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What Is Aging in Place?

An older couple and their child smiling happily, radiating warmth and love in a heartwarming family moment.

Seniors have numerous options when deciding where they want to spend their retirement. Many people prefer the amenities and convenience offered by assisted and independent living communities, but aging in place is another popular option. 

What is aging in place exactly? This phenomenon occurs when seniors consciously choose to stay in their homes and make changes to accommodate their needs. According to a 2021 AARP survey, 77% of adults at the age of 50 and older would prefer to remain in their homes as they age. 

This guide explores the advantages and disadvantages of aging in place so you can make an informed decision about your retirement options. 


How to Plan Ahead

At first, aging in place may seem like the easiest retirement option. You can stay in the comfort of your home and maintain your independence. However, you may also want to plan some things ahead to spend your time more comfortably when the time comes to retire. 

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind if you’re planning to age in place: 

  • Adaptability: Seniors’ needs often change as they grow older. Some people require medical assistance or help with daily chores due to changing health conditions or new priorities. For example, some older adults use walking canes to improve their balance, while others require house assistance after medical procedures. Consider what changes in your household you may need to enforce to support your specific needs in your senior years. 
  • Available Activities: Many people want to spend their retirement enjoying fun activities, exploring new hobbies, and staying active. If you do, too, explore all the recreational and social opportunities you have at home or in the local community. For example, you could plan ahead to join a local gardening club or take continuing education classes at a community college. 
  • Distance to Friends and Family: Family members and friends can provide valuable assistance and socializing opportunities. If you don’t live close to your loved ones, you may consider moving to a closer location. 
  • Transportation: As you age, you may find it more challenging to take a quick trip across town to the grocery store or doctor’s office. Take this into account when planning for retirement at home and consider your options. Some areas offer public transportation or volunteer services. You may also have family, friends, or neighbors who can give you a ride when necessary.  


Pros and Cons of Aging in Place 

Choosing where to live as you age is a complicated and often emotionally-charged decision. Here are a few pros and cons to help you decide if aging in place is right for you. 

The Benefits of Aging in Place 

Aging in place has several advantages, making it an appealing option for many seniors. First, it allows older adults to remain in familiar surroundings. You can maintain your daily routine, like walking your dog through the neighborhood and ordering a favorite drink from your local coffee shop. These small rituals help many seniors relax and maintain connections with their communities.

Also, your home and belongings give you a sense of identity and help you remember special times. Looking at pencil marks on the doorjamb measuring your children’s growth or sipping coffee from a mug you collected during a vacation can fill you with nostalgia. While you can take physical belongings to a retirement community, aging in place could make staying connected to your past easier. 

In some cases, aging in place can be less expensive than joining a retirement community. Older adults with paid mortgages may have minimal housing costs beyond maintenance and utilities. Additionally, a supportive network of family and friends can reduce home care costs. For example, you could ask your adult child to help with household chores and drive you to your doctor’s appointments instead of hiring an expensive home health aide. 

The Challenges of Aging in Place

Aging in place may seem convenient, but it has unique challenges. The inability to quickly adjust your care plans is one of the biggest drawbacks of aging in place. Many retirement communities offer several levels of care, so you can request more services if and when you need them. 

Seniors who age in place don’t always have this luxury. If your needs suddenly change, you may need to join a long waiting list or, even worse, commit to a retirement community that doesn’t fit your lifestyle and preferences. 

Additionally, seniors who age in place lack access to the broad range of recreational and social activities that retirement communities provide. Many assisted and independent living communities offer art classes, fitness centers, daily social events, communal dining, and other enriching experiences in one convenient location. Aging at home may limit your ability to participate in meaningful activities and expand your social network. 

Also, many houses have no senior-friendly features. A layout that suited your needs perfectly in the past could become challenging to navigate as you age. You may find it increasingly challenging to haul laundry up and down steep stairs or bend down to reach low cabinets. And everyday household items like slick shower tiles and throw rugs can become sneaky threats that increase your risk of falling.  

Some older adults choose to modify their homes as their needs evolve, but these renovations often come with a high price tag. Minor modifications, like installing shower grab bars, can cost $100 to $400. And significant changes, such as adding dumbwaiters and stairlifts, can total thousands. These expenses can quickly cancel out any money you save by not becoming a resident of a retirement community. 


Aging in Place Home Care

If you decide to stay at home in retirement, you can take advantage of aging in place home care services. With home care, caregivers and other professionals will travel to your home to assist you whenever necessary.

These services help you stay independent and allow you to focus on the things that matter most, like practicing your hobbies and spending time with your family. Common examples of home care services include: 

  • Home Healthcare: These caregivers assist seniors with chores, medical needs, and personal care. They may cook dinners, fold laundry, and help older adults wash their hair. They also provide specialized medical services, like occupational therapy and medication monitoring. Home healthcare companies typically employ home health aides, licensed nurses, or therapists. 
  • Landscaping: Maintaining a beautiful yard can be time-consuming and physically demanding. Hiring a landscaping company lets you hand off tedious chores like mowing the lawn and weeding the garden. These services give you more free time and allow you to relax outdoors instead of working in the hot sun. 
  • TelehealthThis convenient service allows you to schedule virtual visits or phone calls with your healthcare provider. You can get help from home without traveling to a physical office. 


Aging in Place Home Modifications

Home modifications are changes made to houses to increase safety and meet the needs of seniors. These modifications can range from simple adjustments to complex — and often expensive — renovations. 

Some older adults only need to make small changes to make their homes more accessible and safer. Easy steps like picking up scattered shoes and dog toys and placing a no-slip mat in the shower decrease the risk of falls. Seniors can also increase visibility by adding night lights to the bedroom and choosing lightbulbs with higher wattage. These minor modifications may be free or inexpensive and often take only a few minutes. 

Many seniors decide to do more extensive renovations. People who use walkers or wheelchairs widen entries and build ramps or no-step doorways to make it easier to maneuver their assistive devices. You can also lower your kitchen countertops so you can sit down as you bake your grandchild’s birthday cake or cook your famous family dinner. 

Home health aides and family members may help with some aging-in-place modifications. Some remodeling companies specialize in renovating homes for seniors, but many general contractors also perform services like adding extra handrails and installing stairlifts. 


What Family Caregivers Should Know About Aging in Place

Family caregivers play an essential role in helping seniors decide where and how to spend their retirement. You want your loved one to be comfortable, healthy, and socially fulfilled, but finding the best option can be challenging. 

Here are a few factors to keep in mind when discussing aging at home: 

  • Available Activities: Seniors feel more fulfilled if they can perform their hobbies and make new friends. You can help your loved one explore nearby options to see if their current location meets their recreational and social needs. 
  • Cost: Talking about money with your loved one can feel awkward and invasive, but a frank conversation about their financial situation can help you figure out what they can afford. 
  • Proximity: Living near family and friends makes it easier for older adults to get help with daily chores and emergencies. If your loved one lives far away, you could consider helping them shop for a closer home or inviting them to stay with you. 

Check out our guide for senior caregivers to learn more about providing the best care for your family. 


Choose the Right Environment for Your Retirement

Many seniors believe that nothing can replace the comfort of home sweet home. But aging in place can be inconvenient or downright difficult, especially if you don’t have the resources to make modifications and get in-home care. 

Luckily, aging in place isn’t your only option. Many seniors prefer the amenities, on-site services, maintenance-free living, social and wellness opportunities, access to healthcare services, and peace of mind offered by retirement communities like SRG Senior Living. You can explore your retirement options further by reading our comprehensive guide on How To Choose a Retirement Community.