As someone who believes wholeheartedly in thriving throughout the whole of our lives, I advocate very strongly for a choice of living arrangements that most positively influences our wellbeing. But how do we best achieve this? It’s all in our priorities.
Living arrangements have a huge impact on the quality of our lives, especially for older generations who spend increasing time in and around their homes as they age. In contemplating our future, it’s essential to identify and understand personal priorities, and what may be needed for a later life in which we boom rather than just survive.
It’s not something that comes instinctively to many of us, but putting ourselves and our needs first becomes increasingly important as we age. This isn’t just our essential priorities but, just as importantly, those things that increase our enjoyment of and engagement with life – personal passions that make our lives worth living and bring purpose to our lives.
We need to put life-enhancing priorities at the top of our list of considerations when making critical decisions, with the main one being where we choose to live. It’s about selecting a home in which we can prosper and celebrate the good fortune of our increased longevity, rather than merely getting by.
So, what are some of the determinants of a home in which we will be most likely to boom in later life? Accessibility is one of the biggest. Be it access to support and health services or to preferred activities and passions, hobbies and volunteering. It also incorporates in-home accessibility where mobility, ease of passage and comfort need to be established and maintained.
Flexibility and openness is needed when considering all facets of accessibility. There must be openness to look at all options, and flexibility to enable changes and modifications where necessary or beneficial. Whether it’s adapting the current home to better suit changing physical needs, or considering a move to a more suitable abode or area, it’s about putting the many options on the table and choosing according to what best matches a person’s needs and priorities.
Transportation options must also be considered. Will you be driving yourself around or be more likely to use public transport or have other people give you a lift? It’s important to consider too whether this is likely to change in the foreseeable future. Some people may have their driver’s licence currently, but there is a possibility of not being able to drive at some stage in the near future. What options will be available then?
This also raises the issue of resource availability in the local area. Does the area have the community and other relevant services that can meet personal priorities? If you have a love of books and enjoy visiting the library, is this an option for locally? Are the necessary health services accessible? Is the local area’s topography conducive to walking, exercising and the health benefits this provides? What else is important to you and is it available in the local area? These are all vital considerations and questions to ask yourself for a healthy and happy later life.
Another possibility when it comes to living arrangements is the option of inter-generational living. This has been shown to build strong relationships across generations which can be wonderfully enriching for both older and younger family members. And it can be financially beneficial for all.
There’s an important caveat needed, however, which is that it must be each party’s choice to live in this way together. It’s especially important to ensure the older person is in full choice of it, and all parties are embarking on a healthy and mutual agreement from the outset.
There are several options as to how multi-generational families can live together. These include a totally independent dwelling for the elderly family member or a completely integrated arrangement where all family members share the same space, or variations between these. What remains the same is the need for planning, agreement and clarity from the beginning.
As with other living arrangement options, it’s important to consider different scenarios that might occur in the future. In this instance, things like young grandchildren growing into teenagers should be given due thought, as well as how, when and what sharing and pooling of resources and time is expected or desired. Financial expectations should also be clear from the start. When this living arrangement works well, the upside can be extremely positive for all involved.
This booming experience is available in all living arrangements. It comes back to clarifying who we are and what’s personally important first, and then aligning these choices to the personal needs and priorities you have identified.