Express Yourself: Aging in place

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Wally Pearce, Winters Elder Day Council
Special to the Express

Born in 1923 in Yolo County, Joseph resided there his entire life, except for a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor when at 18 he joined the Marines, later entering WWII as a combat soldier. Joseph’s first experience as a witness to War was in 1942 when he landed in the Pacific War combat zones: and a memorable crossover into the unknown.

With Joseph’s life forever changed, his return to Yolo County in 1945 was like other combat veterans; he resumed his life, found employment in agriculture, married, raised a family, and became an integral part of his community. For 58 years, Joseph was married to his beloved Helen until her sudden death in 2003.

Without Helen, Joseph’s daily life was altered, and his family worried about his health and safety. Knowing Joseph to be a social person, his family felt that by relocating him to an assisted living environment it could be a real benefit for him. Joseph ardently disagreed because he valued his security and freedom along with the ability to work in his yard and take care of Helen’s garden.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-P) defines aging in place as, “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” When aging in place, older adults may get greater control over their lives. This can lead to higher levels of happiness, fulfillment, and satisfaction — all important areas that help older adults feel better and experience healthier lives.

According to an AARP survey, roughly 90 percent of seniors wish to live at home. Senior citizens prefer aging in place, even in cases where physical or cognitive decline makes it difficult to live independently.

According to some gerontology experts, it’s difficult for many senior citizens to choose between aging in place and senior living facilities. The decision to age in place becomes easier for many families when they’re aware of how living at home benefits their loved ones. Senior citizens who age in place also enjoy a sense of dignity, independence and comfort that only their home can provide.

Many gerontology experts also assert that the average cost for a person living in an assisted living facility in the United States can be expensive and for some, out of reach financially. According to the National Center for Assisted Living, the median cost for assisted living in the United States in 2020 was about $4,300 per month. Yet, according to a Genworth Financial Cost of Care Survey, the average cost of assisted living in California in 2020 was around $4,500 per month.

The phrase, “home is where the heart is” might be a timeworn cliché, but its sentiment remains true. A person’s home is the most important place in their life, offering a sense of familiarity, comfort, and security. Aging in place, allows older adults to stay in a familiar and cherished space and this is a critical and underrated factor in seniors’ quality of life.

Nonetheless, aging in place comes with a price tag as many seniors may need to modify their homes making it safe and livable, and they may also need to hire an in-home caregiver to assist with some activities of daily living.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Institute on Aging, senior citizens who choose to age in place can save a considerable amount of money in care costs and live a safe, healthy, and independent life for as long as they’re able.

For most senior citizen’s, living at home can also enhance attitude and increase longevity. As a result, seniors that stay at home continue with their daily routines to do what they can independently while maintaining their freedom and that can boost their mental, physical, and emotional health.

Most seniors want to stay in their own homes as they age and respecting their aging in place preference is an important way to support them. Aging in place promotes vigor, satisfaction, a positive quality of life, and self-esteem—all of which are needed to remain happy, healthy, well into old age.

More importantly, for many senior citizens, the emotional value of home far outweighs its monetary value. Senior citizens cherish having their own space simply because it’s a location that doesn’t just act as a home — it is home.

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