According to a recent report, Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices, almost 90% of those over the age of 65 want to stay in their current residencies as long as possible. However, it is up to communities, caregivers and loved ones to help ensure that seniors who age in place can thrive – not just survive.
What is Aging in Place?
For older adults, “aging in place” means continuing to live at home instead of moving to a nursing home or assisted living facility. To make this possible, a change in mindset is necessary for family members and the community as a whole.
When strong community and family support systems are in place, it allows for your loved one to remain at home, even if they are no longer able to perform certain tasks on their own. Such tasks may include driving, grocery shopping, or climbing up and down stairs to do laundry.
The Baby Boomers – the largest generation in history – is now of the age where they are considered senior citizens. Over 8,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. As those numbers grow, in order for seniors to age in place, they must have support from younger generations within their community.
Coming Together as a Community to Facilitate Aging in Place
Before seniors can age in place successfully, communities will need to improve upon the following issues:
- Transportation – As many seniors can no longer drive, additional transportation options need to be made available, especially in rural areas. National services such as Care.com provide car services for the elderly. State services such as California Department of Aging offer transportation to seniors so they can have access to the community.
- Land Use – Updated land use policies can enable seniors to live closer to the services they use the most. Also, incorporating joint use of community facilities can help seniors engage with the general community.
- Housing – Affordable housing and building standards that allow for accessibility of wheelchairs can help keep seniors in their homes and out of care facilities. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers “stay in your home” options for seniors such as reverse mortgages, housing counseling and rural housing loans.
- Opportunities for Exercise and Healthy Eating – Communities also need to provide safe and accessible areas for indoor and outdoor recreation and exercise for the elderly. Nutritious and healthy foods need to be available to seniors at affordable prices. Organizations such as Meals on Wheels help seniors get access to good nutrition in their homes.
Even if younger generations aren’t directly caring for a parent or grandparent at home, they can play a role in making sure seniors are comfortably aging in place. By taking part in community planning or advocating for social programs, they can help seniors stay in familiar, comfortable surroundings as they age.
Seniors and their contributions to society are a vital part of any community. When given the chance and the resources they need, it quickly becomes clear the value they bring to their families and the community as a whole.
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