Aging at Home Assumptions Questioned by Report

Aging in Place is a big trend in elder care across North America, with many seniors finding alternative means of care including assistive devices and hired help. An aversion to retirement homes might begin with a knee-jerk resistance to change or the simple desire to stay in the home you have lived in for many years. The assumption that aging in place is better might be supported by a superficial assumption that living in a retirement home is expensive, that it is more convenient to stay home and that this is "better" for the elderly. All of these assumptions are called into question by the report, which examines the specific case of an elderly Toronto couple, Graham and Ethel.

The report goes in depth but let's look at the highlights.

In a look at Graham and Ethel's finances, we see that the couple's total monthly expenses in their own home are approximately $2400 per month, counting property taxes, groceries, gas, electricity and water, etc. Graham is nonchalant about the expenses of living at home, even if he is demonstrably unrealistic. When his children tell him that he and Ethel should consider the advantages of moving into a seniors' community, he says, "Living at home is free, so why would we move?" Of course, he is far from the truth.

The couple is on the cusp of requiring in-home care and their kids are concerned for their safety, as are many children of aging parents. Since they will likely need in-home care sooner or later, they have looked into what assistance will cost as they find it increasingly difficult to do their own laundry, house cleaning and other small daily tasks. At 6 hours per week (nominal help with laundry and house cleaning) and the lowest rate available - $20 per hour - their monthly costs will suddenly increase by another $500.

In another scenario, if one of them gets hurt they will suddenly require agency care for in-home rehabilitation. An in home personal service worker will cost $25 per hour at the very least. Suddenly the cost of aging at home will balloon by $4000 per month until the injured party recovers. Of course, one bad fall will raise alarms with their children and it will be difficult for the couple to rationalize these costs when the same thing could happen again with even worse results.

Contrast these scenarios with the scenario of a smooth transition into a retirement home while the couple is still healthy.

Few retirement community homes cost more than what Graham and Ethel are paying to stay in their own home. For example, a studio suite for two people with all meals included at Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto costs $2900 per month. There is on-site care around the clock, and the entire residence is designed for accessibility with the needs of elderly in mind. In addition there are onsite amenities including a hair salon, library and chapel. With everything they need all in on place, Graham and Ethel would have never really need to go anywhere and they would incur no costs outside of the home's once-a-month fee of approximately $2900. They're much safer and they live for basically the same costs.

But aside from that, many people who move into a retirement home find that there are advantages they never considered. Dola Davis is one retirement home resident who realized that living in a seniors' home is far better than she had ever imagined. She says, "The time to move is when you're still physically and mentally competent enough to enjoy your new home." She's just one senior who exclaims about the many benefits of today's many exceptional retirement communities.

Another under-appreciated advantage of moving into a senior home is the social aspect. A resident of Queenston Heights Retirement Residence in Niagara Falls says that after moving into the retirement community he realized that "living alone is stupid." Once he moved he suddenly found a lot of new friends. Others find that they can rekindle their desire for romance. Evelyn at Beechwood Place Retirement Residence says, "There are quite a few couples here and that's great because they keep one another company."

In the end, the change in scenery and lifestyle brings many surprise benefits as testified to by both seniors and their families. Those who make the simplistic assumption that aging at home is better than moving into a retirement home need to take a close look at reality. They may be surprised to find out they're wrong on all counts. Learn more by reading Comfort Life's full report about aging in place.

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13 Sep 2016

By Jim Huinink