What is aging in place? Here, we’ll look at some expert definitions of the term, cover some considerations for aging in place and detail the in-home care services older adults can use. We’ll dive into how to tell when aging in place is appropriate and when it may be time to explore other senior living environments. 

A senior woman sits comfortably on a deck in her backyard. She turns to look at the camera.

Definitions of aging in place

Though definitions vary, aging in place traditionally means that older adults live in the comfort of their homes as they age. The CDC offers this definition of aging in place: “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” 

Based on several studies conducted over the last few decades, the AARP may have hit on the shortest, sweetest definition — “staying in your current home for as long as possible.”

Why aging in place matters

The AARP’s polls of older adults have struck a chord with individuals debating a move from their long-term homes. The “Beyond 50.05; A Report to the Nation Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging” study found that 84% of those over 50 strongly agreed that they wanted “to stay in [their] current residence for as long as possible.” For ages 65-74, it was 91%, and for adults over 75, the number climbed to 95%. Another AARP survey reported that 80% of adults over 65 believe their current residence is where they will always live.

This research suggests that people appreciate the idea of staying in a comfortable, familiar environment as they age. When nearly 25% of adults over 85 need help with personal care activities of daily living, the challenge with aging in place is when older adults face the reality of their changing abilities. So, how do families and loved ones decide when aging in place is appropriate and when a senior living community might be the best move? 

How to decide if aging in place is right for you

Once a person determines that they would like to age in place but needs help, it can be challenging to decide how to do it. Is aging in place the best approach to senior living, or would another residential environment (assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing) be better suited to their needs? Here are some questions to consider when making the decision:

  • What is the individual’s level of independence? Does the person require regular help with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and getting around the house? Do they need assistance at night? Both in-home and senior living communities can support these, but the individual and family must consider whether 24/7 in-home care is financially feasible. 
  • What medical needs does the older adult have? Does the person need complex medical equipment, involved medical procedures, or closely monitored medical care? These requirements don’t necessarily disqualify aging in place. Still, families should consider the impact on the individual’s quality of life and whether the home needs major alterations to accommodate these needs. 
  • Is the current home safe for aging in place? Think about the extra support mechanisms the person might need to live in their home. For some, a few grab bars and an emergency response system may be enough, while others might require more, like a step-in shower or a powered chair lift for getting up and down stairs. 
  • What tasks might become a challenge in the future? The person may be able to perform many tasks now, but are there signs that these daily activities are becoming more challenging? 
  • How safe are the transportation options? Older adults need to leave their homes to live a fulfilling lifestyle. Are transportation options available? Are there well-paved sidewalks outside the home? Are relatives who can provide transportation?
  • What are the socialization options at home? Socializing is especially important for older adults as they age — studies show it increases happiness, slows cognitive decline, and leads to longer lifespans. Does the person have strong social connections with neighbors, family members, and friends? If so, aging in place might be an option. A senior living facility might offer the social connections they need to thrive if they’ve become more isolated.
  • What’s the family budget for aging in place? If the person is reasonably independent and only needs occasional visits from a family member or caregiver, aging in place can be a budget-friendly option. Senior living communities may be more affordable if the person has more significant care needs. These communities often include a living space, meals, social engagement opportunities, and a 24-hour support system.

Home care services for people aging in place

Aging in place can be a great option for older adults if appropriate for their needs. The services available for aging in place are broad and quite flexible. Through home care, individuals can often receive assistance with aspects of life, like

  • Companionship. Caregivers stop over for chats, games, movies, and other activities. 
  • Transportation. This service transports the older adult to appointments, errands, outings, and family visits. 
  • Meal delivery. Adults living at home can get nutritious food when cooking becomes a challenge.
  • Personal support. Caregivers assist with activities of daily living, like showering, dressing, grooming, and mobility. 
  • Medical support. Certified professionals provide in-home health care that is more medical.
  • Therapy. Certified professionals provide services like physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
  • Homemaker services. Caregivers provide light housekeeping, laundry, and organization.

Older adults can age comfortably at home with the proper support systems and care services. Of course, paying for superb care can be daunting for many families. Read more about how to pay for home care.