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Seven ‘Life Hacks’ to Help Keep You Out of the Nursing Home

John Sears watches as an assistant from Beacon Hill Village replaces a window screen in his home, one of many services that help him “age in place.” Photo by Gilberto Nobrega

A few years back, John Sears stumbled upon the kind of retirement option he had always hoped to find — comfortable rooms, friendly neighbors, regular activities and lots of help whenever he needed it.

The key to it all, he said, was doing nothing. He didn’t leave his home or the neighborhood he loved in the Beacon Hill section of Boston. With a few calls, it all came to him.

Beacon Hill Village helps seniors like John “age in place” — an idea that’s growing in popularity as the rapidly graying United States looks for long-term care options that are more affordable and comfortable than traditional retirement homes. The nonprofit membership organization provides supportive, low-cost services to seniors like Sears who believe they’ll stay healthy and happy longer if they stay put.

These days, Sears relies on the group for basic things like transportation to doctors’ appointments, help grocery shopping and social outings to dinners or the symphony.

“The Village sent an architect down here one day and he looked around where an old codger like me might trip or fall.” Assistants then fixed a list of mundane things that can make a big difference in the long-run — like adding a bar to the bathtub, building a small step outside the kitchen door and changing hard-to-reach light bulbs so he won’t stumble in the dark.

It’s made him appreciate his neighborhood even more, knowing that “there are a bunch of people who simply give a hoot about us old-timers around here,” he said. “And that matters so much.”

For seniors like Sears who wish to remain in their homes, here are seven ‘life-hacks’ — simple tools and tips that some people find helpful as they “age in place” — courtesy of Allyson Evelyn-Gustave, a senior occupational therapist at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing who is currently part of a team examining how relatively easy home repairs can boost independence for low-income seniors.


Do you have your own life-hack tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments section below and we’ll combine the best into a future sharable graphic.

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