Society sends a strong message that successful aging means living continuously in your own home for as long as possible,” says Stephen Golant, a University of Florida gerontologist and author of Aging in the Right Place. It may take a crisis or major upheaval to make people rethink the matter, Golant says, such as the death of a spouse, a serious fall, a bad car accident or repeated hospitalizations.
The challenging gray area is when less-dramatic events begin to add up. The mail is piling up; unfilled prescriptions or chaotic medicine assortments suggest needed treatments are being missed; the lawn hasn’t been tended to; the laundry is all over the place; the house doesn’t look good, or there are charred pots or countertops; expired food in the refrigerator. Seniors living alone in their 70s and beyond may keep serious problems to themselves because they don’t want to worry the family or feel like a burden. It may be reassuring to hear “I’m fine” when you call, but your instinct is telling you that maybe things are not so fine. They stop doing things they used to love doing and give all kinds of reasons, but you begin to suspect there is more to that story.

There can be a tipping point when it’s clear that aging in place isn’t working.

For the older person,” Golant says, “it’s when the feeling of incompetence and being out of control trumps the familiar comfort and attachment to home – memories, friends, possessions.” From the perspective of the concerned family member, Golant says, “It’s when your uncertainty level reaches a point where you dread receiving a phone call at any time of the day or night.”

This happens not just in primary family homes, but in independent apartments too. A housekeeper may come in weekly to do light housekeeping, but the clutter never goes away. Meals may be available, but the refrigerator becomes storage for multiple Styrofoam containers, some that may be growing lovely bacterial families. Toilet paper, canned goods, extras of everything stuff the closets and cabinets so nothing else can be added. Hygiene has gone downhill. If you see this happening to yourself or a loved one, then Aging in Place should be replaced with Aging in the RIGHT Place according to Golant. Make a connection this February with our Community Relations Director, Paula. There is no shame in asking for the help that Gates Mills Club can quietly provide. That is what we are all here for…

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