Ron Smith Maricopa
Ron Smith

Over the past year, I’ve focused on reviewing recommended checklists to improve the physical setup of your home for aging-in-place. COVID-19 has helped reinforce the value of improving your home’s safety and ease of living.

As we get older, we start realizing simple things once taken for granted are no longer easy. When we raised our children, we taught them how to be adults. But no one taught us how to be older adults. So, over the next few months, we’re going to explore ideas to help us recognize and better prepare to handle new challenges to successfully age-in-place.

The gift of time: We made it to retirement, so now what? Many have dreams of travel, exploring hobbies or new ideas, or seeing more of the grandchildren. Others are just not ready. Even new retirees with retirement plans will eventually seek new challenges to bring more meaning to their golden years. How do they become engaged in meaningful activities or find ways to contribute to their community? Purpose gives us the energy to enjoy life.

Managing your physical health: Your physical health is a gateway to your future. Do you have a health maintenance plan? Are you taking advantage of preventive services? We must understand the importance of mental skills, strength, flexibility, balance and endurance to function on our own. Also vital is proper management of medications and being able to help yourself in an emergency.

Healthy eating: Seniors must eat well and maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Is malnutrition a concern? Can you prepare your own healthy meals?

Your financial life: With 20-40 years of life ahead, do you understand your assets and have a financial plan to ensure you won’t run out of money? Are funding options available, if needed? Does a reverse mortgage make sense?

Advance planning: Health care, financial and housing decisions will need to be managed. How will you function if you lose a spouse or partner? An end-of-life plan should be communicated to family, with instructions to carry out your wishes.

Modifications to your home: You may need substantial modifications to your home for safe entrance (ramps, lifts), access to another floor (elevators, chair lifts) or more accessible use of the toilet, shower, tub or even your bed. Have you thought about the cost, affordability and how they will be made?

Hiring people to help: Some will need help to deal with daily activities. Can you hire local resources to help you in your own home? Or do you already need assisted living or a nursing home? How do we find the proper resources and define criteria to guide those decisions?

Getting around: How do you get around in your community to shop, see a doctor or visit friends? Can you still drive on your own or have transportation options, and are they senior-friendly? Inadequate transportation options are a potential source of isolation and barrier to necessary services.

Aspirations: What do you look forward to? What gives you meaning in life? How will you complete your bucket list? What gives you the motivation to embrace and enjoy life? These are important considerations.

Aging-in-place is about how your life will play out if you choose to stay in your home. We will explore these important components over the next few months.

Ron Smith is a Maricopa resident and an aging-in-place advocate. He is a member of the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee, a member of the Maricopa Senior Coalition and a certified Aging-in-Place specialist (CAPS).

This column appears in the January issue of InMaricopa magazine.