There’s no place like home when it comes to growing old, but aging well means that older adults should feel safe, comfortable and independent.
Aging at home offers a consistent environment, lifestyle and community, and the vast majority of older adults prefer to stay at home during their Golden Years. However, between supporting physical and mental health, maintaining a home and property, organizing financial, legal and medical information and finding daily motivation and a sense of purpose, aging well at home is often easier said than done.
To help we’re highlighting 10 keys to aging well at home below.
1. Management of Chronic Condition
For older adults and their caregivers, it is essential to closely monitor for chronic diseases and manage any associated symptoms. According to the National Council on Aging, roughly 80% of adults age 65 and older have at least one chronic disease, and one in four older adults struggle with a mental disorder such as dementia, depression or anxiety.
To help combat existing chronic conditions and prevent new health complications, it’s important to maintain a healthy diet and regularly exercise. Of all chronic conditions, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes cause almost two-thirds of all deaths, so seniors and their caregivers should keep a close eye on blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Mental disorders such as dementia, depression, Alzheimer’s or other memory and emotional issues are also prominent among older adults, and, like physical conditions, brain health is affected by exercise, diet, blood pressure and managing existing conditions. It’s also crucial to stay mentally active, whether that be regularly reading and writing, doing crosswords or other puzzles, learning new things or even just having a stimulating conversation.
If you or a loved one has an existing health complication or a chronic disease, it’s crucial to have a plan for organizing test results and medical paperwork, managing medications and prescriptions, and staying up to date on doctor’s visits and appointments. Caregivers should help older adults to closely follow doctors’ instructions and prescriptions and should know how to recognize signs and symptoms of existing chronic conditions. There also needs to be a clear plan in place should an emergency arise.
As you grow old, you need fewer calories as your metabolism slows down, though your body needs more of certain nutrients. Because of that, it’s essential to make good choices that provide your body and mind with the essential nutrients and energy they need. Eating well will not only help reduce the risk of common chronic diseases, but it will improve mental and emotional health and will promote the health of muscles, bones, organs and other parts of the body.
Barring any dietary restrictions, aging adults should frequently eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, seafood, lean meats, beans, eggs or unsalted nuts. One of the most important dietary changes to make as you grow old is to decrease or minimize sodium intake, which will help to lower blood pressure, and it’s beneficial to limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats altogether.
All aging adults and their caregivers should know the proper diet based on weight, age and existing medical conditions. It’s a good idea make a meal plan that includes how much to eat, staple foods to eat and when to eat them, and it’s important to come up with a consistent plan for buying and preparing food, as older adults may be limited with running errands or cooking.
3. Home Safety
Home safety may not seem like a major priority for aging adults, but each year, every one in three adults age 65 or older will unintentionally fall. For any adult aging in place, it’s important to have a home that’s easy to navigate, safe, comfortable and accessible. Falling is the most avoidable reason that older adults visit the ER, so fall prevention should be a major point of emphasis for caregivers and adults aging at home.
If you haven’t had a home inspection within the past few years or considered trip hazards and safety issues within the home, it’s a good idea to look into a senior home inspection service to increase safety, accessibility and convenience. We recommend working with Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists (CAPS), who are trained to create senior-safe homes by making strategic home modifications.
4. Socialization & Emotional Connection
Social interaction plays a big role in quality of life and seniors can be susceptible to isolation, so it’s important for older adults to remain connected with their community and the world around them. Family, friends and caregivers should encourage seniors to remain socially connected, whether that be through joining a club or social network, visiting senior centers, attending church, regularly gathering with friends or even adopting a pet.
Family members are often the primary social support system for older adults, so regular contact between seniors and their family should be a high priority. For families that don’t live nearby or for an alternative method for social support, encourage seniors to learn to use the Internet and to socialize using technology to better keep in touch.
5. Management of Daily Living Activities
Sometimes there’s not enough time in the day to stay on top of daily cleaning and household chores, bills and finances, errands, transportation and organization. Family and caregivers should check in on adults aging at home to ensure daily tasks are kept up with, and should be prepared to lend a hand with complicated or labor-intensive activities.
One of the most common areas of concern is maintaining an organized home, and when a house becomes messy or cluttered, it can be depressing and can add unnecessary stress to daily life. Caregivers and aging adults should discuss daily responsibilities and come up with a plan and schedule. However, rather than providing constant help, caregivers and family members should try to support independence for adults aging at home by encouraging them to take on tasks they are capable of handling.
6. Financial Planning & Management
The average life span is longer than ever and medical care can be quite expensive, so planning for a long, happy and healthy life needs to involve financial information. Discussing money isn’t always easy, but it’s important for the entire family to know that their aging loved one is financially secure and comfortable. Financial planning, budgeting and money management is often an area where seniors need help, so caregivers or family members should be prepared to organize and track monthly bills, medical costs and daily living expenses.
Preparing a budget together is a good way for caregivers and aging adults to get a grip on overall finances and to set a fund aside in case of an emergency. Going over finances and expenses can be a grueling process, but life for all parties involved will be much easier when the financial situation is clear and a budget is set in place.
7. Support System
If an adult has an emergency or an urgent question or concern, is there a support system in place to help them? Whether it be 24/7 assistance or an occasional helping hand, having a flexible support system for adults aging at home is essential. Family members, friends and caregivers should schedule routine visits to ensure that physical, mental and emotional needs are being met and the home is well maintained.
Family members and caregivers should come up with a thorough plan for supporting adults aging at home, and investing in a senior concierge service is a great idea to prepare for accidents or urgent help. For those in need of an extra hand around the house, it’s okay to consider a third-party company to help with in-home care, but ensure that aging adults are comfortable with any new caregivers providing help around the home.
8. Healthy Lifestyle & Exercise
It’s never too late to work up a sweat. Exercise is crucial for maintaining health as we age, and can reduce the risk of chronic illness or adverse health problems. Exercise can also play a significant role in mental health and overall happiness.
Exercise can mean different things to different people based on existing conditions or past injuries, but even for adults with limitations, there are still plenty of exercise options for older adults to get your heart beating faster. Walking is always a great option for getting out and getting active, and it’s also a good idea to look into activities at your local senior center. These organizations typically offer a range of exercise programs designed for older adults.
9. Mental Stimulation & Engagement
While physical exercise is important for the body, mental stimulation is just as important for the brain. Routine mental stimulation can help combat dementia, Alzheimer’s and other common mental health problems for seniors, and it also has a positive influence on happiness and emotional responsiveness.
Caregivers and family members should encourage aging adults to find a mentally stimulating activity they enjoy, whether it’s reading, writing, drawing, playing an instrument, cooking or even gardening. New technologies or computerized games are also an easy way to work up a mental sweat.
10. Sense of Purpose
No matter your age, it’s important to wake up with a sense of purpose each and every day. A sense of purpose can be as simple as meeting with family or a major undertaking like going back to school, but it’s crucial for everyone to have something that makes them feel good about their day. Aging adults should set routine goals and objectives and find ways to take pride in their daily achievements, even if it’s something as simple as getting dressed and socializing.
Things like volunteering, getting involved in a church, organization or a club, socializing, exercise, playing games or even calling or talking to family or friends on a daily basis are all good ways to promote self-esteem. It’s never too late to try something new, so caregivers and family members should encourage adults aging at home to step outside of their comfort zone and experience new things.
Putting the Keys Together
For adults aging at home, their family and caregivers, it’s important to put together a plan as a team that incorporates all of the 10 keys above. Make sure that communication is clear between all parties, and be prepared to set priorities for aging well at home. Just know that the plan may shift over time, so it’s important for families and caregivers to be flexible to account for changes.
It’s also important to know that resources are available to help should you need them. At SameAddress, we strive to help adults aging at home to have the best life possible, which is why we offer comprehensive Concierge and In-Home Care Solutions for adults aging in place and the caregivers that support them. We know what it takes for seniors to live comfortably and happily at home, and we aim to help all older adults find purpose and joy in their daily lives.
To learn more about how SameAddress can help you or a family member, visit our website at www.sameaddress.com or give us a call at 1-866-SENIOR-1 (1-866-736-4671).