There is a lot of talk these days about the premise of 'aging in place'. What is it and how or why do people choose this option?

What is "Aging in Place"?

Aging in place typically is defined as being able to live at home throughout the life changes that may occur and various stages of health care that is required till the end of your lifespan. What folks may not realize is that "home" may be the single family home that you lived in while married and raising children or a place that you chose to call home after downsizing or selling your home. Though many of us purchase that 3000 square foot home on a hill with 2 acres in a great school district because we envision ourselves living there for the rest of our lives, we tend to adore the upkeep and maintenance of this dream home less and less as the years go by. We may find ourselves saying "it seemed like a great idea at the time".

Options For Aging in Place

Whether you chose to age in place in that 3000 square foot home or in the home that you have now downsized to, the reality remains that some services may have to be brought in for one to maintain their level of independence, health and safety. These are the factors one must consider as this process continues. If you chose to stay in the 3000 square foot home, you will need to hire a housekeeper, a lawn care specialist, a trustworthy maintenance worker for upkeep to the home, and specialty services like HVAC, chimney sweep, exterminator, etc. You have a couple of downsizing options as well. First you could reside in a townhouse, condo or apartment community where many of the upkeep/maintenance costs mentioned would be eliminated. These communities are a mixed bag of single folks, married couples, new families starting out and some seniors.

Moving Into An Independent Living Community

Another option is moving into an independent living community. An independent living community is where folks that are aged 55 and older rent their apartment homes and also have some shared amenities like dining facilities, fitness centers, activity areas, and other amenities. Typically, a meal plan is provided (either included in the rental price or separately), some social activities, transportation and housekeeping services. Since the mindset is geared towards independence, no health care services are provided on property. However, the community managers usually have working relationships with several options for healthcare services such as skilled nursing, physical therapy, and personal care attendants. Most services that could be provided in an assisted living community can be brought in to your home, all the way up to hospice services. The difference is that when one is residing in assisted living communities, the cost can be much higher than the cost of having these services brought in ala carte. In a sense, you are paying for the convenience of having these services nearby, whether you use them or not. Many people are drawn to the independent living style, as it is more cost effective and for the socialization opportunities it provides.

There are many options to consider when thinking about the aging in place model. The key to making a choice, is to start the conversation early and to explore all of your options. Unfortunately, many people wait until after there has been a compelling factor such as a fall within the home, to start exploring other living alternatives. Safety and health are the most logical reasons to start a discussion on this topic. But you don’t want to wait until either have been jeopardized to begin thinking about it.

First published in Senior Living Guide June 2015. Republished with permission.

Written by Tina Fonteneau, who was Director of Sales and Marketing, Verena at the Reserve at the time this article was written and currently is Director of Sales and Marketing for Five Star Senior Living, Morningside, Newport News.

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