Three Things Science Says about Aging at Home

If you work in aging services or just have aging loved ones, you probably know people value staying at home as they age. Surveys show upwards of 90% of seniors feel strongly about this. But, what does science have to say about aging at home? We delved into the research, on both the why and the how. So, here’s what you need to know about aging at home, whether for your own planning, helping clients or loved ones.

What Science Says about Aging at Home:

1. Aging at home has significant health benefits.

The benefits of aging in one’s home and community include better physical, mental and social health.

Just look at the science on mortality statistics alone. A 78-year-old that lives an independent and active lifestyle has a life expectancy of 15 years+. If that same individual suffered physical injury or a disorder that required a move to a care facility, their life expectancy could be reduced by 50%-75%. The mortality rate of individuals moving into a nursing facility increases within the first 12 months by as much as 50%-60%. And, the mortality rate is even higher when just looking at the first 6 months.

For a more comprehensive view of benefits, a study on Missouri’s aging in place program proved many positive outcomes. The program showed better outcomes in cognition, depression, activities of daily living, and incontinence when compared to the control group in nursing home care.

Our team has studied the “Blue Zones” research closely to tap into the science on healthy, active aging.  It shows that some of the keys to longevity are community and family involvement, sense of purpose, and daily activity. Blue zone elders thrive within their multigenerational communities, where they’re valued for their contributions.

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2. It’s the little things that enable aging at home.

Here’s where science helps us with the “how” for aging at home.

Numerous studies have found that small lifestyle changes, such as 15 minutes of daily exercise, can help seniors live longer, healthier lives at home. Other activities like reading and volunteering not only keep people healthier, but actually contribute to longevity. One study even showed a 60% reduction in death from all causes when women had cataract surgery. Vision, mobility, and other factors can be the difference between a happy life at home or quick deterioration. Fortunately, much of this can be remedied with a little help.

A project in Baltimore called CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders) helped assess seniors’ needs for aging at home. They aimed to see how small changes and a relatively low budget could keep seniors out of expensive care facilities. Handymen served an important role in the program, helping make little changes to create a safe physical environment.

It’s “more often the little things, like being able to use kitchen utensils and navigate steps, that end up limiting our ability to remain independent.” Many studies have shown how being active and engaged in the community supports aging at home. Though these seniors had access to ride services, the stairs were often a big barrier in between them and that ride. This problem was easily eliminated with better lighting, rails or ramps, and/or some physical therapy.

They identified other problem areas such as bathing/personal care and strength to stand for cooking and various household tasks. These issues commonly contribute to elders being forced to move to care facilities. However, this doesn’t need to be the case when there are easy fixes and accessible solutions. The results indicate that coordinating such small changes could reduce nursing home admissions by 40%.

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3. The bottom line: aging at home saves money.

Beyond preferences and health benefits, aging at home is also the most economical option. A significant portion of older adults own their homes outright. Selling and moving to a facility can be a costly process, financially and emotionally. The simple changes and support services to enable aging at home can be comparably affordable.

Check out our comparison of aging at home with help versus assisted living facility care. As you can see, there’s the potential for significant cost savings along with major lifestyle differences. We did a breakdown of just how affordable in-home care support can be to dispel some of the myths.

States and agencies have expanded home and community-based services due to research proving cost savings too. Unfortunately, these programs still remain overburdened by demand and often have long waiting lists. Our team can help you understand what’s available, navigate eligibility and find other cost-effective services for aging at home.

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