Senior Safety: A Guide to Aging in Place (The Right Way)

July 10, 2017

By: Guest blogger Arar Han, Aging Specialist

Aging is inevitable, and yet we all try to put it off for as long as possible. Everyone’s body and mind are constantly changing, and at a certain point we may not be able to live on our own as easily as we used to. Are you planning to “age in place”—i.e., grow older in your current home? Read on for our tips on aging in place the right way.

1. Consider “aging-friendly” home modifications

Did you know that 75% of older adult falls take place inside or near the home? As you grow older, make sure there is adequate lighting throughout your entire house. Adding motion sensor lights at entrance ways, staircases, and hallways makes moving around at night more visible. Adequate lighting between your bedroom and bathroom is also important as many older adults may require frequent trips to the bathroom during the nighttime. And building grab bars/handrails in parts of your home that have uneven levels can provide crucial support as you age.

Not quite ready to modify your home? Start by taking an action you can do today and engage in some “spring cleaning.” Storing or throwing out clutter makes it easier to move around and reduces your risk of falling. Learn more about common home modification tips in NCOA’s Falls Prevention guide.

If you worry about falling, are unsteady on your feet or have fallen in the past 30 days, consider take these 6 steps to prevent falls.

2. Learn more about preventive healthcare

Another important factor in “aging in place” is being able to remain relatively healthy and independent. According to the CDC, about half of all American adults have one or more chronic conditions (such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Even worse, around 70% of Americans die from chronic diseases and conditions each year–many of which are preventable.

Focusing on preventing diseases before they occur allows people of all ages to live healthier and happier lives. Take advantage of Medicare’s preventive benefits, which include a Welcome to Medicare Physical, an Annual Wellness Visit, free obesity counseling, and regular health screenings and vaccinations for various medical issues. If you aren’t signed up for Medicare yet, you can use the Medicare Questionnaire tool to find the best plan for your needs.

Did you know that making small adjustments to your eating habits can improve and/or maintain your health for years to come? For instance, some foods can help prevent and diminish chronic conditions, illness, and strengthen immune systems. Remember to stay hydrated, and try to eat foods rich in vitamins B12 and D, calcium, potassium, fiber, and omega-3 fats, among other nutrients. Research also shows that some foods can affect your brain and mood, so pay close attention to what you put into your body. Remember to also seek guidance from your primary care physician about your nutritional health.

3. Talk with your doctor and loved ones

It is crucial that you consult your loved ones and/or caregivers before deciding to age in place. Although you will make the final decision on what is the best place for you to safely age, having a support system in place will make the process a lot easier. The implications of staying in your home may mean that your family must take on additional responsibilities with assisting you in the future. These tasks can be as simple as calling to check in on you and coming to spend time together, or more active tasks such as driving you to run errands, picking up personal items, or helping you cook meals.

Your loved ones will be your biggest advocate if anything should happen to you, so consider making them your authorized representative in the future. This representative will be able to act in your best interest for any personal matters from health to legal decisions. Your doctor can also be a valuable resource for you, but you have to be willing to share your health concerns in order to be diagnosed and treated. You can learn more about strategies for communicating with your doctor from the National Institute on Aging’s “Talking with your doctor” guide.

Additionally, many older adults are considered “house rich but cash poor,” so you may want to think about using your home to increase your income. Explore how to use your home equity wisely, and learn what other community living options may be available.