EAST HAVEN, CONN. — As Dagmar Ridgway knows all too well, it’s not always possible for senior citizens to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. “Each person is different,” said Ridgway, director of Canoe Brook Center in Branford. “But we are seeing that most seniors are facing the same things.”
In its 2015 survey, the National Council on Aging found that 75 percent of Americans who are 60 and older said they intend to stay in their current home for the rest of their lives. Common challenges keeping that from being a reality include medical care, transportation, and keeping up with house maintenance. According to the survey findings, “both older adults and professionals who work with them would like to see services that would help older Americans with home modifications and repairs.”
Linde Nopile, 72, looked into senior housing when her children moved out and her husband died. She found that senior housing was not for her; it was too expensive and not private enough. So she decided to make her 100 year-old East Haven home more “senior friendly” with some renovations. “We took the washing machine from the basement so I wouldn’t have to go up and down the stairs,” Nopile said. “I made a walk-in shower downstairs, got new floors in the kitchen, so it’s easy to take care of.” Nopile said she did have to hire someone to shovel snow and cut the grass. She also wanted to stay in her home because of helpful neighbors. “I have a young woman living next to me, she worries about me. It’s wonderful living here,” Nopile said.
Leaving a home can also be very emotional for people, as Angie Criscuolo, 90, can attest to. Criscuolo now lives on her own in a private condo after selling her beach home where she lived for 40 years. Criscuolo said it was difficult to leave the home where she and her late husband spent many years together. “The only way I describe that there, it was like burying my husband when I moved away from the beach,” Criscuolo said. Other factors that may affect where a person decides to live, Ridgway said, are illness and disabilities that can come with aging.
Doris Welch, whose mobility is restricted to a wheelchair and breathes through an oxygen tank, said she had no choice but to move into Apple Rehab Laurel Woods four years ago after she was found not breathing in her home several times. “My daughter couldn’t take it anymore, she told me if I stayed by myself I could die,” Welch said. “It was difficult but I had to do it because of the oxygen.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2010, people who are 65 and older make up 17.6 percent of East Haven’s population and 19.9 percent in Branford. According to Ridgway, it will be higher in the next couple decades. “It’s growing. The baby boomers are hitting,” Ridgway said.
Ridgway said the Branford center provides one-on-one counseling for seniors to help decide the housing option best for each individual. They can live in senior housing, some of which offer levels of assisted living and care, while others offer a more private, independent lifestyle. Then there are network systems like Shoreline Village CT, which provides members with services that help them stay in their homes, including transportation by volunteers, health and educational programming, and social opportunities for seniors.
Ridgway said there is a need for a lot more programs that support seniors who wish to remain in their homes, as it may lead to a better lifestyle. “They want to stay in their community that they know,” Ridgway said. “It’s not always possible because they have physical limitations. But most people, if you give them the option, they will want to stay in their house. People want to remain independent and that can help them live a happier, healthier life.”