A frequently quoted AARP survey found that most older persons prefer to age in place, preferably in homes and neighborhoods in which they have lived for some time. According to a study published in The Gerontologist, most adults over the age of 65 already age in place. The majority of people stay in the same home until they are very old. They have a strong attachment to their homes, outdoor spaces and neighborhoods.
The psychological impact of being uprooted, therefore, should not be overlooked when considering options other than aging in place for a senior.
What do scientists say about the benefits of aging in place? The following bullet points are taken from the study, "Is Aging in Place a Resource for or Risk to Life Satisfaction?" by Frank Oswald, Daniela Jopp, Christoph Rott, and Hans-Werner Wahl published in The Gerontologist (see Source list below). A summary and interpretation here is beneficial.
Scientists draw an interesting distinction between the so-called young-old and the old-old. They say a person is young-old from 65 years of age to 80. Ages over 80 are considered old-old. These two groups form "cohorts" or groups for study. There are significant differences between them, including their responses to various aspects of aging in place.
Between the ages of 65 and 80, having companionship inside the home, such as a spouse or relatives who share the same household is important to life satisfaction and wellbeing.
Over age 80, though, with whom a person lives or not doesn't have as much impact on life satisfaction. The scientists speculated that the old-old have adapted to life's losses and their satisfaction is not necessarily increased by living with someone.
The old-old, in general, have more limitations on movement and activities due to increasing health issues. The quality of their environment, then, becomes increasingly meaningful to them as far as secure navigation and familiarity goes.
The scientists noted that people who are aging in place who have misgivings about the safety and quality of the neighborhood around them tend to experience more distress, more depression and higher cardiovascular risk.
SeniorsMatter.com advises that this is an important fact to consider when health concerns seem to dictate a more institutionalized setting. The senior may be healthier, but not happier in such a setting.
The young-old who are aging in place, in general, derive life satisfaction from larger homes, outdoor spaces, sharing a household with someone, and living in a safe and friendly neighborhood.
The old-old who are aging in place generally derive greater life satisfaction from smaller living quarters, a good quality neighborhood that they consider safe, and accessible outdoor space which is familiar and pleasurable to them. Neighborhood safety and quality was particularly important to the old-old group in terms of life satisfaction during aging in place. However, their life satisfaction was strongly dependent on being able to perform activities of daily living themselves.
Aging in place provides significant life satisfaction and contributes to general wellbeing as long as the home is an appropriate size, the person has the familial and social contacts he or she desires, the neighborhood feels safe and comfortable, and he or she is able to take care of the basic tasks of daily living. That is not a very tall order in most cases.
Oswald, Frank, Jopp, Daniela, Rott, Christoph, Wahl, Hans-Werner (2011). Is Aging in Place a Resource for or Risk to Life Satisfaction? The Gerontologist (2011) 51 (2): 238-250. DOI: 10.1093/geront/gnq096. Retrieved from http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/51/2/238.long.