This article was written by Cindy Gray, a registered nurse and a certified dementia practitioner, and the owner and administrator of ComForCare Greater Orlando.
Aging in Place:
What this means for the aging population and how to prepare for it
"Aging in place" has become the buzz phrase of the future. Baby boomers and Gen X'ers are finding themselves faced with planning for longterm living arrangements for their aging parents, if not for themselves. A vast majority prefer to age in place. The phrase is defined by the CDC as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level."
Although aging in place may mean you simply stay in the same community, most people consider it to mean you stay in your own home, in lieu of a healthcare environment. AARP reports that 87 percent of adults 65+ want to stay in their current environment. However, the desire to remain their current environment (i.e. aging in place) requires planning and forethought. The sooner you prepare, the more likely you will be able to age in place successfully and safely.
As you approach mature adulthood, you often make changes to your lifestyle and your home environment. This is the time to plan. Consider the potential health declines that you will experience over the next 20 to 30 years – your vision may decline, your strength may diminish, you may have trouble with balance and coordination, your hearing may become impaired, you will be at a high risk for falls, or you may require assistive devices to get around the house. Safety becomes a major concern.
Here are several things you can do to be prepared to age in place:
- Decrease any steps or stairs required to navigate your home
- Increase lighting throughout the house and install sensing nightlights
- Make sure light switches are near all doors, steps/stairs
- Position beds so they are close to lamp switches
- Eliminate the use of throw rugs; at a minimum ensure they are slip-resistant
- Elevate seating, i.e. toilet seats and chairs
- Install secure handrails and grab bars
- Install seating in showers/tub
- Purchase beds that are not too high off the ground
- Maintain communication devices so they are always working
- Make emergency contacts easily accessible
- Provide a lot of low storage, eliminate the need to reach or use step ladders
- Eliminate clutter, allowing for clear pathways
- Ensure smooth sidewalks and driveways
- Consider technology that can help keep you safe:
- Safe taxi services
- Grocery delivery services
- Personal emergency response systems
- Automated medication dispensers
- Hearing devices
- Software that keeps you connected to family
- Meal delivery services
These tips will make your environment a place to safely age. In addition to creating a safe environment, you may need personal assistance. Family and friends are the best means of providing this kind of care, but many times they are not available. Today you can find various resources to help you with personal care. There are many agencies, licensed by The Agency for Healthcare Administration in Florida, that can provide companions and home health aides to help with all your needs around the house. There really is no longer a reason why you can’t live your best life possible – and in your own home.
To learn more about how ComForCare Greater Orlando can help you live more independently, call us today!