Even though aging in place has never been more possible, some health conditions will prevent older adults from remaining at home throughout their lives.
According to a survey of North American homeowners between the ages of 55 and 75, conducted by Home Instead, Inc., 85 percent have taken time to consider the age-friendly features they will want in a new home, while 64 percent wishing to remain in their current home have thought about necessary age-friendly modifications they will need to make.
“Downsizing – or rightsizing – can be gut-wrenching,” noted Dan Bawden, founder of the national Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) program for the National Association of Home Builders. Nevertheless, that does not have to be the case if you need to leave home for a smaller place or care community. “All of us treasure and love our stuff,” Bawden added.
What are the most important memories of home? According to the Home Instead survey of older homeowners, gatherings with family and friends led the list at 65 percent, followed by celebrating holidays at 61 percent.
Home isn’t just about the physical space. When asked what it would take to build the feeling of home elsewhere, 66 percent of those in the Home Instead survey said the people in my life; 36 percent said my mementos; 35 percent said my personal décor, and 30 percent said a sense of community.
Here are ways to take home with you, according to Bawden, Danise Levine, architect and assistant director of the IDEA Center (Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at Buffalo University), and Home Instead Gerontologist and Caregiver Advocate Lakelyn Hogan:
Collect the best family photos — Add the names of the people on the photo with a label gun. Put up a bulletin board in their new place with all the names and photos of the family, so they have a family connection board.
Schedule regular visits with families and their pets — “When my mother-in-law fell so many times, she had to move to an assisted living community,” Bawden said. “She had a Bichon-poodle mix named Murphy. We would take Murphy there, and he would be passed around among the residents. The dog had a wonderful connection with home for my mother-in-law.”
Hire professionals to help you move — The National Association of Senior Move Managers assists families with this very thing. Bawden said. “They help seniors move from home to assisted living and they will do all the packing. They set up everything and handle the entire move. When you’re downsizing, it’s helpful to have someone not personally attached to your stuff.”
Personalize your space — Take a cozy blanket and/or any item that means the most with you. “I think it’s important for people to be able to personalize their own spaces so they will feel at home,” Levine said. “Regardless of where they are, there will be some sense of familiarity. Not everyone has the same needs and wants. The option to personalize a space provides comfort. Environments that allow for flexibility are really great.” One family caregiver agreed: “When we brought my mom home to live with us, we put up some of her pictures and brought her lap blankets and familiar things.”
Recreate the appearance of home — There’s a variety of ways to make your new home have the feel of what you knew to be home, Hogan noted. Take your favorite pieces of furniture and set up those pieces in a similar way to home, including the way the pictures are hung on the wall. One family caregiver concurred: “I brought in as much of my mom’s own furniture, lamps, wall pictures, curtains, bedding and books as was allowed, and set it up the best I could to look like home. I even put the name plaque and door knocker from her house on the door to her room.”
Create a photo album of the old home before you move —”Before our family left my childhood home, we took pictures of every room of the house along with the back and front yard,” Hogan explained. “To the album we added pictures of the house during each season and during holidays where people are celebrating. Photos of memories of that home can be meaningful as well.”
About the author:
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers.