Growing old in the U.S. typically denotes experiencing physical and mental decline to the extent that requires confinement in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or retirement facility. In prior population surveys, more than half or about 52% of older adults preferred to age at home rather dreading the prospect of retiring someplace else (Crary, 2011). Aging at home or aging in place has become a popular concept in the United States following its successful implementation as a social policy in the U.K. Whether it improves lives is best ascertained from the perspectives of older adults and their advocates, nurses included.
In his article, Crary (2011) featured Beryl O’Connor, an 80-year-old resident of Verona, New Jersey. Her husband died nearly two decades ago and she continues to live in the two-story, four-bedroom house they shared. Aging in place was what O’Connor wanted because she felt that being surrounded by old people of the type in nursing homes will drive her crazy. She wanted a lifestyle where she can freely engage in her hobbies, namely gardening, and socialize with different people in her community. Her wish was made possible because of supportive factors that many other older adults do not enjoy.
O’Connor had the support of her family. She has an adult granddaughter who lives with her in her house and commutes to her job in nearby New York. She also has the support of her community, the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the federal government for its Verona LIVE program (Crary, 2011). The program aims to create a community conducive for older adults. It is apt considering that, at 25%, it has one of the largest proportions of older adults in the state. The program implementers have been working steadily to enable successful aging in place.
The community has a transportation system specifically for taking older adults to their medical appointments or shopping (Crary, 2011). Mobility is important for older adults and a transport system especially for them fosters safety and independence for as long as possible. Older adults with vision and musculoskeletal impairments will not be safe driving their own cars. At the same time, many are not comfortable asking their family members to bring them to their doctor. The transport system increases compliance with recommended visits to health care providers that, in turn, improves the health outcomes of older adults.
Moreover, there is a home maintenance program in Verona that provides safety inspections and minor improvements for free (Crary, 2011). The physical environment of the home has to be conducive for aging in place. To reduce the risk of falls that is high among older adults, for example, lighting has to be adequate. Floors and stairs have to be skid-proof, rugs have to be attached to the floor, and grab bars need to be installed in the bathroom. Inspections from certified professionals will ensure that the safety risks in older people’s residences are kept to a minimum.
O’Connor and her fellow older adults in the community also have access to a job counselor and social worker (Crary, 2011). Although mandatory retirement is at 65 years, older adults often have the capacity to keep working. They desire to keep contributing to the community and society. Continued involvement is a source of personal fulfillment and keeps them from experiencing the decline that often accompanies inactivity during retirement. The job counselor and social worker can bridge them to such opportunities, including mentoring or teaching younger people.
In addition, Verona has clubs such as a walking club (Crary, 2011). Having a walking club that older adults successfully participate in promotes health as exercise has many benefits including reduced chances of disability in older age. Clubs also provide venues for socialization among older adults and between older and younger adults. For instance, one club enabled computer literacy training that bridged the young and old in a learning activity. Continued socialization has psychosocial benefits, expanding the older adult’s social support network. It eases loneliness and depression.
The key to the success of the Verona LIVE program was the involvement of all sectors of the community – the health department, police department, schools, and religious organizations (Crary, 2011). Everyone had a role to play in reaching out to and involving the elderly as well as providing them the necessary support to age in their own homes. Having the option to age in place is very important to older adults now and in the future. After all, a satisfying aging is based on the ability to continue living the life one prefers. For this reason, there are initiatives similar to Verona LIVE being implemented in other parts of the country.
In highlighting the concept of aging in place, the article portrays the elderly in a positive light. It implies that growing old does not automatically mean decline. Older adults can, want to, and do continue to be productive especially when they have the support they need. It shows that there are other alternatives to institutionalized aging and thus older adults need not live in fear of moving out of their homes. Enabling aging in place means building community awareness and correcting misconceptions about the elderly. There are many ways to keep older adults connected, not isolated.
Aging in place programs improve the lives of the elderly. It promotes many opportunities for health promotion in the areas of physical activity and psychosocial health. These activities mitigate physiological decline and disability as well as depression, conditions that reduce the quality of life of seniors. Aging in place also permits the elderly to live their lives to the fullest through greater autonomy and opportunities to continue participating as citizens. By building awareness in all sectors of the community and generating support, aging in place programs dispel many of the negative public perceptions of older adults that hinder a happy and satisfying aging.
Crary, D. (2011). Aging in place: Most seniors want to stay put. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45376299/ns/health-aging/t/aging-place-most-seniors- want-stay-put/