As older adults try their best to avoid falling ill with COVID-19 by abiding by public health guidelines, we are also weighing the pros and cons of aging at home and how that decision can help maintain our wellness and independence. Independence is vital for today’s older adults. According to a recent National Institute of Ageing (NIA)/TELUS Health Survey, “almost 100 percent of Canadians 65 years of age and older, report that they plan on supporting themselves to live safely and independently in their own home as long as possible.”
Aging in place is our number one choice for good reason. Canada’s National Research Council has implemented the Aging in Place Challenge Program, which supports a sustainable model for long‑term care by shifting the focus toward preventive home and community‑based care based on four pillars: safety, health, connections and standards.
Benefits of Aging in Place
The reasons for aging in place are more pressing than ever before. As an older adult, primarily confined to my home for the last 14 months, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of aging in place. I relish the space and the privacy and the independence. My husband and I have discovered that contactless curbside delivery of our weekly grocery order costs only $3.00 a week. Pharmaceuticals can be delivered to our door, as can many necessities. Moreover, when I consider the opposite, of living in a long-term care facility or a retirement home, I’ve discovered that these options bring a unique set of concerns that have to do with health, safety and the level of care. I’ve also learned about the array of available options for care and support available to me while aging in my own home.
Aging at home looks different for boomers than it did for previous generations. There’s an art to successfully aging in place that encourages a fresh interpretation of growing older. For one thing, boomers are living longer than any generation that came before it, so the benefits of aging in place endure longer.
Benefits of aging at home include:
Maintaining community connections:
We know that loneliness is a more significant predictor of longevity than smoking or exercise. Keeping close to family and friends as well as informal conversations with shopkeepers or service people in your neighbourhood fight isolation and depression.
Adapting the home to your needs:
Last month, the federal government introduced a tax rebate for older Canadians who renovate their homes to improve safety and mobility. Now you can deduct 10 percent of the cost of the renovations from your income tax. And as Forbes magazine points out, “some changes to the home are easy and fairly inexpensive. Knobs on doors and cabinets can be changed to levers. Rugs and other items can be removed to reduce the risk of tripping. Strong handrails can be put on stairs. Grab bars and chairs can be installed in showers and tubs. Interior lights can be brightened and equipped with motion detectors.”
More caregiving services available:
With the growing number of older Canadians interested in aging in place, the array of services that help you remain in your home are multiplying. I know of couples who arrange for a caregiver to come in twice a day, singles who have caregivers arrive three times a week and others who employ full-time caregivers. Each of these caregiver or companion services allows them to age at home with a rainbow of their needs and wants provided. Our computers and wearable devices offer an easy way to maintain contact with around-the-clock healthcare providers. In addition, entertainment may not be considered a service, but most of us enjoy watching TV and movies. These days, the variety of channels and streaming services and the ability to record programming to watch at our leisure means we have a vast choice of entertainment readily available without leaving home.
There’s no question that the tragic number of deaths in long-term care facilities across Canada is a wake-up call to many of us. Before the pandemic, I thought moving to a retirement home might be the way to age for me. I no longer believe that. And it’s not only the pandemic that has changed my opinion. The more I discover about the level of care in some facilities, the more I believe I could arrange for more reliable and expert care at home. I am learning that it might be advantageous for adult children if their parents age at home rather than facing the restrictive conditions in long-term care facilities.
Many older people wish to enjoy an independent life. They want their own schedule, not one imposed by a long-term care facility or retirement home. They enjoy cooking or having meals of their choice delivered. They relish inviting friends and family to visit. They count on the activities offered at local community centres. In my neighbourhood, some friends spend one or two full days each week at the local seniors’ centre. They play pickleball and bridge. They enroll in painting or language classes. They share lunch with others. It can be the highlight of the week, spending time with others your age – and an intelligent way to fight isolation and depression.
The reinvention of aging:
For the current generation of older Canadians, it’s essential to be free to continue a meaningful exploration of our life journey. We don’t expect our journey to be interrupted by living conditions that don’t promote self-expression or are so restricted we’re not able to be ourselves. Aging in place gives us the ability to stay in control of how we wish to age and needn’t limit the experiences we relish or new ones we long for.
How to successfully age in place?
To age in place successfully, make sure you have a four-pronged plan.
- Social Agenda: As you age, it’s important that you maintain your close connections with family and friends. Friendships increase feelings of belonging and happiness and are a valuable support system.
- Become comfortable with technology: Having a smartphone or tablet is a simple way to connected to your loved ones. They can be easy to use and are great for making video calls, playing virtual games or even placing orders online. You can also download your favourite app.
- Ensure your home accommodates your safety: Setup your home so it reduces the risk of accidents and falls. You can make easy modifications such as including non-slip floor surfaces, grab bars in bathrooms and easy to open door handles. Also keep emergency phone numbers and medical alert devices handy.
- Sound financial roadmap that will guide your way through the aging process: Keep on top of your investments and finances. Meet with a financial planner to ensure you’re budgeting for the future and setting aside funds for unexpected expenses. Also ensure you know all you need to about your RRSPs and RRIFs.
Each day make a point of reaching out to the people you care about. Phone calls, email, and different channels of social media are all great ways to keep in touch, even if right now, you can’t leave your home. Talk with the experts who can retrofit your home to keep you safe. Communicate openly with your spouse or partner, your adult children and a financial expert to set a realistic strategy in place so you can age in place with the options that suit your preferences.
Financial freedom for Aging in Place
If you’re thinking of successfully aging in place, a CHIP Reverse Mortgage can make that happen. If you are 55 years or older and own your own home, you can borrow up to 50% of the appraised value of your home’s equity. You never have to make a mortgage payment and you only pay what you owe when you move our or sell your house. It provides you with the funds you require to age securely and safely in your home on your terms. If you’re interested in finding out more about a reverse mortgage, the best place to start this journey is to visit chip.ca or call 1-866-522-2447.