Almost 80 percent of Israelis 65-and-older would rather remain at home than move to an eldercare facility, and that preference only gets stronger as people age, according to a survey released on Monday.
The study, which was conducted late last month by the Tel-based non-profit eldercare organization Matav, found that about 71% of the 50-and-older crowd would rather stay home. Some 34.7% of them chose home to moving because they prefer living in a place where they have a developed and comfortable routine.
Other reasons people preferred to stay home included a nearby support system, a preference to live near family members, an emotional connection to the surroundings, a need for independence, and monetary concerns.
"Most of the elderly want to continue to live in their homes as long as they are capable of doing so," said Dr. Yosefa Steiner, of Matav's board of directors. "As professionals, we know that elderly people who stay in their natural environment function better than those who are removed from their homes."
Steiner explained that since seniors are often physically and cognitively weaker, they find it harder to adapt to new surroundings. It is often better for them to stay at home, near facilities they know.
And as people age, issues of comfort and habit become more of a concern. Rachel Shamir, Matav's southern region director, explained that people between 50 and 64 years of age were more willing to move because a secure social setting where they can unwind free of daily worries is appealing. But for those older than 65, the very notion is disturbing and maybe even frightening.
"The environment is familiar, the routine is automated," Shamir said. "The elderly person knows people, he is known in his community, he knows the community facilities. And do you know how much energy it takes to move to a new place?"
Shamir lauded options that allow somewhat of a compromise between the two, because elderly people remain at home and still benefit from advanced eldercare services. There are programs, for example, where caregivers stop by for a few hours daily, making house visits that include straightening up, shopping and overseeing medical needs and appointments. There are also day centers for the elderly, where they can come for half a day and enjoy two meals and various programs.
But staying at home is not always an option, especially for people who with significant needs. "Sometimes it just doesn't work out," said Shamir. "You can't open a hospital in your house."
In a guest post last week on The New Old Age, a New York Times blog about elder care, author and Washington Post writer Paula Span addressed this topic. Span concluded that in some cases, staying at home definitely is the best solution. But other times, when isolation, lack of stimulation, and neglect are side effects of that decision to remain at home, it might make most sense to move.
As for those who have left home for care elsewhere, many want to return home one last time - to die.
"It gives them a sense of peace and serenity," said Shamir. "To return and finish their life cycle in a familiar setting."