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Virtual Care in the North

Is your home ready to grow old with you?

A new study published in The Journals of Gerontology found that seniors are less likely to change residences if they live in a one-floor house or at least have their kitchen, bedroom and bathroom on the same floor.

Study lead Marianne Granbom of Johns Hopkins University and Sweden’s Lund University said most seniors don’t want to move to a nursing home, and she echoed previous findings that supporting older adults to age in their community has the potential to improve their quality of life and decrease care costs.

Granbom and four colleagues analyzed results collected from more than 7,000 Americans aged 65 and older over a four-year period. During those years, 8.2% moved within their communities, while 3.9% moved to residential care facilities. Overall, the seniors who were most likely to move were those who lived alone, had a lower annual income and had visited the hospital during the previous year. The study concluded: “After adjusting for demographics and health factors, poor indoor accessibility was found to be associated with moves within the community but not to residential care facilities. No additional home environmental factors were associated with relocation.”

The study examined whether indoor accessibility, entrance accessibility, bathroom safety features, housing type and housing condition were associated with relocations either within the community or to residential care facilities. The authors concluded that understanding which modifiable home environmental factors trigger late-life relocation, and to where, has practical implications for developing policies and programs to help older adults age in their place of choice.

Retirement Living found that nearly 75% of the 2,300 people (aged 50 and older) it surveyed plan on performing bathroom modifications, which they said are key to aging in place. A third of the people it polled plan on doing renovations to the exterior of their homes, such as adding wheelchair ramps or improving lighting.

Burgeoning improvements in home technology are rapidly becoming a factor in seniors’ ability to remain in their homes, as well. In the Retirement Living poll, 53% of respondents said they are likely or very likely to use online pharmacies and 40% said they are likely or very likely to employ technologies like electronic medical alert services, ride-share apps or food delivery services like Uber Eats. In addition, there is a rising interest among seniors in how in-home technologies like voice-activated devices such as Alexa or Apple HomePod, or connected appliances, could help them stay in their homes.

“To truly understand how aging in place can be supported, we need to shift focus from merely looking at individual health problems to also include the environments they live in,” Granbom told Reuters Health.

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