Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"'Active Adult' Can Have A Different Emphasis Than Aging-In-Place"

As we grow older, many of us like to remain active and forestall the effects of aging for a while longer. In fact, do we really need to feel older at all - in terms of physical activities? As long as we continue to run, bike, golf, swim, play tennis, and anything else we have enjoyed doing over the years, there's no reason to feel any older - except that there is a noticeable decline in our speed, power, and endurance. Oh well.

That said, the term "active adult" is very popular - especially with Boomers. It means that we can essentially ignore the effects of aging and pretty much act we did a couple of decades ago.

Speaking of active adult, there are many gated and new home, for-sale communities that are billed as being for active adults. Many are 55+ registered communities. They offer a host of onsite amenities such as golf, tennis, dining, fitness, trails, and other pursuits. Many have full-time staff dedicated to counseling or working with the residents as personal trainers, nutritionists, athletic coaches, and the like.

The people who are attracted to an active adult setting - and the ones that the builders' marketing departments are aiming at - can have a different outlook than people who might be interested in treating their home as one with aging-in-place potential although their numerical ages might be similar. The active adult group might actually be older on average.

The active adults are looking for community - for social outlets. They want functions, parties, activities that involve food and drink, and holiday celebrations. They often look at their homes more as a base and a place to return to - much like a stateroom on a cruise or a hotel room on a vacation - than as a place where they are going to be spending time enjoying and nurturing their home and the people in it.

Active adult doesn't mean that they are free of the aches and pains of aging - vision and hearing issues, arthritis, hip and knee limitations, or chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart-related issues. It might mean that they are more interested in ignoring them or coping in order to be out and about "enjoying life" than in determining how their homes need to change to accommodate their own changing conditions.

Active adult living seems to focus more on activities outside the home - on the golf course or tennis court, at the clubhouse, in the spa, at the neighbors, or on a bike ride - while aging-in-place has its share of outside-of-the-home activities, including employment, but seems to be home-centered rather than community or social-centered.

People who are identifying with the active adult lifestyles may be so busy pursuing social relationships and activities outside of the home that they miss connecting with their homes. While the home that they have selected may indeed be their forever home, it may not be perceived in the same way as someone who has chosen their home to provide for their needs as the age.

On the one hand, the home is a place to live in often without any real consideration of what needs to be done over time to make adaptive changes to meet their changing physical needs. Improvements that are contemplated or undertaken might be for meeting the demands of entertaining or keeping up with their friends and neighbors than in addressing more personal concerns that help their home keep pace with their abilities.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.