The aging process can be full of happiness, joy, and enjoyable new experiences. However, it’s also a process that can involve many complex changes and new challenges—such as memory issues, like dementia.
To help make this process smoother—and experience less unnecessary changes—more older people are choosing to age in place. There are two primary ways to do this:
- Aging in place at home: This allows the older person to continue to live in their already-established home.
- Aging in place at an assisted living community: This option involves an older person establishing a new home in an assisted living or memory care community. They can then stay for an extended period of time and accordingly adjust their long-term care plan.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for all older people. Each aging in place option has its own unique pros and cons. We’ll examine them all here to help you make the right choice for yourself or your loved one.
Aging in Place at Home
Over 75 percent of Americans above the age of 50 would prefer to stay in their own homes as they age, and it’s easy to understand why. There are several valuable pros that make this option appealing to so many.
- Comfort and familiarity: Staying in a comfortable, familiar, well-loved place can help ease any uncertainty or fears about aging.
- Established routines: From when you wake to what you eat, being in control of your daily pattern brings a sense of independence.
- Convenience: Staying in your own home allows you to avoid the hassle of packing, downsizing, and movers.
Unfortunately, aging in place at home also brings its fair share of difficulties, which often significantly outweigh the pros.
- Managing a home can be difficult and dangerous: Routine home maintenance, lawn care, and domestic chores can become more difficult as our bodies age. Not too mention, when living alone, seniors may overextend themselves to keep up with the needs of a home and risk injury. (Think cleaning the gutters and losing balance on a ladder).
- Strangers may routinely need to enter. Cleaners, repairmen, and health professionals may need to routinely enter your home, which can be unsettling—especially to those with cognitive issues.
- Health issues may go unnoticed. Older people are at risk for multiple health issues, some of which are hard to self-observe, such as Alzheimer’s.
- Isolation is a serious threat. Sadly, one-in-three older people face loneliness, which can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. As it gets harder to drive or leave home, the risk of isolation becomes greater.
The Benefits of Aging in Place in an Assisted Living Community
Aging in place in an assisted living community can help you avoid most of the cons of staying at home. Not only that, but it can also provide additional benefits.
- The tight-knit community combats loneliness: Finding new friends in your fellow community residents is a wonderful way to stave off loneliness. This is especially true for “Solo Agers.” Nearby neighbors and shared amenities offer a low-pressure way for residents to make new acquaintances, i.e., by sharing a cup of coffee in the cafe, inviting someone to a card game, or working together on a project. These social interactions are encouraged by the staff and can blossom into fulfilling relationships and connections for seniors.
- Enjoy hosting without the hassle: Assisted living communities offer you the chance to host family and friends with no extra work. No cleaning, cooking, washing linens, or worrying required! Residents can invite folks over to their apartments but also enjoy large shared living spaces like dining areas, living rooms, games rooms, etc. You can also have overnight guests that stay in hotel-style rooms just down the hall from your apartment. Learn more about the joys of hosting at assisted living in our blog post!
- Keep your current passions and discover new hobbies: Unlike aging in place at home, the staff at a senior community can ensure that you’re able to continue your cherished hobbies. They’ll take the time to get to know residents so they can help them find creative ways to continue with their favorite activities and offer the resources and assistance to find potential new hobbies, as well.
- Less work and maintenance, more enjoyment: Maintaining a home can be a lot of work, from chores to cleaning to grocery shopping and cooking. For older adults, it can equate to an exhausting full-time job. An assisted living community will take most of those items off the to-do list. Residents will enjoy delicious and nutritious meals, regular housekeeping, and maintenance-free apartments, which leaves more time for leisure and relaxation.
- Care can increase without significant changes: At somewhere like Vineyard Bluffton, it’s possible to start with minimal daily assistance. As such, residents can maintain their independence and regular routines, just receiving help where they need it. You can then progress to more intensive care without ever having to leave your home, even including memory care.
- Access to healthcare experts: Since a team of health professionals are always on-site, it’s far easier to notice any new symptoms or health issues. This can allow an older person to get faster treatment, or even help prevent some conditions from progressing as quickly.
- Reduced risk of injury: Since senior communities are designed with safety in mind, it’s less likely for an older person to suffer an injury.
- No need to move or transition: If hospice services are ever required, Vineyard allows for them to come into your living space. Not only that, but you can continue to enjoy the amenities, perks, and safety of your familiar community. No extra moving required.Our team will also be happy to assist you in getting connected with these services.
While there are many advantages to aging in place in an assisted living community, there are a few potential issues as well. However, we’ve added solutions to these hesitations that turn them into pros!
- May feel a lack of independence. For some, moving out of their own home and into a new community may feel like they are losing their independence. However, these communities can actually help older people live more fulfilling, active lives. Whether it’s you or your loved one, be communicative with the staff at your community about what’s important to you. If your Dad wants to go to their favorite barber for a weekly shave, explain that ritual and that you’d like to continue.
- You think it’s too expensive: The potentially high costs of assisted living can be a deterrent for many. However, since this includes all living expenses, food, activities, and transport, it can actually be less expensive than remaining at home. Don’t forget that the costs of a community are all-inclusive. What’s more, staying at home and receiving health-care or assistance can be an expensive future cost to incur.
- It is a major change: Even if it’s a positive change, any change can be difficult to process—or even scary. It’s important to acknowledge any fears, and if you’re caring for a loved one, approach the topic compassionately. Remember that moving into a senior community is just one initial hurdle and that while challenging, it will provide a happy and healthy future existence.
Our senior board member, Dr. Evelyn C. Granieri, explains how to start the conversation with your loved one.
Aging in Place Can Be a Wonderful Experience
Whether aging in place at home or an assisted living community, the experience can be rewarding, fulfilling, and positive. Keep in mind the benefits and drawbacks and how each would affect your or your loved one’s ideal lifestyle. With that knowledge in hand, you can be confident you’re making the right choice for you or your loved one.