As people age and chronic conditions can make daily living increasingly challenging, it’s critical that seniors and caregivers have a plan for aging in place. Without that, unexpected changes can turn into catastrophic events, potentially leading to institutionalized long-term care.
“There’s a general lack of planning that goes into aging in place,” says Marty Bell, Executive Director of the National Aging in Place Council. “That’s why our organization is all about doing that planning. We interact and integrate with a whole range of other organizations to provide resources for people to develop a plan that will work in their lives.”
On its website, the organization provides a comprehensive planning document, which grew out of a 2013 gathering of leaders in 25 different areas of aging. “We wanted to bring together experts in the field, who could help us sort out the issues that are important to seniors and caregivers, and help them proactively plan with each issue that might arise,” Bell explains.
The group zeroed-in on five major areas of concern for people as they age and their caregivers:
- Health and wellness
- Personal finance
- Community and social interaction
“People need to take a detailed look at each one of these areas and determine what they need to do to age in place,” says Bell. “For example, in the area of housing, do you want to downsize to a smaller place, maybe a one-story place in a retirement community, or modify your current home to make it easier to navigate as you age? Then there’s transportation: If you don’t live in an urban area with accessible transportation, how will you get where you need to go if you decide it’s time to stop driving yourself? There are lots of new options in that area; it’s just a matter of finding them in your city or town.”.
Paul Adams, Senior Director of Product Management for Philips Lifeline, uses the term “accountability” when he talks about taking responsibility for both the health and wellness and financial stability that will allows a senior to age in place.
“It’s really a matter of looking in a mirror and realizing you have a choice about something as simple as getting regular exercise and living a healthy lifestyle,” says Adams. “The decisions you make will determine how much mobility you’ll have, both to move around in your own home and to go out into the community.”
In the same way, he notes that it’s important to take responsibility for your personal finances and, based on your own individual circumstances, take the necessary steps to ensure you can stay in a home of your own. “This kind of planning should obviously start earlier in life — perhaps in your 40s and 50s — and continue as you begin to look at options for aging in place,” he says.
He adds that Philips provides a range of monitoring and health maintenance systems that can follow people through the decades as their needs increase, allowing them to remain as independent as possible.
Embrace the Cultural Shift
Bell concludes, saying, “There are now thousands of new ideas out there for aging in place. And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to wield its influence, you’re going to see more and more exciting things happening. There’s a real cultural shift happening here — there’s no longer a stigma attached to aging. Think about it: Did you ever think a film like The Intern, where Robert DeNiro actually plays someone his own age, would be such a hit?”