He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign. — Victor Hugo, French poet and novelist (1802-1885)
The aging in place concept and planning for aging in place is a bandwagon that all seniors should hop on quickly. Just about 100 percent of older adults, if they could have their choice, would choose to grow old and die in their own home.
These days, we are faced with sequestration that looks like it has no end. As government help grows more and more scarce, we need to work together to find other sources of help and to make aging in place the most practical and affordable way to care for a growing population of older Americans.
Aging in place means remaining in one’s home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. It is a concept that is exciting for many reasons, not the least of which is that it can mean the pleasure of living in a familiar environment throughout our lifetime.
The Aging in Place Council, www.ageinplace.org, provides links to organizations collaborating on accomplishment of aging in place goals. The National Association of Home Builders offers courses and certification for aging in place building specialists. This program teaches the technical, business management and customer service skills essential for completing home modifications for the aging in place concept. Sometimes seniors can remain in their own homes with just a few simple modifications such as barrier-free bathrooms, wider halls, grab bars and better lighting. These can be less expensive over the years than an assisted living apartment. A web-based directory, www.nahb.org, lists Certified Aging in Place Specialists who have been trained in the unique needs of the older adult population.
Another industry important to the aging in place concept is the reverse mortgage industry. These programs are largely controlled by the government, and loan applicants must meet with an independent FHA-approved housing counselor to be certain that they understand the reverse mortgage program.
Briefly, a reverse mortgage is a financial tool designed to help you remain in your home and retain full ownership. It allows you to convert the money you have built up as home equity into income that you can use however you choose. Unlike a traditional mortgage, there is no repayment until you permanently leave your home. There are no income or credit requirements to qualify, and because the funds are considered to be a loan rather than income, they are tax free and do not affect regular Social Security or Medicare benefits.
To take advantage of this program, you must be age 62 or older and the home must be your primary residence. If you have a deep desire to leave your home to your children or other heirs, it’s important to discuss the possibility of that with the reverse mortgage people. Sometimes a reverse mortgage and the wish to leave your home to your heirs do not go together well. Make sure you understand that issue completely before signing on the dotted line.
Those who sell long-term care insurance find the aging in place idea a perfect complement to their business. The idea of staying at home comfortably is a consumer hot button, says Nancy Morith, president of N.P. Morith Inc. in New Jersey. “People really want to stay on their own turf. They have created their own nest and want to continue to surround it with family and friends.” Most long-term care policies sold today include care at home options.
Geriatric Care Managers, www.caremanager.org, provide extremely important and helpful resources when seniors wish to stay at home. When care is needed, a professional care manager, often a nurse, will make informed judgments to stretch the senior’s funds. They help you decide such questions as whether you need a full-time or part-time aide, or what equipment or home modifications you may need. To find a care manager in this area, you can check with the Mid-Atlantic Association of Geriatric Care Managers, www.gcmonline.org.
In the rapidly growing senior housing industry, aging in place is a term used in marketing by Continuing Care Retirement Communities. These residences do offer the chance to age in place, but they prefer you first move independently to their community to begin aging. They have independent living, assisted living and perhaps Alzheimer’s care and skilled nursing in one location. In most CCRCs, you must also move from one wing of the campus to another to receive the increased services.
To age in place successfully requires planning. We must think carefully about how to accommodate the physical, mental and psychological changes that often accompany aging and provide for those changes in our own homes. Some communities get together with interested volunteers and work out aging in place in their own neighborhoods. Maybe this could somehow work for Bowie. Please email, call or write if you have ideas.
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week.
The writer, a longtime resident of Bowie, is secretary of the Maryland/D.C. chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and a member of the Elder Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.