Studies tell us that the majority of people wish to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. This is a great option for many. Having the desire to remain at home is the first step, but it is important to realize that having a plan is a necessary next step to setting oneself up to age-in-place successfully. Giving consideration to the many needs of the home, your interactions inside the home and your interactions in the community, will get you on your way to identifying current and future needs. This will be the building blocks needed to start your plan, setting you up to be happy, healthy, safe and thriving at home.
Beyond desire, considering your finances must be a factor when deciding where to spend your later years. When weighing options, calculate the cost of remaining in your current home versus downsizing. Consider your home’s property taxes, maintenance costs, utilities, insurance and any mortgage debt.
Once you are secure in your financial position, the next step is to think through your current and future needs, essentially making a checklist for aging-in-place. The following are examples of things to consider when making your plan.
First, think through household needs. Maybe you’ve always been a “do-it-yourselfer,” but there will come a time when getting on that ladder will not be a good idea. Think of the needs of the home and if you are set up to have them taken care of. Do you know who to call if something goes wrong? What about the little, everyday things? Who would be able to come help with things such as lifting heavy items and reaching those hard-to-reach places? Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries to older Americans. With lifestyle adjustments and support services in place, many falls can be prevented.
Next focus on health and safety. Developing issues such as balance or knee problems may make it challenging to complete household chores. An in-home care provider can be a great resource to help with these needs. Take a look around the home, consider your daily activities and then make sure your home is age-in-place friendly. You may consider installing grab bars in the bathroom or changing the location of the laundry, for example. The need for a home health aide or home renovations is a consideration when looking at your finances.
Examine your social network. Do you have friends or family living close by? Do you belong to a peer group? If not, part of your plan should be to join at least one. Staying socially active has been proven to have major health benefits as we age. Connections with others can stave off depression and improve your overall health.
Finally, increase your awareness and access to services. Knowing what services are available locally and how to access them is important. The good news is, once you’ve identified your needs, you will find that there are many local free and low-cost services that are available to provide support. Learning about these services and making them a part of your plan early on will allow you to get a jump start on many of the areas you’ve identified as needing attention, and will allow them to be there to help you navigate your changing needs over time. With a little time spent planning and setting up support, you will be able to fulfill your desire to live and thrive in the home and community you love.
Sandra Faber is executive director for Monadnock at Home. She can be reached at (603) 371-0809, or visit monadnockathome.org.