Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Home Sweet Home - Top 10 Considerations for Aging in Your Home

A 2011 AARP report on the aging preferences of seniors found that 90% stated that they would prefer to age in place (stay in their own homes).  Wow, what a surprise!   Of course we want to stay in our own homes. The surroundings are familiar, our friends and family may be close by, our church home could be just blocks away.  Only makes sense, right?

Not so fast.  If 90% of us say we want to stay in our own homes as we age then the question is "are 90% of us SERIOUS?"  If you said "yes!", here are 10 things to consider if you want to stay in your own home.

1. Home Location. Consider the location of your home. Are doctors and emergency medical facilities readily available, and basic shopping necessities close by? What would happen if your power went out, your plumbing backed up, your were snowed in, etc...? Is family close by and accessible?

2. Home Exterior. Review the terrain around your home. Is it steep or uneven? Gravel or paved? Are there slippery surfaces outside? Do you have exterior steps to enter your home? Where do you park your car?  Do you have to go out in weather to access your car? Consider home maintenance. Do you have a plan for long term maintenance of your home? Do you have exterior motion sensing lighting installed?

3. Home Interior. Does your home have interior steps? Your essential rooms should be located on the first floor, i.e.  bedroom, laundry, bath. Interior entrances and exits should be wide enough to accomodate medical devices or you should have the ability to widen. Your shower should have grab bars and handles and be large enough for a seat. You want to have easy access (not a tub/shower combination).  Door handles in your home will be easier to manage if they are levers rather than knobs.

4. Home Furnishings. Rugs or carpets can be a trip hazard. Could they be easily removed if needed? Check out your closet. Hanging clothes bars should be within easy reach. Critically look at your bed. You should be able to place both feet firmly on the ground while seated on the edge of your bed,  If you can not would it be possible to lower the height of your mattress?  Can you rise easily from your sofa/chairs or are they too soft?  Dining chairs should have arms to allow for stability when rising.

5.  Declutter. Less is more if you want to stay in your own home. Have a yard sale, donate, go ahead and give heirlooms to your children. Reorganize your kitchen so that you can get rid of things you don't use and move things you do use to lower more accessible cabinets. Now is the time to clean out and make your life simple.  Get rid of old magazines, books, and papers. Donate all old clothing that is out of style, doesn't fit now, or never did. Make your closet simple to navigate. Clean out your attic, your basement, your garage.  Be ruthless in getting rid of the clutter. Your children, nieces, nephews do not want your stuff and they certainly don't want to have to manage it when you no longer can.

6.  Physical Fitness. Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and ongoing medical checkups will go a long way toward keeping you healthy allowing you to stay at home as long as possible. Having a fall is the single most significant event that changes your ability to stay at home. Minimize "fall risk" by making sure that you are as strong and mobile as possible.

7.  Support System. A key factor in staying at home is having support systems in place.  Family, friends or services who are willing and able to assist you is key.  Thinking you will tap into someone as a resource who already has established obligations is a mistake.  For example, if you live near your daughter and she has children and is working as well, this is not your support system. Consider your options and develop a plan for what is feasible.  Here is a BIG ONE - think transportation!  If you become unable to drive what public transportation services will be available to you?  Even having cab service in your area can help in a pinch.

8.   Legal Documentation. Now is the time to establish your Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, and Living Will documents. These important documents need to be solidified while you are still able to make sound decisions.  Your Power of Attorney and Medical Power of Attorney should be someone you can trust. That person should be available quickly in an emergency situation.  Your POA/POM may also need to be available for financial paperwork and doctor consults. Someone having to take a flight or drive for hours to be available is probably not your best choice for representation.

9.   Socialization. Are you connected?  Human beings require human interaction.  If we stay at home but are housebound and not interacting with others our physical and mental condition declines rapidly.  Review your social connections. Make sure that you are active with friends, family, church, and community.  It's your most important line of offense to stay in your own home.

10. Give Back. If you want to have support and connection that allows you to live in your own home, then now is the time to provide that support to others.  Review your heart to serve and ask,  "What am I doing to support my friends, neighbors, family and community?"  Not only will these acts of service enhance your sense of purpose and value but acts of service help you maintain the physical and mental vitality to remain at home as long as you can.

Are you serious about staying in your own home?  If you are then get busy! As always I invite you to share your stories, thoughts and ideas in the comments section!

Best to you,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Universal Design - get on board!

Whatever happened to the 1960's brick ranch? Okay, it may not have been the most attractive house on the block but it certainly was the most practical.  As baby boomers we wanted to get out of those boring cookie cutter brick ranches where we grew up and into a sprawling multi-level but ask any real estate agent what is "hot" right now and you'll hear, "One level ranch style - they're getting snapped up like hot cakes!"  Wow, things sure do come full circle.  

One of the most consistent comments I hear from older adults and baby boomers, "I just want to stay in my own home."  All sounds great in theory but is your home ready for you to age gracefully and stay at home?  A recent study from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP says probably not.

American housing has primarily been built for the young and mobile. So what is it that our seniors and the rising population of baby boomers need in their homes?  The 2011 American Housing Survey indicated five primary features that are key to keeping a residence livable when mobility and dexterity is compromised :  extra wide hallways and living spaces, no-step entries and exits (including bath/shower entry and exit); one story living;  rocker light switches, waist high outlets; and door levers. 

The buzz word you are looking for is "universal design".  It is exactly these "universal" adjustments to current housing and new construction that can mean the difference between having to move out of your own home, or finding the right living arrangement should you decide to move. 

If you are a baby boomer who intends to stay in your home as long as possible then age proofing now should be priority Number 1! Some of these adjustments (light switches, relocation of outlets to waist height, and door levers) can be relatively inexpensive.  More significant adjustments can be costly but addressing them now could keep you in your home a lot longer.  Wait and you could potentially paint yourself in a corner.  No one expects to have a fall or an illness that would confine them to a first floor bedroom or make it challenging to step into the shower but it happens.  If you're not already equipped at home to face these challenges then you could end up paying high fees to be in a rehabilitation facility that can meet your needs.

With the cost of long term care hovering around $4000.00 to $7000.00 a month, the cost of a remodel to "universal design" starts to look better and better.  Plus it will increase the resale value of your home.  If your current home isn't "age friendly" then consider downsizing to something more manageable while you can make the move.

A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) can help you remodel your home using universal design concepts. To find a CAPS remodeler in your area visit (National Association of Home Builders),

As Jeff Foxworthy says, "Here's your sign!"  Get busy making the decisions that can make your life or the life of a senior you know work more efficiently.  This is your "next right step" to be in control of your life, your living arrangement and your long term happiness.

Best to you,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014


As we head into the holidays there will be lots of opportunities to be with family and friends.  This is an important time of year not to forget our seniors.  After working in a senior care community I noticed that during the holidays all manner of folks would head our way to sing carols, have the day care kids come by for a visit and drop off various treats.   While all of that is appreciated more than you can know – if you were to ask our seniors what they would love for Thanksgiving (or any day for that matter) you might hear something like this…..

ake me out.  (for a drive, to lunch, let's catch a movie,  to go for a short shopping trip)
ave a meal with me. (or bring dinner on over - and some for the freezer) 
sk me to tell you some of my favorite stories about my life.
otes and cards tell me you remember me and are thinking about me.
eep tabs on my personal needs (clothing, toiletries, haircuts, nails, undies)
end me a surprise in the mail. (everyone likes to get a package now and then)
o to church with me. (I miss the ceremony and rituals)
nvite me over to your house for a visit. (maybe even overnight)
V oice.  (please be mine when I need an advocate with doctors, caregivers, family)
nclude me in special events (life events are important to me)
N  ever forget how much I gave to you.
G ive me a chance to talk – while you just listen.

To show our parents, family, neighbors and friends who are seniors that we are truly THANKFUL for them we must give them the most precious thing that we have to offer…. OUR TIME, one on one, fully engaged, paying close attention to them and their needs.  Ask any senior what it is that they really want for the holidays – they will tell you.  I want you!

I'm giving you this information EARLY so plan now how you will include and honor the seniors in your life this holiday season.  

Don’t forget there are many seniors in every community who may have no family, are unable to be with family or friends or who may be housebound.  Offer them your time and share your blessings with them.  You will be richer for the experience and will learn the true meaning of the abundance of Thanksgiving!