What are the benefits of aging in place? Comfort and familiarity, independence and autonomy, the ability to keep and love your own pet, and even affordability. By 2030, every last Baby Boomer will finally reach the landmark age of 65, and seniors and their families are currently weighing important decisions about how—and where—their hard-earned retirement years will be spent. Most will say that aging at home is at the top of their list.
It's a complex decision in every case, driven by multiple considerations. These include social and health care needs, economic considerations, community and faith connections, even geographic considerations such as transportation, senior assistance infrastructure, and (in some instances) increased fall risks associated with climate. Overall, personal preferences are clear. In 2018, AARP surveyed adults nationwide; 77% of those 50 and older reported they want to remain in their communities (76%) and their current residence (77%). That number rises to 86% for both questions in respondents over 65. For families and seniors facing the decision, the benefits of aging in place warrant a clear-eyed evaluation of the options.
By 2030, every last Baby Boomer will finally reach the landmark age of 65…
1) Comfort and familiarity
It's easy to understand why most people say they prefer the option of aging in place where they are already comfortable. Transitioning to assisted living can be overwhelming. The prospect of meeting new people, establishing new friendships and routines, and giving up belongings accumulated over the course of decades can be daunting.
Laura Ingalls Wilder said it best: "Home is the nicest place there is." And she would know; the beloved children's author taught us that, whether it's a Little House on the Prairie, in the Big Woods, or on the banks of Plum Creek, we love the places where we made our memories and our routines. Without a compelling medical, family, or financial reason to leave home behind, few people are willing to embark on such an adventure in These Happy Golden Years.
2) Independence and autonomy
While moving out of a private home or apartment into a senior living or skilled nursing environment may address immediate safety and health concerns, tradeoffs can be steep for older people who are still capable of living independently (even if they may need a bit of assistance and/or close monitoring from friends, family, and/or professional caregivers).
Living in somebody else's space means living by somebody else's rules—a condition many Baby Boomers have been working to avoid since they got their first set of car keys and sped away from their own parents' homes. And it isn't a simple matter of set meal times and structured recreation.
3) The irreplaceable love of a pet—or two, or three—of your own
It's true that more and more assisted living facilities allow residents access to pets—either one of their own (within size and breed limits) or a "community pet." But it's also true that the stress-reducing human-animal bond is intensely personal, and that restrictions on these relationships feel arbitrary because at some level, they are arbitrary. Community rules are established for the benefit of an entire community, not for the benefit of each individual resident. When you are the only individual in your own home, aging in place, your pets—and decisions about them—are your own.
…in your own home, aging in place, your pets—and decisions about them—are your own.
Finally, while the price tag is certainly not the only consideration, the cost benefits of aging in place cannot be understated. The Genworth Cost of Care Survey for 2018 is one of the few resources that makes it possible to compare apples to apples.
If a senior already owns his or her home or lives in an affordable home, then aging in place with the help of friends, family, or health care professionals can be more affordable than moving into assisted living or nursing facility. Especially for relatively healthy seniors who can get by with just a few hours of assistance from a Home Health Aide or homemaker per day, aging in place may be substantially more affordable than relocating to an assisted living facility.