Most older adults facing the choice of staying in their family homes or transitioning to senior living simply don’t want to make the change. However, many resources make the alternative of seniors living independently, or “aging in place,” possible.

Before deciding whether a senior should live independently, questions need to be answered and plans need to be made so that everyone involved understands the situation.Once those have been addressed, implementation can be considered.

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Making a Plan for Seniors Living Independently

The first step to making a plan for seniors living independently is to hold a group meeting. The meeting can include the senior, family members, caregivers, friends, helpful neighbors, and perhaps a care management team member or health care provider.

In the meeting, have an honest discussion about the seniors’ physical and emotional health concerns. Assess the level of care and services needed and who will be responsible for:

  • Transportation: Is the senior still capable of driving? If not, who will transport them to doctors’ offices, religious services, family events, and other outings?
  • Household maintenance: How much assistance is needed to clean the house, take out the trash, and maintain the property?
  • Financial management: What are the senior’s financial responsibilities? Is it necessary for someone else to pay the bills and keep track of finances?
  • Medical care: Is professional in-home care needed?
  • Who will take the lead: Once a plan is place, who will accept the role of coordinating care and notifying all involved parties?

Remember, even seniors aging in place may need a helping hand, and a family member cannot always assume the responsibilities of a caregiver. Care management team members can help with household tasks, home care services, and even financial or healthcare planning.

Don’t Assume Aging-in-Place is Good for All

Although seniors living independently can stay in their home, there are a couple of considerations to make.

First, will the senior become isolated living at home as they age? There areopportunities for socialization in most independent and assisted living communities that may not be available at home. Watch for signs that a senior feels isolated, such as retreating from activities they used to enjoy.

Second, aging in place does not always equate to living independently. Periodic reassessments are needed, and caregivers should keep a written record of their observations concerning the mental and physical well-being of the senior.

In addition, it would be advisable to become acquainted with local senior living communities—including assisted living communities—in case the situation changes.

Home Safety to Help a Senior Live Independently

Once the decision to age in place has been made, there are several ways to prevent accidents by making improvements throughout the current residence.

Safety tips for seniors living independently include:

  • Increasing lighting throughout the residence.
  • Reducing clutter and tucking away cords or trip hazards.
  • Placing light switches at the top and the bottom of stairways.
  • Checking carpeting for tears and removing throw rugs. 
  • Using non-slip mats in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Using lever-style water faucet and door handles for better grip.
  • Installing horizontally mounted grab bars near the toilet and tub (although walk-in showers are best).
  • Keeping the water heater temperature below 120 degrees.
  • Checking smoke detectors regularly.
  • Ensuring doorways are wide enough for walkers.
  • Having the master bedroom on the main floor, if possible.

For additional support, there are also certified aging-in-place specialists (CAPS) who understand home modification needs associated with aging in place. They can advise on remodeling projects, building standards, and product ideas.

Benefits of Seniors Living Independently

Living independently provides numerous benefits to a senior’s quality of life. In particular, independent living communities prioritize each resident’s happiness and well-being through a healthy lifestyle, active social calendar, and maintenance-free way of living.

Learn more about Bethesda’s independent living options in the greater St. Louis area.

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Bethesda has a 133-year tradition of providing excellent senior living options, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing. If you are considering independent living, we welcome you to tour one of our exceptional communities, including Bethesda Barclay House – Clayton, Bethesda Gardens – Kirkwood, Bethesda Orchard – Webster Groves, Bethesda Terrace – South County, Village North Retirement Community – Florissant, and The Oaks at Bethesda Villas – Kirkwood/Webster. Discover the level of care only a non-profit staffed by highly-trained nurses, therapists, and aids can offer. 

This blog was originally written on December 20, 2017 and has been updated since.