Home Is Where the Heart Is

Key Takeaways

  • Research shows that loss of independence is the single greatest fear among the elderly.
  • “Staying put” enhances the elderly’s independence and is less expensive than a nursing home or retirement community—but the whole family must be part of regular monitoring and care.
  • Loneliness can hasten the likelihood of serious illness, disability or even death. Staying connected to family, friends and the community is essential for longevity.

Last week, we talked about family conversations around aging gracefully. Here we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of enabling the elderly to stay at home. According to a 2010 AARP study, nearly 90 percent of people over the age of 65 said they want to stay in their homes as long as possible.

It makes sense. The home is where people’s hopes and dreams tend to be built. It’s where their treasures and great memories are. Having the elderly stay put is less expensive than a retirement community or nursing home for most families. But it does create stress for everyone in the family as an older person’s health and mental capacity start to deteriorate.

A 2007 study, Aging in Place in America, found that loss of independence was the elderly’s single greatest fear, about 10 percentage points more common than fear of going to a nursing home. Believe it or not, only 3 percent of respondents said fear of death was their single greatest fear.

A Family Strategy for Aging

If elderly parents or relatives are going to stay in place, then there needs to be a complete family strategy to make it work. Who is going to check in periodically to see that everything’s going OK? Who’s going to make sure an elderly parent or relative isn’t getting lonely? Another study found that nearly half (43%) of people over age 60 suffer from loneliness. And loneliness can increase the likelihood of dying or becoming disabled. All of us, especially the elderly, need to stay connected to the community, to family and to others. That’s very important to longevity and aging gracefully.

We’ve also got to watch for diminished capacity, especially in the financial arena. Is an elderly parent or relative paying bills on time and making sound financial decisions? Are the elderly aware when a telephone scammer is trying to bait them for important personal information? Are their medication instructions clearly stated throughout the house? Are medical emergency numbers and key contacts readily available? Can the house be modified so that bedrooms and other commonly used rooms are all on the first floor?

These are all important issues that have to be addressed by the whole family and network of friends to help seniors stay put in their homes and age gracefully.


To that end, we have an eldercare seminar coming up in May. If you have (or plan to have) an elderly parent or relative who wants to stay put, please visit the events page of our website ( for more information.We’d love to have you there. So until next time, enjoy. Gary

Check out this video, “Staying Put in New Canaan” that was highlighted on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
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