Is Your Home Appropriate for Aging in Place? A Comprehensive Guide

As the aging population in America continues to grow, more and more older adults express a desire to remain in their own homes as they age. AARP’s 2021 Home and Community Preferences survey found that over three-quarters (77%) of adult homeowners age 50 and older want to remain in their homes as they age. This concept, known as aging in place, is appealing for its familiarity and sense of independence, but ensuring that a home is suitable for aging in place requires careful consideration and planning.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the factors involved in determining whether a home is appropriate for aging in place. However, if you find out that the home is NOT appropriate, we also give you options for what you can do if you or a loved one needs to move into a senior living community, such as St. Andrew’s.

Understanding the Risks of Aging at Home

While the majority of individuals aged 65 and older express a desire to age in place, over one-third acknowledge that their current home is not equipped to support this goal. This poses significant risks, particularly in terms of falls, access to necessary medical care, and more. Chief among these issues is social isolation.

Isolation among older people can lead to a host of issues, as detailed in a case study led by Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative care medicine at Northwell Health. Seniors who live alone may find themselves unable to access essential medical care as they age and decline, potentially leading to mental health issues, preventable medical events, and hospitalizations.

Assessing the Home's Suitability

Does the existing home that a senior lives in safely support aging in place? Ensuring that a home is appropriate for aging in place involves a thorough assessment of its physical features and lifestyle considerations.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Entry

  • Is there at least one zero-step entry into the home? 
  • Is there room for a ramp if needed? 
  • Is there a covered entryway to protect from inclement weather?

2. Bathroom

  • Is there a bathroom on the main level? 
  • Is there a walk-in shower on the main level?
  • Are there grab bars in the shower and near the toilet?

3. Bedroom

  • Is there a main floor bedroom? 
  • If not, is there a main floor room that can be converted into a bedroom?

4. Kitchen

  • Are major appliances within easy reach, and do they include safety features? 
  • Are appliance handles reachable from a wheelchair or walker? 
  • Are cabinets within reach without the use of a step ladder?

5. Lighting

  • Do all areas have adequate lighting that eliminates shadows and dark corners? 
  • Are light switches easily reached?

6. Stairs

  • Are stairs required to access laundry rooms, bedrooms, or bathrooms? 
  • Are handrails and lighting adequate on the stairs? 
  • Does an electric stair lift need to be installed for safety?

7. Doors and Hallways

  • Can the hallways accommodate wheelchairs or walkers? 
  • Are doors wide enough to accommodate any assistive equipment? 
  • Do the doors use lever handles for easier access?

*Source: AARP 

Next, you need to ask if you or your senior loved one’s lifestyle supports successfully aging in place

Even if the physical structure of the home can accommodate aging, consider the availability of these essential features if the senior wants to age in place well:

  1. Is the neighborhood still a safe and comfortable place to live? 
  2. Is there access to transportation options if a person can no longer drive? 
  3. Is home maintenance and upkeep becoming more difficult? 
  4. Are there any nearby and accessible gym or fitness classes tailored for older adults
  5. Is it difficult to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy meals? 
  6. Are there still opportunities to meet new people and make friends? 
  7. Are there opportunities to attend activities and social events? 
  8. Is there any worry about becoming socially isolated? 
  9. Is there a need for help with activities of daily living?
  10. Do any disabilities affect capacity to achieve tasks?

Seeking Support Services

Achieving successful aging in place often requires support from caregivers, family members, and community services. Services such as in-home care, home modifications, and medical alert systems can enhance safety and well-being. It's essential to explore options such as long-term care insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare to help cover the costs of necessary services.

Planning for the Future

While aging in place may be feasible for some time, it's crucial to plan for the possibility of changes in health and mobility. This may involve downsizing to a more senior-friendly home or considering alternative housing options such as assisted living or nursing homes. By proactively addressing potential challenges, older adults can maintain their quality of life and independence as they age.

Consider Senior Living at St. Andrew’s

Aging in place offers many benefits, but it requires careful planning and consideration to ensure a safe and comfortable living environment. With the right resources and support, aging in place can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for older Americans across the country.

At St. Andrew's, we understand the importance of aging in place and are committed to supporting our residents in whatever journey they choose. From comprehensive care provider services to engaging activities and amenities, we provide the support and resources needed to thrive in every stage of life.

Learn more about our Senior Solutions and our other home health care services.

Contact us today to learn more about our communities and how we can help you or your loved one age in place with confidence.

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