Most of us approach the change of seasons with anticipation, an eagerness to fully experience their unique qualities. However, in life, people either embrace or resist the changes that occur in which they have no control. This principle applies to the elderly population as well, specifically those who desire to live in their own home. Most of us have heard the phrase “ aging in place . ” But what exactly is meant by that term?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aging in place is defined as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level." There are many factors that contribute to the reasons for seniors to remain living at home. These include:
1.    Familiarity . Those who have lived in their home for many years find it difficult to move into an unfamiliar setting. They have wonderful memories of the meaningful experiences that have shaped who they are today. In addition, they are accustomed to the lifestyle, routines, and activities that provide purpose to their lives. Familiar venues and valued relationships in their immediate community are also important. It can be traumatic to part with the people and environment in that contribute to their overall well-being.

2.    Safety . When an elderly loved one feels safe in their own home, he or she is able to retain their independence without fear of falling or sustaining an accident. This is especially true when all necessary resources and measures are in place. These may include: grab bars in the bathroom, a shower chair or accessible kitchen cupboards and drawers. In essence, they are familiar with the layout of their home and free to engage in daily activities.

3.    Independence and Dignity . A person who has a reasonable degree of control and flexibility over their decisions is more likely to maintain a healthy sense of dignity and independence. Of course, the individual may have physical or cognitive impairments that limit their ability to do certain things without assistance. However, he or she feels more empowered to engage in activities within their home or community.

I have outlined only three reasons why seniors elect to remain living at home as long as possible. But there comes a time when he or she has to change their living arrangements. The person may no longer be able to exercise their once cherished independence. For instance, their mental and/or physical health has been compromised. They can no longer perform personal hygiene or household tasks without total assistance. They also may be a high safety risk due to frequent falls, memory loss or other areas of vulnerability. At this point, family members or a trusted friend need to intervene by exploring alternative living arrangements.

In next month’s newsletter, I will discuss important factors to consider when aging in place at home.