Most older adults would like to stay in their own home for the rest of their lives. In fact, 89 percent of those polled (AARP) said that is what they want. Being in familiar surroundings among family and friends is certainly appealing. While you are healthy and active, there is generally no reason to consider moving — or is there? People can now reasonably expect to live into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. The reality is that the aging process will cause a decline in mobility, strength, balance, vision, and hearing to some degree. There is also a far greater chance of accidental injury and illness — both physical and mental.
Let’s be pro-active instead of reactive. Let’s think about what happens when you are unsteady going up or down stairs. What happens when it becomes difficult to drive yourself? How will you feel when you increasingly have to depend on other people to do things for you that you used to be able to do yourself — mow the grass, shovel the drive, fix your own meals? What will you do if a spouse dies, or a fall, stroke, or heart attack suddenly makes it so you cannot live in your home?
It makes sense to think ahead and start considering various options as you contemplate how and where you would like to live as you grow older. Following are some of the most important things to consider.
- Physical health — Do you have family nearby that can help in an emergency? If you should require a hospital stay, is there someone that can take carhttp://manager-legacy.agilitycms.com/content/legacyinputform.aspx?website=Healthy%20Cells%20Magazine&contentViewID=243&itemContainerID=23367&contentItemID=89802&languageCode=en-us#e of you when you get home? How about exercise?
- Mental health — Do not underestimate the importance of social activities and friends. As you get older, your friends may not be around anymore or they may not be able to do the activities that you once enjoyed doing. With the winter months ahead, it can be hard to get outside, and many seniors find themselves spending day after day doing little more than watching TV, rather than engaging in hobbies or exploring new activities and experiences.
- Everyday tasks — Are ordinary chores such as vacuuming, doing laundry, raking leaves, taking out the garbage, reaching things up high, etc. becoming a challenge? While you can hire someone to do these things, they won’t be done on your schedule.
Safety — Do you feel safe in your home, or do you worry about crime or vandalism — especially if your neighborhood has changed or you live in a rural area?
- Driving — When you no longer feel comfortable behind the wheel, if you’ve had some “close calls,” if your vision becomes impaired — how will you get places? Most seniors do not want to be a burden to family and friends and public transportation may or may not be an option.
- Meals — Many health problems are caused by poor nutrition. It can be difficult to cook for one or two people, and it’s often hard to get to the store for fresh produce and healthy ingredients. Meals are often skipped and the overall diet lacks many important nutrients.
- Home modifications — Will you need to make changes to your home for safety reasons? Sometimes very simple changes are all that’s necessary, such as a grab bar in the bathroom. Many homes require extensive remodeling, such as moving a laundry area to the main floor, widening doorways and halls, or installing ramps in place of stairs.
It’s difficult to think about the possibility of leaving a home that holds memories and treasured possessions. You may determine that you will be able to age in place, but start thinking about it now, before a crisis happens. No one wants to make such an important decision in a time of stress, and you don’t want to face the prospect of leaving your home at the same time that you’re facing a health emergency. Everyone is different and everyone’s situation is different, but it’s always wise to be in planning mode rather than panic mode.
For more information about senior living, you may contact Holly Hall, Senior Director of Marketing at Meadows Communities, 309-268-1501. Meadows Communities offers a full range of senior living options — Independent Living, Independent Living-Plus!, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing Care, Memory Care, Respite Care, and Achieve! Wellness and Rehab Therapy — with two locations: Meadows Mennonite Retirement Community in Chenoa and Meadows at Mercy Creek in Normal. Visit www.meadowscommunities.org to learn more.