Given a choice….

In my last article, we explored the importance of being able to ‘Age in our Place of Choice,’ and how this serves us individually, contributes to our communities, and is more cost effective than residential care.

Think of all the choices we make in the course of our day. From the mundane to the significant, we may struggle with the array of options before us. Faced with unending decisions, we likely don’t reflect on the fact that we actually have the privilege of choice in the first place.

Until we don’t.

We may not agree on why this is important-but what about the obstacles and challenges getting in the way of how to make this happen?

Let’s consider some of the challenges and the opportunities.

Challenges – Under Care

Not surprisingly, an increasing number of seniors trying to live on their own (up from 5% to 8%) report having unmet needs that threaten their ability to remain independent. As our population ages, and without a corresponding increase in community-based resources, this number will increase.

Challenges – Over Care

However, you may be surprised to learn that 10% of those age 65+ living in Long-Term facilities have no disability (National Population Health Study, Bertholot.) A study in the USA suggests that anywhere from 15%-70% of those in residential care should reside in less intrusive housing options. When initial and intermediate levels of community support are not readily available, we run the risk of opting for more invasive and restrictive alternatives.

Challenges – Personal

In addition to systemic concerns, there are problems faced at a personal level that jeopardize our ability to choose to remain in place. These include but are not limited to:

  • Episodic hospitalization
  • Escalating care-giving demands
  • Fixed income – less responsive to inflationary factors & more subject to gentrification
  • Quasi-Widowhood (Spouse living in residential care)

Solutions – Home Support

Select government services may offer a limited amount of home care, and nursing care support hours. These resources are stretched thin. Many seniors need to supplement the services by paying for additional care from a variety of in-home personal care and nursing care companies. Technology can also play a key role. A number of innovative devices are able to monitor movement, activity, and medication compliance, and can alert identified 3rd parties when readings fall outside of the expected routine.

Solutions – Age-Friendly Homes

Builders, architects, designers, and planners are collaborating to create “Life Long Homes that can continue to provide an Age-Friendly home environment throughout our life transitions. By incorporating basic principles at the time of design, construction costs are estimated to be only 5% higher than traditional homes. Things to look for in an Age-Friendly home include a zero-step entrance, wider doors (wheelchair and walker accessible), light switches and door handles that are at a height perfect for someone in a wheelchair to access. Its important to ensure that housing and environments can be accessed and used by all people (regardless of age, ability, mobility), and that it incorporates features at the design and construction phase that allows for future adaptions.

We cherish our ability to make choices and set the direction of our lives. Resources, finances, and physical design can interfere with our ability to make choices that serve us. We have the opportunity to design a future we want to grow into. By making the right choices now, we set the stage to be able to continue to ‘Age in our Place of Choice’.

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