Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Aging In Place Isn't Just For Seniors"

Mention aging in place, and we immediately think of senior citizens. Traditionally, this might be true as people who have selected the home they want to remain in continue to live there and look for additional ways to make their lives and their living environment more comfortable and functional.

Why this bias toward seniors? Don't other people of various ages and abilities enjoy living in their homes also? Don't they deserve safe, comfortable, accessible, and enjoyable homes and apartments? Notice that I mentioned apartments. Aging in place is for all ages (not just seniors), for any physical ability (not just able-bodied, normally ambulating people or just those who rely or mobility assistance), and for owner-occupied as well as renter occupied dwellings.

True, owners have more latitude on the types of improvements they might want to undertake than renters - and a greater financial stake, but renters aren't automatically precluded from making safety improvements to their dwelling spaces.

In the big picture, everyone is aging in place wherever they are living at that moment. Aging in place only applies to residences - not commercial structures or anything public - but it covers us at any age.

While the tendency is to focus on keeping people safe in their advancing years and enable them to remain living in the homes they love rather than packing up and moving to a managed home of some type, there is no reason why our focus should be any less acute for people of any other age.

Young people living in their parents homes, the parents who are raising those young people, people away at college, those moving into their first apartment or home, those beginning a family, empty nesters who have seen their children grow and leave home, formerly empty nesters who have seen one or more of their children return home to live for a period of time, people (with and without children) who have invited their parents or other older relatives or close friends to move in with them to look out for their well-being, and other situations are all part of aging in place.

Aging in place simply means that we are focused on creating - or educating in the cases where the job is too small, people are unwilling to hire expertise, or they are capable of making the improvements themselves - how people can live more comfortably in their space and how their can enjoy freedom of movement without fear of falling or stumbling, imminent injury, or difficulty in using many of the features, controls, and devices in their home.

Thus, as aging in place professionals we have a very big arena in which to find potential clients and offer our assistance. While we can make our business model as narrow and specific as we desire, we have tremendous leeway in the size of the market and how we may want to offer our assistance to people.

Because aging in place is not age or event-driven (perhaps accentuated when something happens), we literally can serve anyone of any age, ability, lifestyle, or type of residence.

Undoubtedly, seniors will continue to receive a lot of the focus of aging in place activities, but this does not need to be the case if we want to serve other populations. There are plenty of people across age groups and abilities that can use what we offer.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, 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.