Most seniors want to ‘age in place’, but many haven’t taken steps to help them do so
The vast majority of people over 50 say it is important that they continue to live in their current home for as long as possible. But a new poll shows many have not planned or prepared to “age in place”, and a significant percentage may struggle to pay for home help.
The toll of the pandemic on older adults, especially those in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, has thrust the issue of independent living at home into the national spotlight. The same goes for policy proposals around changing Medicare and Medicaid’s ability to pay for virtual care and home care.
But new results from the National Healthy Aging Survey suggest that many people in their 50s, 60s and 60s need to do more to modify their homes or plan for services they might need if they want to avoid or delay the death. need to move. The poll also shows differences in preparedness for aging in place among the 28% of older adults who told the poll they lived alone.
The poll is based at UM’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation and supported by AARP and Michigan Medicine, the academic medical center of the University of Michigan.
A total of 88% of people aged 50 to 80 said it was very or somewhat important for them to live in their own homes for as long as possible. But only 15% said they had thought a lot about how their home might need to be changed as they age, while 47% gave it little or no attention.
Meanwhile, 48% of those living alone said they had no one in their lives who could help them with personal care such as bathing and dressing when needed, compared to 27% of those living with others.
When it comes to hiring help, 19% of seniors are very confident that they could afford to pay someone to help them with household chores, groceries, personal care, or managing their finance. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of those who rated their current physical or mental health as fair or poor said they were not or not very confident they could afford to pay for such aid.
“The impact of the pandemic on older adults and proposed home care policy at the federal and state levels means this is a topic of immediate importance,” said Sheria Robinson-Lane, assistant professor at the UM School of Nursing and member of the IHPI. who worked with the polling team on the report. “Especially for those who don’t have as much social support or have more health needs, it’s important to take a proactive approach and plan for the future now.”
Poll director Preeti Malani, a professor of infectious diseases at UM School of Medicine who is also trained in geriatrics, said older adults should explore with their health care providers and local social service agencies what types of support available to them and talk to those close to them about their goals.
“Take steps to understand what’s available in the community, through the National Aging Care Locator, the regional agency on aging that serves your area, nonprofit organizations, and other sources could help older people be better prepared,” she said.
“Family members can help encourage seniors to find out what’s available, invest in home improvements, and help them install safety features and technology that can help them age in place.” Think of it as a positive investment toward current security and future independence, which can help seniors overcome the temptation to put it off until another day.
The survey reveals that one in five seniors has moved in the past five years. About half of those who moved said they moved to a house that was easier to move, while half also said their new house was smaller.
Wherever they currently live, 34% said their home definitely had the necessary features that would allow them to age in place, and 49% said they had at least one “smart home” device.
But the survey was drilled down to ask questions about specific features and technologies. While 88% had a bathroom on the ground floor and 78% had a bedroom on the ground floor, which may reduce the need to climb stairs and reduce the risk of falling, fewer older people had other characteristics.
For example, 32% said they had grab bars in the bathroom and less than 10% had safety-focused technology, such as alarms on their ranges or personal emergency response systems. Only 7% said they had a barrier-free shower and 9% said it was difficult to use the main rooms in their home due to clutter or the large amount of belongings in them.
“AARP research consistently shows that the majority of seniors want to stay in their homes and communities as long as possible,” said Indira Venkat, vice president of consumer insights at AARP. “Unfortunately, most homes weren’t built to meet the needs of people at all stages of life. The best way to continue living in the home you love is to plan ahead and make changes that will meet your current and future needs.
In late 2021, AARP released a report on the preferences of adults over 18 regarding their future family and community circumstances, including the ability to age in place.
The survey report is based on the results of a nationally representative survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the IHPI, and administered online and by telephone in January and February 2022 to nearly 2 277 adults aged 50 to 80. The sample was then weighted to reflect the US population.