A Vibrant Living Guide to Aging in Place
How does vibrant living play into aging in place? “Aging in place” describes the process of growing older at home. It’s a process rooted in independence and comfort; a way for older adults to maintain normalcy and their sense of community.
We recently spoke with Angela Higginbotham about her expertise on aging in place, learned from assisting her 93-year-old mother at her mother’s home. Higginbotham is a CPS educator, Lead Speech Pathologist and a member of the Sage Collective Board of Directors.
“First off, I feel grateful to have the opportunity to care for my mom,” reflects Higginbotham. “I saw the sacrifices she made for my family growing up and I’m happy it’s my turn to do that now. As for how our caretaking occurs: it’s a family affair where my mother is directly involved in the decision-making process. My brother, sister, mother and I all sit down and have a conversation about how she’s feeling, what her needs are and how we can support her as long as we can in an independent setting.”
Though aging in place isn’t a viable option for everyone, it’s important for older adults with the mental and physical capacity to maintain that level of independence. “As long as people are able to take care of themselves, they’ll be able to take care of themselves longer,” explains Higginbotham. “So helping older adults to age in place, when possible, is essential to sustaining a vibrant life. Because I believe that once people stop maintaining their independence, it affects them psychologically and emotionally.”
Staying Engaged Through Community
“My mom still has her driver’s license — she’s smart about it and only drives between 10-2, when everyone else is at work and when it’s safest — but she still goes to church and out to see friends,” says Higginbotham. For older adults, social isolation and loneliness are often big hurdles to overcome. Staying engaged with family, friends and community members, then, plays a vital role in supporting a more vibrant lifestyle.
Higginbotham goes on to say: “My mom also personally knows many of my friends. From time to time, they’ll give her a phone call or even go and visit, which is something I so appreciate. It means she’s connecting with people and that’s so important.” Though maintaining independence is a large part of aging in place, it is these moments of human connection and care that help the experience feel even more comfortable and warm.
Staying Engaged Through Culture
Social engagement is one thing — but finding things to do for oneself is vital, too. We’ve emphasized before the importance of older adults discovering activities they love. Higginbotham reinforces this perspective, sharing: “One of my mom’s favorite hobbies is quilting. In the spring, we’ll also go to the nursery and pick out plants for both her place and my place together. I’ll keep her company at her house while she plants hers and then she’ll come over while I do mine. We also — pre-COVID times, of course — loved to go to the theater. We’d get lunch or dinner and see different plays across the city. It gave my mom something to talk about, too, because she’d go back and tell her girlfriend all about it.”
Higginbotham reflects on this, saying, “It’s important for people to get out and see what’s going on in the world. As people age, their ability to transport themselves to new places is limited, and they know about, what they know about. But, if there are people around who can expose them to new experiences, it enriches their lives.”
Aging in place is just one way to live a more vibrant life. But, whether at a personal home or a care facility, both experiences share a commonality: community and cultural experiences have the ability to engage older adults and enrich them, leading to more vibrant living for all.