For many older adults, spending their golden years at home might seem little more than an aspiration. However, even senior citizens who face physical and cognitive challenges could have options beyond a retirement home or assisted living facility.
Aging in Place
Aging in place is a term often used to describe an individual’s choice to grow older in their current home. Some people prefer aging in place over common alternatives, such as retirement homes, because it affords them an opportunity to spend their golden years in a familiar environment.
Unfortunately, many adults worry that aging in place could pose certain obstacles: they might fear burdening their loved ones, or worry whether they can receive medical care in the event of an emergency.
For most senior citizens, the decision to age in place or seek out an alternative is anything but easy. However, aging in place is not as difficult as it once was.
The Benefits of Aging in Place
Aging in place has advantages, which could include the following:
- Cost. Retirement homes and assisted living facilities are expensive, costing New York City residents upward of $5,000 per month. Aging in place is comparatively affordable, even when senior citizens need outside assistance from friends, family members, or professional health care providers.
- Comfort. Even the healthiest seniors may need assistance completing everyday tasks beyond a certain age. However, if and when older adults have the resources needed to maintain their independence, remaining in a familiar, comfortable environment can offer significant emotional and psychological benefits.
- Independence. The recent coronavirus pandemic more than demonstrated the downsides of retirement homes. From understaffing to routine mismanagement, many senior citizens simply feel safer entrusting their physical and mental well-being to people they already know and trust.
When Aging in Place Might Not Be the Best Decision
If aging in place were an option for everyone, there would be little need for retirement homes and assisted living facilities. Depending on your personal health conditions and financial circumstances, you should consider the following:
- Safety. Older adults are more likely to sustain serious and potentially life-threatening accidents than their younger counterparts. If a senior citizen lives alone and does not have ready access to an around-the-clock caregiver, they might suffer a fall, forget to take their medication, or even wander out onto busy Brooklyn streets.
- Accessibility. New York has an abundance of older homes and turn-of-the-century apartment buildings—buildings that might add to the city’s charm, but which could lack critical accessibility features such as wheelchair lifts and elevators. Older adults may also struggle to perform routine maintenance in and around the home.
- Isolation. For many retirees, aging in place is only an option if and when they have a nearby support system. If your friends, adult children, and other family members live in another borough—let alone another state—you might not be able to coordinate a reliable circle of caregivers, making it more difficult to retain your independence at home.
Preparing to Age in Place
Preparing to age in place might seem like an intimidating prospect. Before committing yourself to any decision, consider your options for the following:
- Home modifications. New York City supports several initiatives that can help senior citizens and disabled persons afford the home medications needed to age in place. The city’s Housing Preservation & Development initiative, for instance, can provide funding to participating buildings for guardrails, ramps, and in-apartment fixtures.
- Visiting aides. The state Department of Health maintains a comprehensive register of home care agencies licensed to operate in New York and New York City. Home care can help older adults remain independent with the assistance of a caregiver, who could be a friend, family member, or spouse. In many cases, home care services are either free or heavily subsidized by the state and federal governments.
- Meal delivery. Depending on your age and income, you could be eligible to participate in a subsidized meal delivery program. While New York City operates its own meal delivery programs, there are a number of not-for-profit organizations that provide regular service to older adults.