Mary Blazanin

When I recently visited my 85-year-old mother, I was expecting to make a meal with her and help with some outdoor chores. Instead, she was enjoying a freshly grilled burger and corn on the cob dinner courtesy of her neighbor, and her lawn was well taken care of.

Frankly, I was a bit jealous. There are many days I would like to come home to that scenario!

Truth is, she is comfortable in her almost 100-year-old home. She lives on the main level, which has everything she needs, she has become proficient on social media, which keeps her connected to resources and friends, and she has neighbors who take care of her property as well as treat her like family. Her neighbors good-heartedly state that they have happily taken on the role of “being her assisted living” friends.

Odds are, just like my mom, most people want to be independent and age in place, staying in their own home for as long as they are able. According to Richard Eisenburg (managing editor of Next Avenue’s Money, and Work & Purpose channels) there are three keys to preparing for that option.

1. Ensure your home is designed to let you live there.

Ensuring your home is designed to fit your needs can be as simple as adding grab bars and railings, or as complicated as replacing an old tub with a walk in shower. There are many great options for creating a safe space.

And, if you are planning a significant aging-in-place renovation requiring professional contractors, make sure to look for a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), which is a professional designation from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

See the related information with this column on the Senior Center’s free Home Fit class in October, and join us to learn more about the possibilities.

2. Make tech your friend.

Technology often makes us nervous, but it really can be your best friend as you plan your aging strategy. This could mean wearing a smartwatch that detects if you’ve fallen and contacts an ambulance; or, setting up a camera system in your home letting loved ones see you if you’ll need their assistance. It can also mean learning how to use your cell phone and computer properly, and learning more about other technical advances designed to keep you safe and independent.

The Senior Center partners with Best Buy’s Geek Squad this fall to offer free classes and resources on the many tech services and options available for active older adults. You can find these classes on our City website, and also listed here.

3. Build and nurture both new and old relationships.

Pam Krueger, co-host of MoneyTrack on public television and the founder of Wealthramp.com notes, “Being independent does not equal being alone.” That’s especially true for solo agers who don’t have children or grandchildren. Fostering strong relationships fills the gap for those things you need to do to remain independent.

Kimberly Curtis, president and CEO of Wealth Legacy Institute, explains, “It helps to be intentional about building both same age and intergenerational friendships.” She maintains that your personal support “rings” includes your family/friendship circle as well as your participation circle. The latter consists of people like neighbors, gym buddies, coffee shop friends, fellow parishioners, a support group, or attendees at community gathering spaces like your local senior center.

Curtis says it’s important to remember that you may need to rely on some of these relationships to make medical or financial decisions for you if you can’t.

Or, like my mom, rely on them to help with home chores and unofficial wellness checks.

There are many resources available to anyone looking to plan ahead. Whether you are 50 or 80, it’s well worth your time and effort to think about and make plans for that season in your lives. Call or visit the Chanhassen Senior Center for more information and programs to help you get connected and make a plan.

Quotes and information in this article originally appeared on the Next Avenue website by Richard Eisenburg at www.nextavenue.org.

Mary Blazanin is the Chanhassen Senior Center coordinator. The senior center is located at 7700 Market Blvd., Chanhassen. More info at 952-227-1124.

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