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Helping the elderly to age in place

“Aging In Place” is an elder care industry term for helping seniors stay in their home instead of living with family or entering assisted living. I hate this term. Sounds like leftovers rotting in the fridge. Who wants to do that?

We are all living longer than anyone expected. The original business model for Social Security expected people to retire at 65 and die at 72! Not so now. It is not uncommon for people to live well past the age of eighty, and in fact, the population over 100 continues to grow. In fact, futurists predict that by the middle of this century living over 100 years will be the norm.

So what exactly needs to be addressed when seniors want to stay at home? I’m here to tell you that aging in place is about more than grab bars in the tub and delivering Meals on Wheels. Staying at home shouldn’t mean monotonous, TV-filled, lonely days and nothing else to look forward to.

Let’s scrap the term “aging in place” right now. I prefer to use the term “safe, happy, and committed to life at home.” It is not allowed to rot in the fridge. If your beloved senior is rotting at home, it’s time to make a change or move him to another place.

The term “use it or lose it” applies here in the truest sense. In this youth-oriented world, older people are made to feel irrelevant. Since most of them are not tech-savvy, the Internet makes them feel left out. The world is scarier now, crowds make them nervous and politics drive them crazy. Isolation diminishes their social skills and makes them even more reluctant to re-engage in life. So what is the solution?

Families of older people must be willing to take a closer look at the lives that their elders actually lead. If they are slipping into insanity, is it because they have nothing to do but watch Jeopardy and play solitaire and nothing to think about or is it for organic reasons? I’m not entirely convinced that all dementia is organic. In my senior move management practice, I have seen many seniors flourish both physically and mentally as they reconnect with the outside world. So can they be safe, happy and engaged with life at home? Maybe. It will take more than a visiting nurse and food delivery to get it done. Seniors need to BE in the world: participating in a Senior Community Center and being brought to their beloved symphonies, lectures or theater, as well as interacting with younger people. A couple of basic online classes wouldn’t hurt either! Emailing your grandkids would be so much fun!

Much of your lost mobility is due to lack of exercise. A colleague of mine was commenting the other day that if she saw one more group of seniors playing balloon volleyball, she would scream. Older people also need physical activity, from professionals, not just from the person who is also in charge of arts and crafts. We have to remember that these wrinkled old little bodies once ran the world, in fact they SAVED the world and still have a lot to show us and we owe them more than a life of Jeopardy and Solitaire back home.

If you have a loved one who wants to stay home, make sure they aren’t rotting like leftovers in the fridge. If you choose to move them into assisted living, stay away from balloon volleyball!

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