Aging in the "Safest Place"

There is no question that the vast majority of 65+ adults say that they want to stay at home as they age. I really don’t know why money is spent on research to determine if the elderly want to live at home or not. Of course they do! The question that needs to be answered is whether the adult can live SAFELY at home. Linda Barrett, Ph.D. from the AARP Research & Strategic Analysis released a study in April 2011 called Healthy @ Home 2.0. In this study, Linda said:
“It is not surprising that people 65+ want to continue living on their own for as long as possible, or that health and financial security rank high among their concerns.
However, a fair share said they do not need anything in the next five years to live on their own,or don’t know what they will need indicating uncertainty about the future. Few currently use home safety technology or personal health and wellness technology. They are willing to use specific types of safety devices and prescription drug management systems, as long as the cost remains low.”
Some of the technology includes:
• An electronic pillbox that reminds you when and which medicine to take.
• Electronic devices that turn off appliances (i.e. – stove) when not in use.
• A device to determine where you are in the process of preparing food (if interrupted, it can remind you of the steps already completed).
• An electronic system that lets family members or friends know if you are ok or if your usual daily routine changes.

In another study released March 2011 called Life Space and Risk of Alzheimer Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Cognitive Decline in Old Age appeared in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Brian James, Ph.D., Patricia Boyle, Ph.D., Aron Buchman, M.D., Lisa Barnes, Ph.D. and David Bennett, M.D. from Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago conducted the research.
Their objective was to test the hypothesis that a constricted life space, the extent of movement through the environment covered during daily functioning, is associated with increased risk of incident Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and more rapid cognitive decline in older adults.
The study was conducted over an average span of 4.4 years following 1,294 seniors located in retirement communities, community-based organizations, churches, and senior subsidized housing facilities across the Chicago metropolitan area. At the beginning of the study, there were no seniors showing signs of dementia.
These researchers found that a person with a life space constricted to their home was almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.

The study also found that those who did not go beyond their driveway or front yard were also more likely to develop Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which is at risk to progress into dementia.
The researchers bottom line conclusion: “A constricted life space is associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment and cognitive decline among older persons.” These studies I referenced above did not ask the question to seniors, “why do you want to stay at home?” Following are my thoughts based on the many conversations and meetings I’ve had with seniors and their adult children:
• Feel that they can take care of themselves want to be independent.
• Perception that living away from home would mean living in a “nursing home” environment which is not true.
• Feeling that friends wouldn’t visit if they lived somewhere else.
It’s so important to have discussions to educate the entire family on the numerous options that are available today that would keep their minds and body active, give seniors independence and keep them safe in an area they would like to live.