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August 17, 2013

From the Office: To age in place -- or not -- involves many decisions

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The Daily Star

---- — Over the years, I have come into contact with many people who are very committed to remaining in their own homes. Recently I’ve spoken with folks who have opted to leave their home of many years and have told me that it is the best thing they have ever done. 

So how do you know what is right for you? 

What is aging in place? 

Aging in place is when someone remains in his or her own home, even when age or health issues make it difficult to care for one’s self easily and safely.

But aging in place can lead to:

• happier, more satisfied individuals living in the home of their choice with control, respect and dignity.

• more economical use of existing resources.

If you want to be ready to age in place, you first need to make sure your home is in good repair. Planning for aging in place is an important part of being successful. Building and remodeling are expensive, but can save money down the road. 

Anything that makes your home safer will also decrease your risk for injury helping to maintain your independence and decrease you need for services. If you redesign your laundry facilities so that they are on the same floor with your living space, chances are you will be able to do your own laundry for a longer period of time. Having an accessible home may also speed your discharge from the hospital or rehab facility. 

Changes that can lead to fall prevention should be a first priority. These include:

• Removing throw rugs, especially in the bathroom.

• Installing grab bars and grips in the bathroom.

• Assuring sturdy handrails on both sides of steps.

• Good lighting and switching, especially at stairs, halls and entries.

• Securing or removing carpets on stairs.

• Soft path lighting for nighttime mobility.

Once you have addressed the above items, move on to:

• Removing, if possible, or reducing the number and/or height, as well as increasing the horizontal depth, of steps.

• Creating a clear, no-step path to the bedroom and bathroom.

• Rearrange or reposition furniture for ease of access.

• If finances allow, bathroom modifications should also be considered.

But is this right for you?

Moving to a senior community or assisted living can be expensive, but so can getting your home ready to age in place and purchasing needed assistance as well as ongoing maintenance, taxes, insurance payments, etc.

Some things to consider when deciding whether to invest in your home and services or to consider other living arrangements include:

• Are you retired and want a different lifestyle?

• Are you tired of mowing and snow removal?

• Is making arrangements for repairs and renovations getting you down?

• Has your neighborhood changed as far as safety, convenience, etc.?

• Are the utilities and other expenses getting to be too much?

• Do you want to be closer to your kids or other family members?

• Are the stairs getting to be too much?

• Are you giving up driving and transportation is a problem?

What are the options if you decide to move? There are a wide variety of options to consider, which will depend upon the community you choose. One option is to choose a smaller, more-accessible, energy-efficient, conveniently located single-family home; senior living communities can have homes to purchase or independent living apartments. There are senior-only manufactured housing communities and apartment complexes that have age restrictions and some that don’t, but for what ever reason the residents are primarily older adults. If you need help with personal care, you may want to consider assisted living, or an adult home or other institutional options, if you have greater needs.

Don’t most of these options cost more? They can, but it is important to look at your expenses and make comparisons to the costs of other options. 

Do you have or will you need a mortgage? Are there association fees and taxes? What about maintenance, repair, gardening and snow removal costs? Who is responsible for utilities, including cable, telephone and trash pickup? Is transportation provided or will you need to have a car? Are any meals or housekeeping services included? 

Comparing your expenses with those anticipated in a new setting can help you make a decision.

The reasons I’ve heard to make the move have ranged from “It takes a lot less time to clean” to “It is a real relief to not have to worry about all those home maintenance chores anymore,” as well as noting the peace of mind that families receive. Otsego County residents who would like additional information about housing options or other topics may contact Office for the Aging at 547-4232 or 432-9041 or NY Connects of Otsego County at 547-4390 or (855) 547 4390.

Frances Wright is director of the Otsego County Office for the Aging. ‘Senior Scene’ columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.