping. You can also find a hot meal delivery service, like Meals on Wheels, to provide pre-made food.

Find community

Finding local seniors’ centers can help your loved one avoid isolation. There, they can meet friends, join an exercise class, have a meal, play games, and work on projects. Find your local Pennsylvania seniors’ centers.

Those with Parkinson’s, dementia, or others may find that day programs help them connect. These intensive programs have on-site nursing and personal care. They may also provide speech therapy, physical therapy, and more.

Those who don’t want to attend a community center could join or create a book club, walking, or knitting group. Recurring meet-ups may help older adults avoid the challenges of organizing a social outing. Local religious groups might also run social activities for seniors.

Use technology

Set up technologies that will help keep your loved one safe and connected. A video doorbell lets your loved one see and speak to someone at the door without unlocking it. Smart home speakers from Amazon or Google can play music or make a phone call with just a voice command.

You may also consider wearable fall alarms in the form of a watch or pendant. They can detect if your loved one falls and alert emergency contacts or a response team.

See what benefits are available

Medicare may cover home visits from a nurse, mobility equipment like a walker or home equipment like grab bars, and much more. Your loved one may also have disability-related benefits or Veteran’s benefits.

Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find programs and services your loved one qualifies for. You can also visit benefits.gov to learn about the benefits in your state.

AARP. Despite Pandemic, Percentage of Older Adults Who Want to Age in Place Stays Steady. Link

AARP. HomeFit Guide. Link

Centers for Disease Control. How much physical activity do older adults need? Link

Rachel Fairbank. What types of exercise reduce dementia risk? New York Times. Link

National Institute on Aging. What do we know about healthy aging? Link

National Institute on Aging. Aging in place: Growing older at home. Link

Pennsylvania Department on Aging. Your local resources. Link

Dr. Amy Rosenwohl-Mack et al. A new conceptual model of experiences of aging in place in the United States: results of a systematic review and meta-ethnography of qualitative studies. International Journal of Nursing Studies Link

About Senior Communities

Seniors have different needs as they age, and they may want or need a community that can help with those needs. Whether you seek independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing and rehabilitation, UPMC Senior Communities has an option. We provide advanced treatments, preventive care, and wellness options from expert physicians, nurses, and staff. We also offer activities and living communities that can provide an enjoyable experience for our residents. Visit our UPMC Senior Communities website to learn more about the options available.