Aging-In-Place vs. Other Living Options For Older Americans

As people grow older, it can become difficult to perform the daily tasks life demands. Many seniors are reluctant to give up their freedom, however, whether it’s wanting to keep living on their own and caring for themselves, or keeping the keys to their car. The human desire for self-determination and making ones own decisions are very strong, as illustrated in literature by Fyodor Dostoevsky as well as by countless modern psychologists.

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What are the options available to someone who wants to try to retain their dignity and freedom as they grow older? We’ve outlined some of the popular choices seniors are choosing.


Aging-in-place” has come to mean that you essentially continue to live your life as you have been. There are a number of devices and things people can use to continue living in their own home. One important piece of hardware which can be picked up for not much money is a walker. Trips and falls can be very dangerous for seniors, so adopting the use of a walker to prevent these can be critical, even if it is a sign that you are losing your capacities. Other options for retrofitting the home exist, such as stair lifts, making going up and down easier. There are also many options for making your bathroom more usable and accessible, from anti-fall handles in the bathtub, to toilet seats that make using the bathroom easier from various perspectives.

Aging-in-place can be a more attractive option for couples than for singles. Couples can assist one another with tasks that might be physically taxing for the other person. Aging-in-place is not out of question for single people, however, but it is good to make sure that you always carry a cell phone in your pocket in the event of a trip or fall that renders you needing to call for emergency help.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities are a middle-ground between living on your own and living in a nursing home. While you may have an apartment of your own and mostly handle your day-to-day tasks, there might be options such as a dining area, which presents both the possibility for having someone prepare your food, as well as socialization with other senior citizens. As spouses and friends begin to die, this opportunity for socialization can provide a great benefit. Many senior citizens suffer from loneliness, and one way to combat this is getting to see other people. Another popular option is having a pet, particularly a cat, which can be easier to care for than a dog. Many assisted living facilities allow people to keep or get a pet so that they can have a companion.

Living With Family

In many cultures, the central importance of the family and caring for its members means that aging members are taken care of by the younger generations, and not just going to a nursing home or having to fend for themselves. In America’s more individualistic culture, oftentimes senior citizens find themselves with children who are too busy to care for them, or they would rather just care for themselves. But if you’re able to convince your family members that you need their help, you may be able to move in with them, or have them check in on you daily, so long as you can refrain from parental bad habits such as nagging and chastising you fully-grown children.

Another popular option to consider is a “mother-in-law” apartment. This is oftentimes a small addition or separate bedroom or suite attached to an existing home, or a small separate building in the back yard. This enables a family member who owns their own property to make an additional dwelling space just for an older relative or two. Some states, such as California, are even making zoning concessions so that more people may build these “additional dwelling units,” or “ADU’s,” to help alleviate the shortage of affordable housing.

Nursing Homes

Some people experience such a great deterioration in their human function that they must move into a facility where there is a full-time presence to care for them physically or medically. While some families may attempt to take on this herculean task themselves, there are certain medical conditions that older people face which require true medical attention and full-time care. Nursing homes might get a bad reputation for being institutional, but there are a great many benefits to living with a cohort of similarly-aged seniors. There can be great companionship, as well as a camaraderie of going through the challenges of aging and losing your loved ones.

Cost for nursing homes varies greatly. Some nursing homes and programs may be covered by Medicaid if you cannot afford it. Other nursing homes with specialized units for diseases such as Alzheimer’s can run in the tens of thousands of dollars per month. Regardless of your needs and your level of wealth, you should be able to find something that works for you.

Stretching Your Dollars Further

As older people may require more assistance with their day-to-day tasks, some consider trying to stretched their retirement and Social Security dollars further by moving to a cheaper state, or even abroad. This enables people to be able to use their money to help assist with the tasks of life, whether they move into some sort of facility or not. Moving to a cheaper place where you don’t know anyone can have opportunity costs, however, such as no longer having family to perform tasks for you cost-free. So, be sure to weigh these costs and benefits when considering relocation.

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Combining Options

Some of these options can be combined to produce an ideal arrangement that works for you. For example, many seniors may find that they are able to continue living in their own home, but they just need help with some basic household tasks, such as grocery shopping with heavy items, or household cleaning. Now that we have the internet, it can be easy to find a house cleaner or household chore assistant using a smartphone app. If you do not know how to do this, be sure to ask one of your children, or if you do not have children, ask another younger person who is familiar with technology.