As we age, it’s common to feel a strong desire to stay close to the things we know and love. That’s one of the reasons aging in place has become so popular, with 95% of adults age 55 and over saying it is an important goal for them, according to a 2024 U.S. News and World Report. 

While aging in place has many appealing aspects, it also comes with challenges. Below, we explain six of the most common and significant obstacles that seniors aging in place may face, and offer solutions. 

Aging in Place Basics

Aging in place is when a senior decides they want to continue living in their own home rather than moving to a senior living community. Many seniors may prefer to do so because of their social networks in the community, the familiarity of staying in their homes, and the cost of senior living, among other reasons. Still, it does come with some challenges. 

Pros and Cons of Aging In Place

Pros

Cons

Stay close to friends and neighbors in the community
Increased risk of accidents and incidents, like falls, because of less access to caregivers and suboptimal home design
Avoid the hassle of decluttering and moving and the emotional turmoil that can come with leaving a longtime home
Higher risk of social isolation and loneliness
Do not have to pay for senior living
Still responsible for home maintenance and cleaning, and outsourcing for these services can get expensive fast
Maintain consistency in your lifestyle
May need to hire an in-home caregiver

Who Shouldn’t Age In Place? 

While aging in place sounds appealing to most, it isn’t always a better alternative to senior living. Here are some situations when aging in place may not be the right choice:

  • Your family lives far away or works full-time, so they won’t be around to help you. 
  • You don’t have close friends in the community. 
  • You need an overnight caregiver. 
  • You need regular access to medical equipment or supplies. 
  • You are wheelchair-bound, and your home has narrow doorways or hallways.
  • You aren’t comfortable having paid caregivers in yuor home whom you don’t know.
  • You no longer drive, and public transportation options aren’t accessible. 

Challenge #1: Isolation

One of the benefits of moving to a senior living community is the built-in social network of neighbors in the same life stage as you and the preplanned social activities. Aging in place, you may be prone to isolation and loneliness, especially if you live alone and don’t have family and friends who live nearby. 

How You Can Help

You can help someone who’s facing loneliness and isolation aging in place with the following: 

Challenge #2: Poor Nutrition

Unlike seniors who move to a residential community, those who age in place are still responsible for all of their own meals. It may be difficult for seniors who age in place to maintain a well-balanced diet and proper nutrition due to mobility, motor, and cognitive challenges that can make it difficult to cook or remember to eat. Or, if they no longer drive, accessing food can be a challenge. 

Some signs of nutrient deficiencies or poor nutrition  in a senior include: 

  • Unexpected weight loss 
  • Brittle hair and nails 
  • Cracking and inflammation around the mouth and/or a swollen tongue 
  • Frequent diarrhea, which can be a sign of malabsorption 

How You Can Help

You can help someone who’s facing poor nutrition while aging in place with the following: 

  • Use meal delivery services to send nutritious food to their doors 
  • Find a Meals on Wheels provider near your loved one’s home
  • Hire an in-home care aide who can help with grocery shopping and cooking 
  • Arrange grocery delivery including many prepared foods
  • Do virtual cooking sessions over video chat 
  • See if any local resources are available that provide companion care involving going out to eat

Challenge #3: Trouble Completing Daily Activities

It’s common for seniors to struggle to complete the activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include the tasks that most people must do on a daily basis, including eating, dressing, bathing, and toileting. Mobility and cognitive challenges that come with age can make some of these tasks difficult. 

Some signs that your loved one is struggling to complete ADLs include: 

  • Unexpected weight loss or gain 
  • Unexplained bruises or other signs of injuries
  • Body odor and an unkempt appearance 
  • Rewearing the same clothes repeatedly 
  • An excessively messy home 

How You Can Help

You can help someone who’s struggling to complete ADLs while aging in place with the following: 

  • Get an ADL assessment so you know exactly in what areas they need help
  • Use assistive technology to make certain tasks easier 
  • Hire an in-home caregiver to assist with any ADLs that have become difficult
  • If the problems are physical, look into occupational or physical therapy 

Challenge #4: Health Care Needs

Senior living communities like assisted living facilities have staff available around the clock to help in emergencies and with some health care needs like medication management and wound care. This can be especially important if you have a chronic condition, like diabetes, that requires regular management. 

How You Can Help

You can help someone manage their health care needs while aging in place with the following: 

  • Make sure they’re aware of and signed up for telehealth options 
  • Hire a home health care aide
  • Seek community health centers or senior centers that may provide some medical supervision 
  • Look into adult day care programs that may have nurses on staff 

Challenge #5: Home Safety and Mobility Concerns 

Home design is very important when it comes to safely aging in place. However, many people who age in place have been in their homes for years, and thus, their homes often aren’t optimally designed. Homes with multiple floors, slippery surfaces, entryway stairs, or any number of other design features can pose risks to seniors aging in place. 

Expert Advice

“Before making any home modifications, have an occupational therapist assess your loved one. The OT will provide not only a functional assessment for ADLs but also a home environmental assessment to identify hazards and required modifications, supporting safety and accessibility in the home,” says Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD

How You Can Help

You can help address home safety and mobility concerns for someone aging in place with the following: 

  • Make home modifications like installing a stairlift, walk-in tub, and/or railings 
  • Make smaller changes around the home, like removing slippery rugs or turning a downstairs room into the primary bedroom 
  • Hire an in-home care aide who can monitor for safety and help with difficult movements, like getting up and down the stairs 
  • Get a medical alert system with fall detection to prevent further injury if a fall or other medical emergency does occur 

Challenge #6: Affording Aging in Place

Senior living is expensive, and some people choose to age in place because they can’t or don’t want to pay for a senior living community. However, even if you remain in your current home, aging in place does have its costs, including: 

  • Potential home modifications 
  • Potentially paying an in-home caregiver 
  • Food, which is often included in the cost of senior living
  • Home maintenance and cleaning, which is included in the cost of senior living 
  • Transportation, whether that be a car payment or a ride service 
  • Home security devices 
  • Assistive technology like medical alert systems 

How You Can Help

The following financial resources may be available to help someone who is aging in place:

Aging in Place FAQs

Why should I age in place?

You should age in place if being at home near your friends, in your community, or simply in the house you are familiar with makes you feel happy, safe, and independent. You should not age in place if you cannot do so without endangering your safety, the safety of others, or your family’s financial situation.

How can I make my home more appealing for aging in place?

Depending on your physical condition, your home may be too large or too unsafe for you to age in place successfully. Simple home modifications could make the process easier, but not every home is a good candidate for aging.

What are the drawbacks to aging in place?

Aging in place can be expensive, with home care services steadily rising in price post-pandemic. Home modifications, transportation costs, medical devices, and more can also raise the long-term cost of aging in place. While desirable, aging in place cannot always be accomplished safely or within your budget, though certain programs can help.

What are the benefits of aging in place?

Studies show that remaining in your home as you age can improve your mental and physical well-being and keep you close to the friends and family you love. Despite this, aging in place only reaps these benefits if you can do so safely and mostly independently.

How can I age in place by myself?

You can age in place by yourself by establishing the right support network, making the proper home modifications, and planning ahead in case you need a home caregiver. Your support network should include doctors, friends, family, your local senior center, your local Veterans Affairs office, if applicable, and any connections you have with caregiving organizations. Even if you live by yourself, you do not have to age in place alone.

Is aging in place a good idea?

Aging in place could be a good idea for some seniors. Those who are able to establish a support network, make the necessary modifications, and afford any eventual care services may be able to age in place safely and independently. However, depending on the senior’s physical condition, mental state, or financial situation, aging in place may not be viable, and others should be explored.