The COVID pandemic has shifted attitudes about aging in place in a major way. It’s prompting many of us to think long-term about what we want our futures to look like. Is assisted living in the cards, or would we rather stay in our homes as we grow old? For most of us, staying put for as long as possible is the objective. Studies show that supported aging in place can have significant benefits to mental and physical health. Remaining at home fosters a sense of connection and contributes to our emotional and financial well-being. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of aging in place.
Staying in Community
When seniors are removed from their communities and social networks to enter long-term care or assisted living, they may suffer from the loss of connection. Making new friends in a completely new setting can be stressful and challenging as we age. Aging in place allows us to preserve valuable support systems. It protects ties with longtime friends and neighbors. It maintains connections with others in our communities– from librarians to the grocery store and pharmacy employees to mail carriers– who provide valuable daily contacts. These community connections can even include cherished pets who may not be allowed in an assisted living setting.
Think about the routines and activities that are most meaningful in your life. Now think about losing them as you grow old. This can include everything from sports and exercise to volunteering. Our routines give us a healthy sense of purpose. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, civic engagement and volunteering can reduce mortality, boost physical health, reduce symptoms of depression and pain and even increase life expectancy. Community-centered routines keep us active and engaged as we age.
A sense of self-determination is invaluable for seniors. Having choices and control of your life has enormous mental health benefits. Aging in place allows us to maintain agency and a sense of controlling our own destiny, even if we eventually need support down the road. Losing this sense of agency can lead to depression and adverse health outcomes.
Cost Savings: Long-term care is expensive
When you crunch the numbers, supported aging in place, is usually dramatically cheaper than long-term care. Many seniors own their homes outright, so rent and mortgage expenses no longer come into play. Even with needed modifications and paid support, it’s still less expensive to live at home. According to the HUD report, the cost of non-institutional long-term care is less than one-fifth of the cost of nursing home care. And since long-term care is often covered out of pocket, this means enormous expenses for families. With thousands of dollars each month going to institutional long-term care, savings and inheritances can disappear in the blink of an eye. With smart choices and family support, aging in place can allow you to hold onto your assets and pass them on to the next generation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the problem of transmission of infectious illnesses in long-term care and assisted living facilities. According to recent analyses by leading publications, more than 40 percent of COVID deaths in the U.S. occur in long-term care facilities. Families are prevented from visiting loved ones because of infection risk, leading to even greater isolation and despair. Many nursing homes are doing an excellent job of protecting residents. But even with best efforts, there’s automatically heightened risk for seniors living in close quarters. Even before COVID, the medical community recognized the dangers of infection from norovirus to the flu in a vulnerable population. The decision to age in place allows seniors and families to make the best decisions with full control.
Supported Aging in Place: The Benefits Are Clear
Now more than ever, setting a goal to age in place makes sense. This usually means making changes to our home’s layout and shifting how we live in it. But when we look at the institutional alternatives, the advantages are clear. Many of us have watched friends and loved ones struggle with navigating assisted living settings and have decided that it’s not what we want for ourselves. The good news is there are more resources than ever for setting up a plan to stay in your home. HomeSpan helps homeowners get an accurate, unbiased picture of what aging in place will look like in your current home. We’ll help you make a plan now, with realistic financial projections, to take the guesswork out of the process in the long term. If aging in place is your goal, there’s no time like the present to start making plans.