Why do you live where you live? Have you given this much thought? Was your choice based on your lifestyle, access to amenities like grocery stores and public transportation, proximity to family and friends or because it is near schools, hospitals and your faith community?
Some of us thrive on the energy of downtown, while others need their backdoor to open into the great outdoors. Regardless of the reasons why, we know that where we live is directly related to how we live. This principle remains true as we transition through various life stages.
There is a lot of talk about ‘Aging in Place of Choice’. The key word here is ‘Choice’. I recently came across this definition ‘Aging in place of choice is the ability of individuals to choose to live in their own communities for as long as possible and to have access to home and community services that will support this ability.’
To be able to live in our own communities of choice for as long as possible serves us an individuals. It also serves our communities, and ultimately provides the most fiscally responsible solution.
We all want to maintain our independence for as long as possible. According to CMHC, 85% of age 55+planned to stay in their own home as they age. Remaining in our own home and continuing to live in our own communities contributes to our ongoing need for affiliation, and our desire to be connected. Feeling welcome and having a sense of autonomy ultimately enables us to keep our dignity. Research shows that overall health improves when we feel secure in our community and have a sense of belonging. Furthermore, seniors are more likely than younger people to have strong ties to and identify with their local community.
Seniors are engaged in their communities and make a significant contribution. Should our senior community terminate their volunteer participation, it has been suggested that the economy would likely collapse upon the sheer fiscal pressure of trying to replace those functions with paid positions. Did you know that seniors contribute the highest average annual hours to volunteer activities and any other age group? They are the age-group to most likely get out and vote, and to actively lobby for local change. Experience counts! Our communities need to access the wealth of experience, knowledge, skills and expertise of our senior population. It is called “Social Capital.” A community’s ability to draw upon this ‘treasure trove of assets’ contributes to its long-term stability and the quality of the civic vision, planning and development.
Finally, aging in our place of choice costs less. The Ministry of Health sponsored a national study on the cost-effectiveness of home care in comparison to residential care. The analysis of the cost data was clear. Whether you factored in only the cost for formal paid care, or the cost of both formal paid care combined with the cost of informal family care, the results were the same. Community care costs less than residential care.