Can I Age in Place?

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July 6, 2023 •  The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC
As with anything in life, our individual preferences and circumstances will vary. Some may want to ‘age in place,’ while others may need to consider other housing options.
Robert W. Haley, managing lawyer
Robert W. Haley
Certified Elder Law Attorney® Robert W. Haley brings over 27 years of legal expertise and knowledge to his firm, which concentrates solely on the areas of elder law, estate planning (Last Will & Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Trusts, etc.,.) Asset Protection/Medicaid Planning and fiduciary services. For many years, Robert practiced in real estate law, and in general practice, but decided to narrow his focus to elder law and estate planning when he realized the tremendous need for proper planning to be filled in Southside Virginia.

The ability to age in place — or live in your own home or community as you age — is based on health, home accessibility, social support, and financial considerations. Therefore, it’s important to carefully assess your unique situation and make informed decisions about aging in place or other housing options in Lynchburg, based on specific needs and circumstances.

A report from the University of Michigan cited in Seasons’ article entitled “Pandemic has made seniors more confident about aging in place, study reports”  found that only 15% of seniors had given home modification much consideration.

However, it’s a good idea for families to use this time to plan ahead for either aging in place or choosing other housing options based on the choice of the senior and key considerations. It’s important to center seniors in the decision-making process and talk to them about their needs early.

“A portion of seniors are aging in place but are also stuck in place. They don’t have the financial resources to help them move or relocate or downsize, or they cannot afford to live in the nursing homes.”

Kiplinger’s recent article, “Six Key Housing Factors to Consider as You Age,” advises that where you live when you retire takes advanced planning and is a key element to maintaining dignity through the aging process.  As you weigh intentional aging in place vs. moving for either yourself or an aging loved one, here are several key considerations and questions to consider:

Housing:

  • Can you easily move around inside and leave your home?
  • What home modifications can you make now, so your home can continue to meet your needs as you get older?
  • Do you have a bedroom and bathroom available on the ground floor?
  • Is it more sensible to downgrade to a smaller home or move in with family?

Unfortunately, most of our homes weren’t built with the needs of aging seniors in mind. Safety and accessibility become more critical as you get older. Home modifications like removing tripping hazards, installing grab bars, widening doorways, and adding ramps are just a few things you may require for intentional aging in place. If you are considering moving, look for a home designed to accommodate your current and potential future mobility and accessibility needs.

Transportation:

  • How can you meet your transportation needs? What if there’s an emergency?

Some seniors need to give up driving for their safety and the safety of others. Whether you’re intentionally aging in place or moving, consider the availability of public transportation, rides from family and friends, the walkability of the neighborhood, proximity to essential services such as grocery stores and access to transportation alternatives.

Support Network:

  • Do you have a network of friends and family?
  • Are you willing to have additional caregivers come into the home to help you?
  • What tasks would I be most comfortable with them doing?

Social isolation is detrimental to your health. Intentional aging in place requires developing and expanding your network of family, friends, neighbors and community resources like social clubs, senior centers and religious communities. If you plan to move, look at the availability of social support networks in the new location.

Healthcare:

  • Do you have access to healthcare?

Heathcare is crucial for older adults. Look at the proximity and availability of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, clinics, rehab facilities and pharmacies. If you’re moving, research the healthcare services available under your insurance plan to ensure that you can continue to access your plan or find out if you will need new insurance and doctors.

  • Can someone help you if you lose your physical or cognitive capacity?

It’s essential to consider both your current and potential future care needs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 70% of adults 65 and older will need long-term care in their lifetime, with men typically needing 2.2 years of care and women requiring 3.7 years. In addition, intentional aging in place may require additional support for activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, dressing and meal preparation. If you choose to age in place or move, research the availability of Meals on Wheels, home maintenance services, healthcare providers, home healthcare services, family caregivers, long-term care services and senior living communities.

Finances:

  • How are your finances?

Carefully assess your financial situation when deciding whether to age in place or move. Think about the cost of home modifications, property taxes, maintenance costs and potential changes in your financial situation, such as increased healthcare and long-term care costs. If you’re moving, research the cost of living in the new area, including housing costs, taxes and home care costs.

Emotional Wellbeing:

  • What are some anxieties you have about living alone? How can you get more comfortable with the idea?
  • What other concerns do you have that should be addressed now?

Working with Elder Law Attorney Robert W. Haley can help you plan for your own aging in place or that of your aging loved one to ensure that you keep the lines of communication open and plan for the best possible situation that considers home accessibility, social support, healthcare access, transportation, financial considerations and personal health and care needs. What a senior was comfortable with at one point may not be the same as they lose their abilities.  Be sure to consider estate planning, advance care directives and long-term care insurance. Read more in our article, What are the Most Important Estate Planning Documents for Seniors?

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