In most surveys conducted in North America, seniors state a desire to age in the community and stay in their own home. Given our longer lifespans, this means living up to 25-30 years after retiring from formal paid work. Yet, during my career as a healthcare consultant within home and community care for seniors, I have learned that very few people have a vision and a concrete plan about “how” they will “Age in Place”.
Barriers to Planning
While my consulting practice is about Collaborative Aging, I am also an aging boomer. And boomers are notorious for avoiding the topic of aging, and procrastinating on the personal decisions related to aging. This age-denying and avoidant approach means that we also forfeit what we most highly value: choice. It also means that we leave the decisions until a crisis situation occurs (e.g. a fall, or a health crisis) resulting in reactive transitions versus proactive plans and choices. Crisis decisions can also be costly (for us, for the healthcare system, and our families) and stressful for all involved.
Benefits of Planning
Here are just a few of the benefits of taking a proactive and collaborative approach to planning for living longer as we age, at home:
- It can save us time and money – by arranging simple and practical ways of situating ourselves to efficiently meet our future needs.
- We can optimize our housing solutions– by making informed choices about a moving to a new place, or carrying out home renovations that ensure that our homes are outfitted for aging in place.
- Our caregivers will have an easier experience – by providing more certainty and direction on how best to organize the supports we will need.
- We can take advantage of technologies to maintain our health– by communicating and coordinating effectively with our doctors, caregivers and other health providers.
Collaborative Planning Strategies
Boomers want to continue having satisfying and fulfilling lives while living longer in our homes and communities. Once we accept the fact that we are aging, we can more comfortably create our own action plans. An effective aging plan is informed by the best research, input from high quality experts (e.g. legal, financial, medical, etc.), and conversations with friends or family members. This is an iterative process, and plans will continually need to be updated.
To guide your thinking, the following are three collaborative planning strategies to consider:
Co-Plan – Planning begins with defining and articulating our lifestyle and quality of life preferences, and the related supports to achieve these preferences. The plan also involves figuring out how we can continue to be contribute or be productive, organizing finances, preparing our home to be safe and accessible, and determining who our caregivers might be when we need help. The plan must also include stating our health care wishes in an Advance Care Plan, so that when the time is right – our caregiver support network is equipped to carry out their respective roles, including if required, acting on our stated wishes/preferences.
Co-Locate – By deliberately choosing where to live, we can situate ourselves in a way that simplifies the logistics of getting help (or providing help). By co-locating near people we trust and like, and near to day-to-day amenities (e.g. bank, drug store, groceries, transportation), we set ourselves up to more easily access resources, receive and provide help to others, and be more socially connected to maintain our emotional well-being.
Co-Consume – In choosing to co-locate with others in a building or desired age-friendly neighborhood, this also allows us to consider shared or cluster models of organizing and paying for needed services- which can save money. Some of the services that could be shared are housing (e.g. co-ownership or renting together), transportation, home help, medical appointment companions, grocery shopping, meals, errands, garden help, and home care.
By researching and developing our individual plans and sharing our ideas and wishes with others, we are essentially creating a Collaborative Aging Plan. In doing this planning, we increase our potential for success in leading longer and active lives, while using our resources wisely – to age in the place of our choice!