We all want to age gracefully, but the hard truth is that having the best possible sunset years doesn’t happen by accident.
If you plan to be one of the millions of Americans who choose to “age in place” (remain in your long-time home for as long as it is safe and practical,) a little forethought now can go a long way towards ensuring a healthier, safer, and happier experience.
When considering your long-term aging plan, it is critical to consider five key topics: your home, neighborhood, financial plans, medical needs, and in-home assistance.
Preparing your home for the long-term
Your home may fit you like a glove now, but it is important to consider if this will be the case in ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. When considering how senior-friendly your home may be, think about the following:
- Is the apartment comfortable and safe during blizzards, heat waves, and other extreme weather? If not, what repairs are needed?
- Does the apartment have elevator access? Are there stairs or elevation changes inside the apartment? If so, can modifications be made to reduce fall hazards?
- How easy is it for deliveries to be brought to the apartment? Does the unit’s buzzer/intercom work properly?
- How organized is the apartment? Are things put away neatly, or is there a lot of clutter that can contribute to fall hazards or prevent use of a wheelchair or walker?
- Does a trusted neighbor or family member nearby?
Planning in your neighborhood
Aging in place can be easier in New York City than most other places thanks to density. In most neighborhoods, amenities, grocery stores, and healthcare centers are all within walking distance. Of course, as we age, acceptable walking distances can shrink over time. Consider the following:
- How close is my local supermarket? Do they offer grocery delivery?
- What are the walking conditions in my neighborhood? Are there intersections or streets with unsafe traffic conditions in the area? Are the sidewalks and curb cuts well-maintained and even? Be sure to start calling 311 now to report these issues!
- Is there easy access to public transit for longer trips? Are the train stations in the neighborhood wheelchair accessible?
- Do I feel safe in my neighborhood? Are there areas that are less safe that should be avoided?
Long term finances
Managing and improving your financial health can be a challenge for many, but the better state your finances are in when you retire, the more leeway you will have when it comes to managing unexpected expenses and bringing in services that will make aging in place safer and easier. Consider the following:
- What is my current financial health? What assets do I hold? Will these assets increase or decrease in value as I age?
- What is my current monthly spending? How will it change as I age?
- Will my current insurance policies benefit me over time? Am I funding a Long Term Care plan that will cover the costs of in-home assistance if I need them?
- If a medical emergency suddenly prevents me from expressing my wishes, have I established who will be in charge of my finances? Is this arrangement written down?
Building a medical plan
As we age, our medical needs expand, resulting in medical expenses making up a larger percentage of our monthly spending over time. While lowering these expenses is nearly impossible, getting a better handle on your expected health outlook can give you a much better sense of what you can expect in your later years. Consider the following:
- Speak with your doctor about your family medical history and your current health. Asking these questions can help you determine together what complications might arise as you grow older.
- Learn more about the conditions you may have a predisposition to experiencing. Learn the early warning signs so you get help faster, and learn how they might impact your ability to live independently.
- Be sure to develop a good relationship with your primary care physician, as well as local specialists whose services you may need later. If you dislike one of your current physicians, it is easier to make a change now, rather than when your condition is more complex.
- Look for medical support groups in your area now. This way you have an idea of where you can find a local support network in advance of any serious diagnosis.
- Consider your personal medical wishes – especially who can make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Once you determine who should represent you, be sure to discuss clear guidelines for how you would like your care to be handled. Determining a medical and/or financial Power of Attorney can be a huge relief if you are anxious about the future.
Planning in-home assistance
Our abilities naturally change as we age, at times making previously easy household tasks harder to complete.
Changes like a loss of mobility, manual dexterity, memory, or overall energy levels can be overcome alone for a period of time, but having a helping hand nearby ensures you remain safe and comfortable for the long term.
When considering who you will turn to for assistance, you may need to expand your view beyond friends, neighbors, and family and consider local home health care agencies.
Like any other life change, planning and preparation can make this process seamless. Take the time before you need assistance to contact local agencies and ask about their policies, hiring practices, scheduling standards, billing rates, and insurance support. You can also arrange a visit either in your home or at the agency’s office to discuss your needs in person.
Home health care is most successful when there is trust between a client and their care provider, so by doing your due diligence early, you can confidently arrange for care should your needs suddenly change.
Preparing now for your later years can feel overwhelming, but by working away at these big questions piece by piece, you can sail into your sunset years with confidence and comfort.
SelectCare Home Care Services of NYC has been helping New Yorkers live happier, healthier lives in the comfort of their long-time homes for more than 37 years. To learn more about how we help, call SelectCare or request a free in-home care guide to start planning for tomorrow today!