Home: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Many older adults begin to ask themselves: Should I stay in my home or should I choose another place in which to age?

Whether it's the joy-filled memories or another allure, staying put is appealing for many. Research reveals that most seniors do want to age at home. According to one survey, ninety-four percent would like to continue to live in their own home, but only 28 percent have made a definite plan for where they will live as they age.

Planning is key, and everyone should feel empowered to create a plan of action. After all, we all want to age gracefully.

Let's better understand some of the issues of aging:

Mobility, Balance, Senses and Memory

  • Mobility. Conditions such as arthritis can impair mobility. Stairs that were once easy to navigate may now present a challenge. Many stairways only allow for one handrail. A slip can become all too easy.

  • Balance. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease and other chronic conditions increase the risk for balance problems as well as falls on slippery floors.

  • Eyesight. According to several studies, a 60-year-old needs about three times more light to see than a 20-year-old. Poor eyesight may lead to problems in the bathroom (with personal grooming and medication management) and in the bedroom (leading to tripping hazards).

  • Memory. It's estimated that at least half of adults over age 85 have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The effects of memory loss might make it difficult for an older adult to stay on a medication plan, remember to turn off stove burners or pay bills on time.

Facing aging issues does not mean that a move from home is on the horizon, though. Even if it is, there are plenty of other options today's seniors could pursue including independent living and continuing care communities.

Candid Conversations: Begin Today!

Candid conversations are the first step in answering the question of whether to stay or go.

"When it comes to talking about living options, it is best practice to start early," noted Home Instead Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate Lakelyn Hogan. "Talk to your adult children when you're in your 50s and 60s, rather than when the need arises," she said.

"Boomers will see their mom and dad struggle, and the situation brings to light that the home is not always a friendly place to age," explained Dan Bawden, who founded the national Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) program for the National Association of Home Builders in 2001. The program trains contractors, occupational therapists, physical therapists and other medical providers how to remodel homes for older adults. "So the sooner you have the talk, the better. It's good to let loved ones know you're thinking about them and have a plan in place. It's much like having a will. It's a blessing to families."

The best way to start is making the need for home modifications about somebody else," Bawden explained. "For example, 'A friend from church is having similar problems at home. Let me tell you what happened to her. The family didn't have a plan to install any safety features. The wife slipped in the tub and broke her hip. She really regretted not putting in grab rails sooner. It was an expensive mistake. I was thinking we should do some of these things in our home to prevent an accident like that from happening. If you'd like, Dad, we can bring in an occupational therapist or CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) professional, who could assess your home to identify the barriers or danger points.' I use this 'making it about others' technique with my Boomer clients who are interested in remodeling their homes. Storytelling with examples is a great way to start the conversation."

Source: “Home: Should I Stay or Should I Go? Plan for Where You Want to Age.” Caregiver Stress, www.caregiverstress.com/senior-housing/home-your-own-way/home-should-stay-should-go/.