10 Steps That Make Aging in Place a Reality

Experts weigh in

Seniors hugging on front porch
Most people want to age in place on their own terms. But can they? Our experts weigh in. Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy United

Most of us want to age-in-place. But can we really? Ten experts share how to make aging in place a reality.

Affordable, accessible and well-located housing affects the quality of life for all ages, but it’s most significant for older adults. In a report released by The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and AARP, it claims that the three key points are the cornerstone to comfort and security.

Housing is the single largest item in most budgets and its costs and expenses directly influence financial security. The home’s location and accessibility are essential to health and safety, to stores, services, and transportation. Without the three components, older adults may experience inactive, nonproductive, and isolated lives. If an individual lives with a disability or chronic disease, they will suffer since local supports and services could be difficult to find and access.

But it’s a personal choice. The subjective issues that affect an older person’s capability to remain independent and to thrive depend on their health and financial status. Besides, it is up to individuals and their loved ones to know for certain if their current home will allow them to age-in-place. That’s why it’s important to start early when assessing your preferences, the readiness of the home, and the community it’s located.

Seniors must ask, “Will this home support me as I get older?”

Seniorcare.com understands that the home is the tie that grounds us to our family, friends, and community. But we also understand the dilemma and challenges that seniors face when growing older. That’s why we asked aging experts:

“What simple things can people do to make their homes safer for living at home for as long as they can?”

Rein Tideiksaar - Numerous safety and fall hazards exist in everyone’s homes. Elders won’t modify every hazard. What needs fixing is determined not so much by specific hazards, but by observing the elder’s ability to maneuver (walk and transfer) safely in their home. For example, extra handrail support becomes a priority if the elder has balance loss climbing stairs. 

Alex Chamberlain - Get some help today with tasks that is difficult for you. This applies at any age! We've met a lot of people who have fallen off ladders or roofs doing home maintenance. It might be worth hiring someone instead. Also, keeping the home tidy, eating well and staying active will do a lot for your well-being in the long run...hire someone to help with those things!

Anthony Cirillo - Design for aging in place is a big field. And technology is emerging that will bring healthcare into the home. People should be buying homes with first floor bedrooms or converting a room in existing home. Also consider: Adequate lighting, non-slip floors, lowering cabinets to better levels and grab bars. All of these are in reach of the homeowner to do.

David Inns - While most people will think about physical space modifications, the most underutilized change is the simple use of technology.

  Adopting wearable or simple sensors can connect the older consumer with family, emergency support services, and detect falls, allowing family or caregivers to identify issues before they escalate and exacerbate.

Margo Rose - Living (and dying) at home will be more attainable when we embrace co-housing starting from younger ages.  Having enough privacy is important but living in isolation is not practical emotionally, financially, logistically and certainly medically. If we live with more connection and cooperation with one another even while we are young, we will make better use of our resources.

Kathy Birkett - Think of the future every time you make a change to a room. Every renovation should consider future need or ability to retrofit. Will your current decor choices work later? Can you select lever handle faucet now? Will adding more lighting options now save money later? Are studs in place for grab bars? Is this flooring safe if trouble with balance as I age? What fits in the budget now that might not later?

Ben Mandelbaum - Ensure easy access to a phone and emergency contact information, and have an emergency escape plan in place. Also, make sure to maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, install bathroom grab handles and nonskid mats, and follow proper room temperature safety precautions.

Donna Schempp - Use the assistive devices that are available to you--canes, walkers, hearing aids, etc.  Look critically at how you use your space and what changes would make it easier for you to maneuver in your house. Get an evaluation from a physical therapist.

Nancy Ruffner - Evaluate with two questions: What is your Long View (think five years or ten, physically, cognitively, financially)? Does your Tool (your home) fit you?  Have a professional walk through your home with a critical eye and teach you. Enable remedy or make the decision that your Tool may not serve you or your Long View.

Nancy Wurtzel My advice is to think ahead.  If you are buying a retirement home, for instance, make sure it is accessible.  Some people gravitate toward homes in the remote countryside, which seem like a good idea when you are still active and able.  However, there are real advantages to having neighbors, friends, and family close by.

Carol Marak, the elder orphan advocate, columnist, and editor at SeniorCare.com. She writes on crucial topics that older adults face at Aging Matters, Huffington Post, Advisor Magazine, Examiner.com and more. Carol earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from the University of CA, Davis.