“Aging in Place” is a phrase that I come across on a regular basis and appears to be the ‘in’ phrase right now for the 55+ segment of the population. What does it mean to you? How would you define it? According to Wikipedia, it is: “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” If one is a younger senior or a baby boomer (one born between 1946-1964) there is still time to make this decision, to save money and to plan for the ‘golden years’ although many may continue to work beyond the typical retirement age of 65-67.
From everything I have heard and read, most adults would like to stay in their own home until they are no longer able or until they die, but is this realistic? Is your current home modified for future needs, are renovations needed or are you in the market for an already modified home? An existing home needs to have a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and laundry room on the main floor. The market for purchasing a new home or an already modified one: all is one level as in ground floor only with the main features of the house accommodating the needs of an older senior or one with a physical disability; wider doorways, no entranceway stairs, walk in showers with a built-in bench, pull-down or adjustable shower head, non-slippery floor surfaces throughout the home, lower cabinets, easy and accessible closet/storage space, etc.
Home maintenance and finances will be huge factors in the decision process as well. Are amenities close by, public or alternative transportation, medical care, family support, private support/services, socialization opportunities, and most importantly is it affordable? It could cost quite a sum of money to renovate/modify an existing house. Does it make more sense to buy a house that is already modified whether it is a stand alone house or one that is part of a community? These are all questions to consider before making a decision. What this means is a shift from a youth driven market to the aging market in terms of housing.
Louis Tennenbaum, Carpenter/Former Contractor says it best in his article Why You Should Remodel to ‘Age in Place’ Now on Next Avenue:
If boomers think about aging in place at all, we usually regard it as something we can put off until much later in life. Or to be more accurate, it’s something we hope we can put off until much later. That’s because we associate these kinds of modifications with growing old, which doesn’t sound like much fun.
There’s a better way to think about it, though: Aging in place is about creating a home so beautiful, comfortable and expressive of your personality that you never want to leave. We can’t fight aging, but we can take steps to make our house the place we want it to be.
A reframing of aging itself is needed in order for the phrase ‘aging in place’ to become acceptable. Aging is inevitable, but factors of health, well-being both physical and mental, social opportunities, accessibility to needed and necessary support/services/healthcare and finances all play a part in how one ages.
I also came across the Kendall Northern Ohio Blog which has an article on: Aging in Place: Look for Universal Design Features which lists some very practical advice for those looking to relocate into a home that has not been designed in the ‘aging in place’ style, but instead already exists and has universal features built-in that will accommodate someone with a physical disability or a senior with physical/health limitations.
- No-Step Entry
- French Doors
- Wide Interior Doors
- Open Space
- Downstairs Bathroom/Bedroom
- Low Shelving and Sinks
- Smooth Shower Entry
- East Turn Faucets/Fixtures.
- Easy Twist Doorknobs
- Grab Bars
Baby-boomers do not want to age in a typical senior residence or nursing home that current ‘older’ seniors have chosen or been placed in due to health conditions, diseases, physical limitations or cognitive disorders. The larger a cohort is, the more influence it can have on the market and this is already being seen. Baby-boomers are well-educated, demanding and research information as needed to expand their knowledge. Demands will be met or businesses lose out financially. It will be interesting to watch this market grow.
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer
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Thanks for noticing and addressing this increasingly visible “trend” in how we shelter ourselves. The more widely we raise the subject, the easier it will become for people who have taken in the negative stereotypes about aging to break through the attitude barrier, accept that things will change, and prepare themselves and their homes for whatever lies ahead. That in turn will actually raise their odds of aging safely, successfully and enjoyably at home.
Rachel Adelson, author, “Staying Power: Age-Proof Your Home for Comfort, Safety and Style”