Whilst some of us are happy to move to a retirement village when we’re older it’s not for everyone. I’m probably in this latter group. However, a danger of remaining at home is loneliness and isolation and potentially poorer health. Keep reading to learn what we need to consider to remain healthy and happy if we want to remain at home.
Overwhelmingly the most important factor associated with elder-friendly communities is social interaction or social connectedness due to its impact on our overall sense of wellbeing. How we feel about ourselves. However it’s not the only thing to think about. So, if we’re going to stay at home, here’s my list of what needs to be considered based on the World Health Organisations guide to global age-friendly cities:
1.Our Home Environment. As we become older we may become less mobile and/or steady on our feet. Consequently, being willing to adapt our home with the placement of handrails, panic buttons, bathroom modifications, chairlifts, ramps and non-slip steps are real considerations and potential necessities for us to remain in place.
2. Local Services. Whether we like it or not, we may need access to local services, such as a shopper, home delivered meals, home maintenance/care such as lawn mowing, gardening, or cleaning. Are these services available in your local area and affordable for you?
3. Transport. Of course we’d all like to keep driving for the rest of our lives. Reality may be that we just can’t and we choose to stop driving due to a lack of confidence or concern for others because we’re not as quick with our reflexes or a health condition such as declining eyesight or memory loss. Do you have easy access to affordable public or local Council transport, rain, hail or shine? Is there a reliable timetable? Does the transport service have priority seating and access for the disabled? Does the public transport allow you to get to your regular destinations easily? Does it feel safe? Are there good, clean bus shelters with seating and lighting for whilst you wait?
4. Outdoor Spaces. Are there footpaths that enable you to easily get from one place to another? Are the footpaths well maintained? Are there green areas nearby where you can walk to regularly? When you get there, are there well maintained seats and tables for you to sit? Is there adequate seating when you go to the shops for a walk in case you need to rest along the way? Does your neighbourhood feel safe? Are there pedestrian crossings? Is access to local shops made easy with ramps? Are there good, clean public toilets available with handicap access?
5. Health Services. As we age we are likely to need access to a range of both general and specialist health services. Are these readily available near your home? Are they affordable? Are they of a quality you are happy with? Is there a hospital nearby with good 24 hour emergency services and care? Is the hospital of a standard with medical facilities and staff that you consider reasonable? Whilst none of us want to spend more time in a hospital than is necessary, is your local hospital one where you’d be content to stay for an extended time?
6. Family, friends, and our local community. Social engagement is essential to healthy, positive ageing. If we’re connected to friends, family, and the local community regularly throughout our day and week we feel better about ourselves and life in general. And, we can’t always rely on family. Research shows that an elder-friendly community encourages both connection and contribution. In an ideal community older adults would be valued for what they can offer and would be welcomed into paid or voluntary work. Additionally, it is worthwhile considering the provision and availability of affordable community programmes that foster connection and brings older people together in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. Continuing to be able to learn new things within our community is also invaluable to our health. Are courses and educational programs relevant and interesting to you easily accessed in your community? For example, if you like art, history, sewing, knitting, craft, philosophy or politics, are there programs or groups you can participate in to share your knowledge and learn from others? Are there groups or people you can meet with similar hobbies or interests? How easy, affordable, and available are these in your community?
Of course no community is perfect. Sometimes we have to make choices about what’s important for us. Our priorities. However, remaining in our home may also keep us isolated from others. It may not mean a move to a retirement village. It may simply mean a move to a different community. To an apartment not a house.
How does your community and current living circumstances stack up against these considerations? Is your current home realistic for the long term? How does your local Council fare in the provision of services and amenities for the ageing community? I’d be interested to know.
If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to my blog to regularly receive my discoveries and insights on ageing and considering sharing this with others via email or social media.