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Seven practical steps to support relatives who want to age in place

By: Olivia Timbone

A few weeks ago, a close family relative who is nearing retirement age and struggling with a few mobility issues sent me photos of a new washer and dryer that had recently been moved into her apartment. Now instead of walking to the laundry facility, she would be able to do laundry right at home.

The photo reminded me of the ways life changes for our loved ones as they age. Many seniors want to maintain as much normalcy and independence as possible. According to a recent poll, 9 out of 10 retirement-age Americans said they would like to age in place, yet nearly half said they didn’t know how to prepare for that.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can help eliminate stress for our loved ones by putting a plan in place and addressing logistical matters ahead of time such as transportation, safety and health issues. Here are seven ideas for preparing your parents or family members to feel confident in their decision to age at home.

Study your city’s senior-friendly public transportation options

When thinking about daily life for those aging at home, mobility is one of the most challenging parts of the puzzle to solve. Driving begins to become unsafe for people once they hit the age of 50, but especially once they hit the age of 60. To prepare for this hurdle ahead of time, it’s a good idea to research your city’s bus schedule, plan out a few routes to common destinations and see if there are any micro-transit services available designed for seniors in your town.

You could also consider alternative transit options such as scooters or even golf carts. And don’t forget walking as an option! Often, many people live within walking distance of frequently-needed shops…they just don’t realize it because they are so used to driving. A careful study of the surrounding neighborhood and a few test walks might be all you need to discover places your relatives could access safely by foot.

Introduce yourself at your relatives’ favorite places around town

Just because your relatives are aging at home doesn’t mean they’re going to sit at home all day! Many seniors love to lead active lives as long as possible and this should be encouraged. If you have more active relatives who like to be out on the town, it might be a good idea to visit their favorite café, bookstore, gym, pub or pharmacy, introduce yourself and leave a photo of your parents with emergency contact information on the back. This way, if anything happens while your relatives are out, you’ve increased the chances that someone will recognize them and call you.

Have a loved one ready to age in place but not sure where to start? Call us (844) 523-1218

Create a designated “essentials” drawer where you keep important paperwork

There’s nothing more stressful than being in a stressful situation, needing important documents, but not knowing where they are. Planning to keep important documents in one place ahead of time can make things much easier for you when you need to grab them in a hurry. It also makes it easier if various people are coming in and out of the house. Committing to leave certain documents in the same place every time can save everyone precious moments on the phone, trying to figure out where the last person stashed something. The same principle applies for other things like valuables and sentimental items.

Audit their home for senior-friendly safety improvements

Part of helping your family members age in place is learning to see the world from their perspective, including their home. They might have unique observations about the space that make their lives either easier or harder, but unless we take the time to listen and observe their daily routines, we’ll never know how their home environment is working for them or not. Take time one weekend to walk through your parents’ home and audit it for potential safety and comfort improvements such as installing grab bars, skid-resistant rugs, remote-controlled lighting and ramps across stairways. Clutter can also be a hazard, so consider helping your relatives downsize and get rid of items they no longer need or use.

Need help preparing a senior’s home for aging in place? Call us at (844) 523-1218

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Set up a network of local helpers

These days, not all of us are fortunate to live near our retired loved ones so it can be helpful to have a network of people nearby who can jump in and assist when needed. Consider exchanging numbers with your parents’ neighbors and trusted friends. And of course, you should consider setting your parents up with a local business like Surv that partners seniors with young adults who can provide hourly help around the house on a regular basis. Your relatives will no doubt have a growing honey-do list and having trusted assistants can make a huge difference.

Stock up their emergency pantry

While we can’t control when emergencies may strike, we can control how ready our loved ones are in the case of a natural disaster. Take a weekend to visit the grocery store with your relatives and stock up on non-perishable food items they love. You could also cook a few of their favorite recipes and put them in the freezer. This food will come in handy in case there’s a natural emergency that keeps them from accessing the store. They will be much more relaxed knowing there’s a freezer full of soups and stews and stocked with things like oatmeal, canned beans, tuna and crackers…this little investment can go a long way in abating stress when crisis strikes.

Pack emergency-ready go-bags

With increasing numbers of natural disasters meriting potential evacuations, it’s a good idea to have a go-bag prepared for your parents and stored in a closet close to the door. Include a few days worth of clothes, non-perishable snacks, spare medication, a towel, socks and hat, bottled water, travel-size toiletries, an extra blanket and some cash. This way, if your parents have to leave home for a little while, they don’t have to worry about packing. All that’s needed is to grab the go bag and get to a safe place.

Helping our loved ones transition to aging in place is not always easy. It’s a new season of life that brings many different questions, feelings and uncertainties. It can be tough navigating this life change, but it can also be a chance to joyfully envision the future and all of the possibilities it holds.

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