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Aging In Place

husband and wife doing dishes togetherEven the most adventurous travelers must feel good knowing that their journeys will end in a comfortable home environment, where they’ll be surrounded by a caring community of family and friends. A home is a special place, full of memories, familiar sights, smells, and sounds. Because a home often develops over time into a place with significance that extends far beyond the structure itself, it’s not surprising that more and more people are making the decision to age in place.

What is Aging in Place?

The phrase “aging in place” most simply refers to a person’s choice to age within his or her own home, rather than moving elsewhere. The Center for Disease Control defines 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.” Even though aging in place focuses on a person’s ability to live within the home of his or her choosing, aging in place doesn’t mean that seniors must become confined to their homes or experience increasing levels of isolation there.
In fact, the aging in place movement is helping people understand the freedoms and joys that can come along with aging in a safe and trusted home environment. But first, that environment must be created, and those who wish to age in place should consider whether or not it’s a good and practical decision.

Aging in Place: Key Questions & Factors to Consider

The National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) serves as a planning resource for seniors who would like to remain active and healthy throughout their retirement years. NAIPC’s aging in place planning outline includes a detailed assessment of five key factors: housing, health and wellness, personal finance, transportation, and community and social interaction. The NAIPC’s guide, “Act III: Your Plan For Aging in Place,” begins with the following essential questions to help lead individuals and families through an honest assessment of needs, desires, and resources.

Are you comfortable in your home or do you need another home or modifications to your current home?

Health and Wellness:
Do you have access to the healthcare you need or do you need advice?

Personal Finance:
Do you have sufficient financial resources to fund your retirement?

Do you have access to the transportation you need?

Community and Social Interaction:
Are you part of a community and do you have the social interaction and access to entertainment you want?
These key questions must first be considered before seniors and their families commit to developing a plan for aging in place, and an honest assessment will often lead to enacting ongoing plans for protecting home safety and care. Besides helping seniors and families develop a plan for aging in place, NAICP also offers practical advice on matters related to housing, finances, health, transportation, education, and entertainment. Once a decision is made to age in place, ongoing planning will still be important, particularly in the areas of home modification and health care.

Aging in Place and Home Modifications

bathroom modificationsMost adults prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible, with 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 reporting that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age. But over time, a home may need to be modified in order to remain the best environment for aging, and increasing measures aimed at protecting against falls are a great place to start.

According to the Center for Disease Control, falls are the leading cause of injurious death among older adults, so when considering home modifications, begin with those offering fall prevention and protection. Examples include installing support fixtures in showers and bathrooms, adding railings on stairways, and removing trip hazards such as loose rugs or obstructed pathways. Even simple modifications such as these can increase the likelihood that a person can successfully age in place.

Other home modifications could include increased lighting or more accessible lighting switches, nonskid flooring, walk-in bathtubs and showers, sliding shelves, ramps, stairlifts, or home elevators. When considering modifications, remember that planning in this area is an ongoing process, and it may be necessary to do regular assessments to make adjustments that address changing needs.

Aging in Place and the Continuum of Care

Just as maintaining a safe home environment is an ongoing process for those who choose to age in place, so is addressing ongoing health care needs. The IPC/Senior Care of Colorado team is committed to serving patients across the continuum of care, which means that we work with patients, their family members, and other healthcare providers across a variety of settings to ensure continuity of care. Those who have chosen to age in place therefore have support in enacting a health plan that can be successful for them in their home environment.

IPC/Senior Care of Colorado providers are also committed to seeing patients in the setting that best suits their needs, whether that’s at conveniently-located outpatient clinics or at select skilled nursing, assisted living, and rehab centers. Providers also coordinate with the hospitalists (who are IPC hospitalist partners in some hospitals), specialists, and discharge planners. And research tells us that well-planned transitions between care settings—from a hospital, for example, back to a home environment—can be crucial in improving recovery and reducing the chance of hospital re-admittance.

Although aging in place requires ongoing planning, the time and effort put in allows seniors greater freedom to explore this stage in life and its joys, whether that includes inviting friends and family over or going out and discovering new ways to be involved in the community, with the assurance that a healthy home environment awaits upon return.

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