Aging in place has become more prevalent, and some heavy hitters in the medical sector have taken note. In 2022 alone, Kaiser Permanente, Amazon, Walgreens Boots Alliance and CVS Health have all made forays into home healthcare with the understanding that the U.S. population is aging and the needs of the 65-and-over set are considerable. But aging in place is simply not for everyone.
Start with the fact that while nearly nine in 10 seniors would prefer to remain in their homes as long as possible, very few have prepared for that eventuality. According to the National Poll on Healthy Aging, just 15 percent of them had given it serious thought, while 47 percent had given it little or no consideration.
Preeti Malani, MD, who directed the poll and serves as an infectious disease professor at the University of Michigan’s Medical School, amplified that point in an April 2022 post on the website Michigantoday.com:
“Taking steps to understand what’s available in the community, through the national Eldercare Locator, the Area Agency on Aging that serves your region, nonprofit organizations, and other sources could help older adults be more prepared. Family members can help encourage older adults to find out what’s available, to invest in home improvements, and to aid them in installing safety devices and technologies that can help keep them aging in place. Think of it as a positive investment toward current safety and future independence – that can help older adults get past the temptation to put it off for another day.”
The website Easylivingfl.com drilled down further, offering 10 reasons why seniors might not be able to age in place, including an inability to care for oneself, an inability to manage a household, the danger of falls, and the possibility that a senior might not be able to adhere to one’s medication regimen.
Beyond that, there is the matter of social isolation, which can exacerbate afflictions such as Alzeheimer’s disease and heart disease, among others. The toll on mental health is also considerable, as was demonstrated in the early stages of the pandemic, when government-imposed lockdowns were often the order of the day at nursing homes.
In May 2021 Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, told the website Psycom.net that “robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase the risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators.“
Certainly there is ample reason for seniors to want to remain in their homes as long as possible, and AARP reported in 2021 that 75 percent of Americans over 50 would prefer to do just that. Aging in place means that seniors can remain independent and maintain a sense of community and familiarity.
But again, it’s just not that simple. Seniors and their loved ones would do well to consider the entire picture and weigh every factor before deciding to hunker down.