Aging in Place Works Until it Doesn’t

When Aging in Place Doesn't Work

Life’s most rewarding challenge lies in defeating the temptation to merely exist.

~Laurie Harper, A Taste for Life (1983)

I called my friend Frances years ago when she was in her 90’s and residing in a traditional nursing home. Our conversations always got around to her anguish over being “stuck in this “godforsaken place.” Her home defined her in a very real sense; it was her life’s purpose, but she had reached a point where she could no longer navigate at home. So for this and a number of other compounding reasons, the only option became a care facility.

It was soon after that she began to decline mentally from lack of mental stimulation. And our mind-walk conversations we once had in her home office (watching the squirrels outside her window) were a thing of the past. But for Frances aging in place had reached the point where it was untenable and she was forced to leave her beloved home prematurely like so many seniors.

When Aging in Place Doesn’t Work

Howard Gleckman wrote a thought-provoking piece on the challenges with aging in place. His premise was that factors having to do with social issues, more so than medical concerns, are often the barriers to aging in place:

-Lack of qualified caregivers

-Lack of services such as basic transportation

-Lack of housing or funds for repairs

-Lack of social networks and isolation

His solutions include more flexible Medicaid programs (they pay for NH, but limited benefits for home care) and an emphasis on long term care insurance which will provide financial resources to care for loved ones.

Gleckman concludes that we can’t keep everyone home (i.e. those with severe dementia), but postponing institutionalization of the elderly, by even months or years, is a goal worthy of our best efforts.

I agree keeping the dream of aging in place alive is not easy, and neither is telling a loved one they must leave their home.


Listen to: Convincing an Aging Mother to Take a Hard Step

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