As we recently celebrated America’s independence, I am reminded of the freedoms we all enjoy but sometimes don’t appreciate. For instance, we often sail through life thinking that the things we take for granted will always remain. Jobs, money, possessions, and health are only a few examples.

However, as we all grow older, one or more of these essentials of life can either be lost or compromised to varying degrees. The senior population is no exception. But one aspect of life that most seniors cherish is: independence.

According to research compiled by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), almost 90 percent of seniors desire to remain in their own homes as they age or “aging in place.” Of that sample, 82 percent prefer to stay in their home with daily assistance or ongoing health care, 9 percent prefer a long term care facility and only 4 percent desire living in a relative’s home. Why is there such a large disparity? There are four major issues that seniors consider important when deciding to remain in their own home. These are:  
  1. Familiarity with environment, lifestyle, and community. People who are accustomed to the same routines and activities generally have greater stability and peace of mind. They experience increased fulfillment and satisfaction in their interests and relationships.

  2. Safety. It is essential that family members and other caregivers provide a safe and stable environment to minimize the risk of falls and other accidents. The person is more confident in navigating their surroundings and accomplishing daily tasks.

  3. Dignity. This entails having increased control and flexibility over life decisions and overall lifestyle. The individual is more empowered to be more independent providing their physical and mental health is stable.

  4. Decreased isolation, loneliness, and stress associated with transition from hospital or healthcare facility. They are generally less anxious and fearful in familiar surroundings.

All of these factors promote greater independence and empower the person to pursue their goals.

So, what are some ways in which family and friends can encourage an elderly loved one to remain in their home as long as possible? My next newsletter will address some practical suggestions.