On Wednesday, May 23, I attended the McDaniel College Center for Aging’s update on Aging in Place. Not surprising, the results of a recent survey given to those over 60 indicated that over 90 percent of the aging population (which is rapidly growing) wants to age in their own home.
The exciting news is that more and more services are available to those who wish to “Age In Place.” The reality is that most are unaware of those services which exist and how to find them. Another reality, those services are fee for service not covered by insurance or subsidies. And finally, what the survey did not ask, are you willing to do what it takes to actually have the possibility of successfully aging in place?
It seems that everyone wants in on this new catch-phrase and yet the number of people who are willing to make the lifestyle, health or economic changes to be successful pale in comparison.
So what does it require on your part to age in place? First, proper planning and setting reasonable expectations is essential. If you wish to age in place, you just can’t “wish” it, you have to be proactive. Assuming that your home is an appropriate setting and refusing to make the appropriate modifications if necessary will most certainly not achieve the desired result.
It is important to take a good objective look at your current living environment. Is it safe and accessible? You may not be the one to make that determination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “that rug is fine, it’s been there for 30 years and I’ve never had a problem.” You might not be shocked if you’re the child of a parent who has been putting up the good fight against change.
Ah, change. It’s the resistance to change that usually results in the change that we try so hard to control. We won’t change, we don’t need to change, we’re fine …
And then the crisis that brings us to the very thing we fear the most — dependence on others. If only we were hard-wired to roll with change and go with it before we are dragged there, things would be so much easier. But we aren’t, at least most of us.
So instead of putting some doubled-sided tape on the rug that slides under your feet or removing it, we say, “It’s fine.” Instead of moving to a home whether it be an apartment, accessible home or retirement community, we trudge up and down the steps with bad knees until we can’t and then it happens, the dreaded dependence.
Aging in place is entirely possible if you are open-minded and make a plan. If you think it’s just going to happen, you may be disappointed.
The survey, which asked if people wished to age in their homes, had some responses that indicated that they did not. Perhaps some of those people were realistic and knew that they must make a transition to a new home or living environment in order to age in place.
Planning cannot start too soon. What is it that you intend to do? Where do you intend to live? Is it accessible should the unexpected happen and you need to live on one floor with a full bath and all the things you need? Do you have doorways and a shower that can accommodate a wheelchair if needed for recovery from surgery?
If you want the best shot at continuing in your own home as you age, staving off chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes is important. Improving or staying healthy requires a healthy lifestyle and exercise.
It’s not too late to become motivated to get up and get moving. The single best thing you can do is exercise 30 minutes per day. Do something, walk, play pickle ball, garden, exercise in a chair, whatever it takes to keep yourself moving!
I can’t help but remember the back of a T-shirt on a man I was following while running in a race: “I’m running faster than the guy sitting on the sofa!”
So get out there and walk, run or raise you legs in a chair faster than the guy sitting on the sofa! Do what it takes to have a shot at the golden dream: Aging In Place.
Jill Rosner is a registered nurse, certified geriatric care manager and owner of Rosner Healthcare Navigation. She provides patient advocacy and care management services to clients with health and aging issues. Contact her at JillRosnerRN@aol.com