There was a time when nursing homes were the automatic conclusion for many elder family members; but as baby boomers are aging, they are remembering seeing their own parents in those facilities, and are making new choices to age with dignity. These are some of the alternatives boomers are considering for their futures.
- Community living. There is a new trend taking hold across the United States and the world. Aging in a community gives older adults an opportunity to remain independent, but also have a network of people available. This can be done in either shared housing or cohousing. The common term now is NORC — Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. Social service agencies concerned with the elderly have launched NORC health initiatives, and they’re becoming a hit.
- Assisted living. While a nursing home sounds foreboding, assisted living is a little easier to swallow for many aging adults. This gives you access to around-the-clock medical and occupational care without feeling like a patient. It is a suitable alternative for those who have only mild cognitive and physical problems, but who can no longer live alone. The settings are typically more apartment-like than nursing homes.
- Family housing. “Granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites” are alternative names for dwellings that share property with family. Usually this is in the form of an accessory dwelling unit like an apartment addition or a backyard cottage. This can potentially work for anyone; an aging adult has privacy, but family members who are next door can cook for them and take them to doctor appointments.
- Aging in place. Lastly, a choice that is interesting to many people is to remain in the home of your choice as you age. Aging in place means that you have access to in-home care and assistance as necessary. This depends on how physically and cognitively healthy the person is, and whether it is feasible to have full- or part-time assistance from a nurse or aide.
A significant part of the choice for care depends on each person’s financial and health situation. It’s important to prepare in advance and get to know your options beforehand- this gives you greater choices when it comes time to make decisions. Discussion with physicians, mental health professionals, and financial and legal experts can prove invaluable.