The Dark Side of Aging in PlaceThe Dark Side of Aging in Place

Seniors have a wide variety of opinions on a lot of issues, but there’s one thing the vast majority of them agree on: they want to stay in their homes as they age. 87% of seniors have expressed their desire to age in place.

That option is more within reach for today’s seniors than it’s ever been before due to companies offering in-home care and a growing list of delivery services for groceries and just about anything else you could need. Even so, for some seniors aging in place turns out to cause more problems than they anticipated and becomes more limiting on their freedom and happiness than a move to assisted living would be.

5 Ways Aging in Place Can Become Harmful

Before you decide with 100% certainty that you’re going to stay in your home for the rest of your life, consider the risks that sometimes come with aging in place.

When mobility issues come into play, seniors start to be stuck.

Many seniors face health issues that make it harder to leave the house on their own. If you get around using a wheelchair or have to carry an oxygen tank with you everywhere you go, heading out to meet friends at a restaurant or go for a walk in the neighborhood becomes a much more difficult task to manage.

Researchers estimate that over 2 million people over 65 are housebound – rarely or never leaving their own homes. That accounts for a larger portion of seniors than those that live in nursing homes. By trying to avoid moving to an institution they worry will be less their own than their home, seniors are essentially confining themselves to home residences and facing all the consequences that come with never getting out of the house.

Your social world shrinks.

Even for seniors that do get out sometimes, living at home usually means you watch your social circle little by little get smaller. As loved ones die or move away, if you’re not proactive in building new social connections (something 55+ communities and assisted living homes make easy), you’ll find yourself increasingly lonely. And senior loneliness is dangerous. It contributes to a range of health issues, in addition to negatively affecting your quality of life.

Cooking, cleaning, and bathing become difficult.

All those health issues that make leaving the house harder make keeping house harder as well. Tasks that used to be simple, like making dinner, getting in and out of the bathtub, and sweeping and mopping require energy and mobility that you’ll increasingly find you just don’t have.

You can hire someone to help with some of those tasks, but many seniors will find it more and more difficult over time to keep the house in a state they like living in, make sure they get enough meals made each day, and keep up with their personal hygiene. That’s all made worse if you also have a hard time ever getting out of the house – you’re stuck in a dirty house with nowhere to go and not enough to eat.

Depression is common in homebound seniors.

Perhaps by this point in the post, you won’t be surprised to hear that senior depression is common in seniors that age in place. Nearly 60% of all homebound seniors and about a third of those that are semi-homebound deal with depression. Being depressed makes it that much harder to get out of the house or do the various necessary tasks of taking care of yourself, which creates a cycle where it’s that much harder for seniors living at home to deal with the various difficulties they face.

Basic safety is a concern.

On top of everything else, seniors that live alone are likely to face much bigger consequences if they have a fall or experience a medical emergency like a stroke or heart attack. Without someone around to know whenever an emergency occurs and make sure the proper authorities are called while time is of the essence, injuries and medical emergencies can have far worse effects.

When It’s Time to Consider Assisted Living

Assisted living offers a solution to a lot of these problems. You have a built-in social community with all the other seniors that live there. You have people taking care of things like meals and helping out with ADLs. And you’ll always have someone around to notice when an emergency occurs and call for help.

If you or a loved one is starting to realize that the dream of aging in place has turned into a nightmare, then start looking into your local assisted living options. Better to be safe and comfortable somewhere new, than depressed and at risk in your old home.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

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