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Residential Options in Old Age

Ouachita Council on Aging
Community-based Support is always available for the elderly.

We often say that a home is where the heart is.  As we age, the definition of “home” often changes.  A “home” may take on a more confining meaning such as, a nursing home. 

Most elderly individuals would prefer to “age in place.”  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “aging in place” as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” 

In other words, most people want to avoid living in institutional settings.  They feel the fear of losing their independence and the freedom of making their own decisions.  They feel the fear of “impersonalization.”  Institutional settings often strip away the individuality and uniqueness of a person. 

However, what happens when we are not able to do various chores on our own due to disability or debility? What kind of a living environment should we choose? 

The good news is that there are plenty of community-based services that are able to allow an individual to age in place.  A nursing home is usually the last resort for the care of an elderly person needing continuous nursing care.  Also, individuals with special needs such as people with dementia or Alzheimer's Disease would need specialized nursing care.

There are various levels of independent living options as we age.  If we find household chores becoming more difficult, home-based supportive services are available.  Sometimes, community organizations and religious organizations step in to help elderly people. 

Programs such as Meals on Wheels help income-restricted and mobility-restricted older adults.  If living at one’s own home becomes a difficult choice than assisted-living facilities provide an independent living option with some supportive help. 

Complete interview with Jennifer Bass discussing living options for older adults.

Jennifer Bass, executive director of Azalea Estates, pointed out that family and other informal support is very important irrespective of the living arrangement chosen by an elderly person.  A formal support system is able to serve individuals better when an informal support system provides reinforcement.

Anita Sharma Ph.D., LCSW, is a Gerontology and Social Work Educator, Researcher, and Practitioner. She holds an M.A. in Medical and Psychiatric Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a prestigious social sciences university in India, a Master of Social Work (clinical practice) and a Doctorate in Social Work from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Louisiana and serves as a pro bono consultant to various agencies.
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