Aging In Place

1/18/2022 | By John Levan

In a society that values bold and outgoing personalities, introverts are often misunderstood – even as they age. Despite increasing health concerns and frailty, aging in place for introverts may still feel preferable to moving to a senior community. Yet they may be criticized for their preference to remain at home – especially by extroverted loved ones who value the benefits of a senior community and worry about the risks of a senior living alone.

Aloneness versus community

Solitude can be rejuvenating for some, especially when it’s voluntary and gives pleasure without making them feel excluded from positive social relationships. Seniors have had a lifetime to learn how to keep their own company. Now, many of them are comfortable living in engaged seclusion and are even choosing to age in place, which offers certain advantages.

On the other hand, social isolation and loneliness can leave the elderly vulnerable to some health problems. Around 28 percent of older adults (13.8 million people) in the United States live alone. Some experience negative effects of living alone, raising concerns for their mental and physical well-being. After all, loneliness can negatively impact physical health for people of all ages, with symptoms such as trouble sleeping, weight gain, heart issues, cognitive decline, and a weakened immune system.

The concern for the welfare of older adults is understandable, leading many people to conclude that less human contact always has negative consequences. But some seniors enjoy being by themselves. For them, being “alone” does not equate with being “lonely.”

Is aging in place for introverts a viable option?

Consider some of the benefits of aging in place for introverts – and anyone else.

Aging at home is usually less expensive

According to Genworth, the average cost of assisted living in 2020 was $4,300 per month – $51,600 per year. Couple that with the fact that many seniors live mortgage-free, and aging in place looks attractive financially.

If you had to hire a home health aide to help for 20 hours each week, you would still only be paying a national average of $2,080 per month – less than half the cost of assisted living. And if you’re in excellent health, you might not need to have help for 20 hours – or maybe not at all.

Aging in place means you get to determine your social network

Staying in your home allows you to keep your current social circle and enjoy the solitude when you please. Since many communities offer activities at senior centers and provide opportunities to volunteer, you always have the option to become involved or pursue a solitary passion.

You’ll probably be more comfortable at home

There’s a lot to be said for living in familiar surroundings: your own bed, comfortable recliner, memories, having everything at your fingertips, and perhaps best of all, not having an incompatible roommate!

Risks of aging in place

Older adults in good health typically find comfort and familiarity in living independently. However, there is an inherent downside to aging in place that should be acknowledged and addressed. Loneliness often has a detrimental effect on senior health, and, as mentioned earlier, it can manifest in several emotional and physical ways, including:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Dementia

Falls are also more prevalent in older people, and when they fall while living alone, they might not be able to seek help, causing a dangerous delay in getting treatment. Cognitive decline in seniors can make them more liable to overdose or underdose on their medication, especially troubling if there is no one around to monitor them.

Accept aging in place for introverts while minimizing risks

Many seniors choose to live alone because it offers them familiarity, the memories they associate with their home, or a more settled sense of solitude. They may not like the idea of living in a new community, surrounded by people they don’t know, with less privacy. And living with a family member might not be an option.

Related: What in-home care options are available for aging in place?

If you’re that solitary, introverted senior – or you’re a concerned loved one – there are other ways to ensure safety and self-sufficiency. If needed, you can look at in-home care options, home modifications for aging in place, or technology that makes living alone safer. For peace of mind, you can look at senior communities as safety nets if circumstances change.

It’s important to respect a person’s right to make their own decisions as long as they’re able, while allowing them the freedom to take and accept the inevitable risks.

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.