Get the support you need

Many older adults prefer to stay at home as they age. The best way to stay independent is to know when and where to ask for help.

Photo of man lying down in the grass

Become familiar with your community's support services for seniors, such as transportation, financial counseling, and home-delivered meals.

Create a support network of family and friends who will help see you through rough times. Find a friend you can confide in. Be a confidant for someone else.

Services for independent living

The following services are available in many communities and costs will vary. You can find out more about the services available in your area by calling your local senior center, Area Agency on Aging (AAA), or by visiting Eldercare Locator.

Chore services provide nonmedical care in the home, such as housekeeping, cooking, shipping, laundry, and transportation. Services may be available through churches, synagogues, and fraternal groups.

Friendly visitors are nonmedical attendants who provide companionship and some supervision for a few hours. They do not usually provide any housekeeping or personal care services.

Home health aides or personal care assistants provide basic health care and personal care such as bathing, dressing, and help in using the toilet. They can be helpful during recovery after a hospital stay or in permanent caregiving situations, providing service around the clock or for a few hours a week.

Meal services provide hot meals served at a central location, usually in a senior center. Social activities are sometimes offered, too.

Home-delivered meals, from groups such as Meals on Wheels, bring hot, nutritious, and inexpensive meals to the home, usually at lunch.

Senior centers are sites where older people gather for meals, social activities, and educational programs. Some may offer transportation to and from the site or to doctor visits.

Residential care or retirement homes are special apartment complexes or private homes that provide supportive environments but allow residents to remain somewhat independent. Residents have their own apartments or rooms. Some facilities provide meals in a central location and offer a variety of services, such as laundry, housekeeping, and help with bathing, dressing, and taking medications.

Skilled home care services provide professional nursing care in the home, as needed, and is often supplemented with personal care provided by home health aides. In-home physical, respiratory, speech, and occupational therapy services are also available. In some areas, certain tests, such as X-rays and lab tests, may be done at home.

Look for support programs in your area.

Preventing falls

Falls and other household accidents may change your ability to live independently. Learn how to prevent these accidents and stay safe.

Making the decision to move

At some point, you may need to decide to leave your family home. You may want to be closer to your children and grandchildren or to move to a place where the climate is better, where it's less expensive, or where it's easier to do house and yard chores.

Even with help from family and neighbors, the day may come when it may not be possible for you to stay in your own home. In that case, you still have options in addition to moving in with family members or moving to a retirement home. Home sharing or cooperative living and live-in companions are just a few possibilities.

Learn more about alternative living arrangements and take some time to explore your options. If you decide to move, consider waiting to see how your new living arrangement works out before selling your home.

Source: Adapted from copyrighted material of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Reviewed by Tracy Lippard, MD, July 2019