It is fitting that May, with its Spring rebirth in Nature, is also Older Americans Month. As the numbers of the “baby boomer” generation multiply each year, the visibility of older adults increases, and with it their desire to “age in place” or choose the setting in which they live out their senior years. Advances in technology, including SMART devices, artificial intelligence (AI), and the creation of communities dedicated to “over age 55 years” or continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are helping to make aging in place a reality for many older adults. Medicaid, which provides health services for many low-income older adults, also supports some of the new technology and has programs to keep older adults in their homes, when this is safe, reducing health disparities and the need to uproot older adults and their families.
Recent literature has found that the built environment is an important consideration before the social environment (Choi, 2022). Housing, outdoor spaces, transportation and high-quality healthcare have been reported as significant factors for the older adult aging in place. Social support in an age friendly community is a pillar to aging well in place. The author Brené Brown speaks about the importance of human connection and how this strengthens communities. Older adults with meaningful connections can improve their quality of life.
“Some novel ideas for aging in place include senior co-housing where a group of like-minded seniors who want to live in a private home but desire the benefit of community living, come together to purchase, or rent a home with private living spaces but other shared responsibilities for home upkeep; some of these are also intergenerational."
Some novel ideas for aging in place include senior co-housing where a group of like-minded seniors who want to live in a private home but desire the benefit of community living, come together to purchase, or rent a home with private living spaces but other shared responsibilities for home upkeep; some of these are also intergenerational. Home-sharing occurs when an older adult homeowner rents out a living space to another senior or a younger person for reduced rent in exchange for duties such as shopping, cooking, or even caregiving. Recent advances in healthcare also favor frail older adults aging in place through House Calls programs which deliver ongoing primary health care at home for those with difficulty getting to a primary care office. The Hospital at Home program triages older adults in the emergency department for eligibility for episodic, intense medical care in the home setting; if eligible, the patient is sent home and a team of acute care professionals are dispatched to provide care at home. When the acute issue is resolved, the patient is discharged from the program back to the care of the primary care provider. Other programs that support aging in place for frail older adults include palliative care and hospice at home.
As we honor Older Americans this month and our steps into Spring, perhaps this is a good time for reflection. Think about what matters to you if you seek to age in place. Visualize what this looks like to you. Listen to the birds, chirp, the flowers bloom, the sun shining in, a good morning, a shared meal, or good night said. Let your aging wish come true.
Submitted by Dr. Debbie Williams and Dr. Lori Martin-Plank, Wildcat Interdisciplinary Geroscience Group (WIGG)
Choi. (2022). Understanding Aging in Place: Home and Community Features, Perceived Age-Friendliness of Community, and Intention Toward Aging in Place. The Gerontologist, 62(1), 46–55. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnab070