Senior Independence – The Psychological Benefits of Aging in Place

by Kathryn Larlee, J.D., Hotline Attorney

This post is part three of a series of blog posts discussing the importance of senior independence in our communities. Part one can be found here and part two can be found here

????????????????????????????????????????So, you are getting a little older. The body is just not what it used to be….it is little slower, a little less steady. The mind sometimes just wanders off without giving notice….you find lost objects in the oddest places; house keys in the freezer, your glasses under the bed.  But, you are still the same person you have always been and you do all right. Your family is getting worried about whether you can still manage, though. How to convince them that you “get by with a little help from your friends” and you don’t need or want to leave your home?

Important things to remember and recognize about aging in place:

  • Home is where the heart is. Aging in place maintains a familiar environment, it can be harder to make drastic changes in living environment as a person gets older—it is hard enough to find things in your own home, much harder in a strange place!
  • Community continuity, being able to go to the usual grocery store, drugstore, coffee shop or other places.
  • Social networks, keeping contact with neighbors and friends who live nearby.
  • Stronger family ties; just because a person is older doesn’t always mean that person wants to be surrounded only by older people.
  • Physical and mental well-being; home is a place to live, a nursing home can be seen as just a place to be forgotten.
  • Even with alterations that might need to made in the home and the delivery of home health care services, the cost of in home care is still significantly less than the cost of nursing home care.

Additionally, studies have shown that aging in place is beneficial for seniors.

  1. According to a study done in 2000, “[a]dults aging in place exhibited better levels of cognition, better functioning in daily living activities, decreased levels of depression, and lower levels of incontinence compared to older adults aging in nursing home settings.” Marek, K.D., Popejoy, L., Petroski, G., Mehr, D., Rantz, M., & Lin, W.C. (2005). Clinical outcomes of aging in place. Nursing Research, 54(3), 202-211.
  1. “The benefits of aging in place extend beyond finances to include social and emotional benefits for both elders and their communities. Aging in place reduces social isolation by promoting community involvement. This leads to significant health benefits including reduced mortality, increased physical functioning, and decreased symptoms of depression, among others. . . . Independence is more than just living outside of an institution—it’s having choice and control in housing and care decisions.” Measuring the costs and savings of aging in place. (2013, Fall). Evidence Matters.  

The Administration on Aging (AoA), through the Older Americans Act and other legislation, supports programs that help older adults maintain their independence and dignity in their homes and communities. In addition, AoA provides funding for a range of supports to family caregivers.

In Michigan, there are programs that help older Michiganders stay at home or find a place where they can live independently if they are still able to maintain certain levels of function; or they can get by with a little help.  A couple of programs are:

  • PACE Southeast Michigan is a program that coordinates medical, physical, and social supports for individuals who are living independently.
  • The Center for Senior Independence is a program in Detroit that provides an alternative to nursing home care for people who choose to remain in their homes.

Lastly, the Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan is hosting its 28th Annual Conference, Independence, Dignity & Joy, on May 7 and 8, 2015. Information about the conference is available online.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKathryn Larlee is a licensed Michigan attorney who assists the Mid-America Pension Rights Project with research, appeals, and client support. Ms. Larlee also works on the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors providing advice and support to seniors on a wide range of legal issues. Ms. Larlee is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and worked with the Chance at Childhood Clinic at MSU before joining Elder Law of Michigan. Ms. Larlee began with Elder Law as a Legal Intern in 2013 and continued to work as a volunteer until she joined Elder Law of Michigan full-time in August 2014.

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