Ageing in place means a person making a conscious decision to stay in the place of their choice for as long as they can with the comforts that are important to them. As they age these may include adding supplementary services to facilitate their living conditions and maintain their quality of life.
Progressive retirement villages around Australia like Westmont are making available integrated ‘ageing in place accommodation’ for their residents by providing progressive living options, subject to availability within the village, from detached villas to independent living units with some care support, through to high care facilities and dedicated 24/7 dementia wards if required. Additionally, Westmont deliver ‘home-care’ through their Community Care Services, providing personal care, domestic assistance as well as a shopping service.
When to Start Planning
Ideally what ageing in place should be addressing is not just to maintain the quality of life that the person is used to, but also to make it better whenever possible. Ageing in place though it refers to persons of retirement age should concern everyone as soon as possible from their earliest years of one’s career. Plans for retirement should thus be created as early as possible from your younger years and changed, revised and adjusted according to changing needs and requirements.
Ageing changes everyone. No matter how fit we are and how much we take care of our bodies, eat right, exercise and keep our minds well trained and souls happy with mindfulness and being grateful, ageing changes us despite all this. Realistically we are looking at certain inevitable physical, mental and emotional changes. Not all of them need be negative. For instance, some ageing changes can be highly beneficial, like learning to be more patient and tolerant as opposed to the impatience sometimes of our younger years. What is undeniable is our bodies and our mental capacities do change irrevocably. Some of the subtle and not so obvious changes will usually include some of the following:
- Poorer eyesight
- Reduced muscle mass and hence less strength
- Diminished endurance both physical and mental
- Higher risk of accidents due to bone fragility, less balance while walking
- Reduced hearing capacity
- Diminished mobility and agility
- Decreased flexibility
These changes are inevitable, whether you get some of them at 50 or do not experience any until after you hit 70. ‘Ageing in place well’means planning-in-advance for any future changes.
These physical, mental and emotional changes affect the daily life of seniors. We can see the way they affect them in their daily activities. Some common examples may include the following:
- Ability to go out and come back home without incidents or anxiety
- Taking public transport easily and without mishaps
- Being able to drive safely and able to navigate congested roads
- Getting to social events without difficulties
- Maintaining one’s home and outdoors easily without strain
- Taking care of one’s health, which includes being able to do chores necessary to eat healthily to doing regular fitness or exercise routines without hardship.
The Importance of Ageing in Place
Currently many older people live either with their spouse or by themselves in their own homes. Many of them have issues with everyday tasks, taking care of their health and doing everyday activities even within their homes. Consequently, the quality of life for many of these people has suffered. The social, economic, physical and emotional impact, not to mention the medical challenges the rise of this ageing population places on the fabric of our society is enormous.
What it Means to Me and My Family
Some initial challenges and changes can typically include redecorating existing homes for easier accessibility, or even moving to a smaller, easier to maintain home and garden. Setting aside some time to live a more balanced life, dealing with home and work issues and managing stress in a more composed way will often help you and your family transition through this period of change.
What is perhaps most important for family members at this stage is to make a list of what is of the utmost importance to them and be honest about what they can and cannot do, put up with and afford. Ageing in place means you will ultimately need to ask yourselves some probing questions:
- What is the ideal way for you to spend your retired years?
- What type of home environment you see yourself in – individual, community, assisted?
- What special health care do you require or think you will?
- What other types of supplementary services you may require?
- What options have you provided for in case of emergencies and life changing events?
Ageing in place well means you plan your future years before it becomes urgent and life changing. It requires one to provision for and make choices and preferences clear to family and friends. Ageing in place does not mean that you need to do everything yourself. You can choose to do as little or as much as you want, can, and are capable of.