After exploring what aging in place is and addressing the common concerns, do you feel that aging in place may be the right decision for you or your loved one? We’ve created a list of tips and steps to take to help you get started. For further insight, we’re turning once again to Liz Sudberry, Director of Client Experience at TheKey of Ohio, the largest premium provider of in-home care in North America.
1. Start Early
You can’t simply decide to age in place one week and carry out your plan the next. The decision and planning process to age in place takes time. So, it’s important to start planning as early as possible. Best case scenario? The moment you start saving for retirement, you also start creating your post-retirement plan. But for many people, that’s not reality. So, Sudberry recommends starting to plan for aging in place around the time that “you start realizing [you’re] at the top of your professional career [probably in your 50s], probably making the most money that you've made so far in life, and then you are downsizing and you're empty-nesting, and now you're able to save more. It gives you a great idea of what that is going to get you for an extended period of time.” Beyond that, she says it’s especially important to make a plan and communicate that plan before you experience any kind of cognitive decline.
2. See a Financial Planner
While you may be saving money on housing by not living in a nursing facility, you do need to consider the costs associated with bringing in help to the home. In order to properly plan out the financial aspect of aging in place, Sudberry says talking with a financial planner is an absolute necessity. “The best thing to do is get the knowledge and get a plan in place,” she says. If you already have a financial planner, stick with them, as it’s helpful to work with someone who’s familiar with your situation. If you’ve never worked with a financial planner, get recommendations from friends.
3. Choose Your Location
For many people, aging in place looks like staying in the home in which they’ve lived for years. But for others, it may mean moving to a new home that requires less upkeep or is more accessible, lessening concerns while still giving a person autonomy and choice over where they live. “I think aging in place is wherever you choose to live,” Sudberry says. “It can be defined, really, however you want to define it. It can be where you downsized. It can be a CCR where you decide, ‘This is where I'm going to age in place, and I'm going to go on their continuum.’ A lot of times what people decide to do is get closer to their children.” Sudberry notes that a great question to ask yourself when choosing your location is: “In my own home, will I be able to continue to connect with the world in a way that I need to, or do I need to go somewhere where it's built in?”
4. Keep Your Community
It can feel very isolating to live on your own as you age if you don’t have a good community surrounding you. “Isolation is very bad. It can lead to depression. It can lead to feeling not connected. Then it can lead to actual physical medical decline,” Sudberry says. When aging in place, she notes that it’s so important to stay connected to your social network and support system—like your church, your family, your friends, and your children. “It helps us live longer,” she says. “It's part of that whole package.” Connection is also a key confidence booster for seniors. If mobility or health issues keep you homebound, make sure you have a community of people who will regularly visit you at home.
5. Maintain Your Routines
“It's really important for people who are aging to continue their life rituals,” Sudberry says. “When we maintain a rhythm of life, a pattern, a routine, it actually helps people … feel this momentum, and this momentum keeps them going. And it makes them feel connected.” Continuing to pursue hobbies, make social plans, stay connected with family and friends, and care for your health and hygiene will make the transition from planning for aging in place to actually executing your plan much more seamless.
6. Prioritize Your Health
Hopefully, part of your routines involve exercise and eating well. If not, it’s never too late to start. Sudberry says that two-thirds of longevity is dependent on lifestyle, while only one-third is on genetics. Meaning? “No matter where you are in your life, you can make lifestyle changes that will impact your longevity,” she says. “Your brain basically runs your whole entire body. … Your brain has neuroplasticity and it has cognitive reserves.” This means that your brain and body always have the capacity for improvement. You may not be physically fit, but you can improve your physical fitness. Perhaps you haven’t been socializing since Covid, but you can improve your mental health by engaging in the community.
Sudberry also emphasizes that it’s important to go to your doctor regularly. “Healthy lifestyle isn't just about what you put in your mouth and what you do with your body. It's also about talking to the doctor … continuing to go to all of your doctors is really important.”
Helpful Resources to Help you Age in Place
Looking for additional resources as you explore the option of aging in place? Sudberry says a great place to start is finding your local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA). According to The Eldercare Locator, an AAA “is a public or private non-profit agency, designated by the state to address the needs and concerns of all older persons at the regional and local levels.” Beyond that, Sudberry notes that there are a ton of federal, state, and county resources available to seniors, and it can be helpful to do an internet search to find what is available in your specific community. The National Institute on Aging has additional resources, and the Rural Health Information Hub offers tips and resources for aging in place in rural communities.
Of course, you can also connect with a geriatric care manager who can help you find essential resources, or work with an organization like TheKey, which can customize services based on your needs, and connect you with other support as needed.
If you’re in the planning phase, Sudberry recommends this robust Aging in Place Planning Workbook. “It's so well organized and you can use little pieces of it or you can use all of it,” she says. You can also read articles and find resources to help you plan at aginginplace.org and ageinplace.com.