Friday, January 6, 2017

"When Does One Begin Aging In Place?"

Do we really know the official age when is considered to be aging in place? Is there an actual age when this happens? Is there something that needs to happen first? The short answer is "no."

The beauty of aging in place is that it is on-going and not at any specific point in life. Is is not age or event driven. There is no certain age that someone attains - 30, 40, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70 - where aging in place suddenly becomes important or where one moves into that category - from not having been in it previously.

While older people may be more concerned with maintaining the homes they are in right now and in making those homes safer, more comfortable, and more accessible for themselves and people who call upon or visit them, there is nothing in terms or age or any other event that happens that designates them as part of the aging in place market any more than any other age group or demographic. There is no notification from any of their insurance companies, and no government agency contacts them to inform them of this fact.

Thus, aging in place is an outlook or strategy rather than a specific place or station in life that one attains.

From a practical standpoint, everyone is aging in place - living where they are as successfully and effectively as possible whatever age they are and whether they are living with someone else (their parents, for instance for young children, or their adult children for aging parents) or on their own.

Remaining independent is a large element of aging in place - living in a private dwelling. While it's true that someone living in a nursing home or life care facility is aging in place where they are, this is not what we typically include in our aging in place emphasis.

Even when someone contracts a life-changing illness or disease, or when they suffer a traumatic injury at some point in their life, these events do not mean that they suddenly transition into the aging in place market. Life events and passing years may cause someone to focus more on the quality of their current home and how well it is able to meet their needs, but it doesn't mean that someone who wasn't part of the aging in place discussion suddenly now is included.

In fact, from a very early age, everyone is part of the aging in place emphasis. There is no escaping it or separating oneself from the discussion. People might be impacted by ailments directly in their childhood, they might witness their parents and grandparents dealing with aging or illness issues, they could experience neighbors, teachers, and family friends working with aging issues, or they might become aware of aging in place issues through messages they see or read.

As aging in place providers and consumers, we need to think of comprehensive ways that we and others can enjoy the homes they are in throughout their lifetime and strive to make those living spaces safe, comfortable, and accessible through their initial design or modifications to existing floor plans. Aging is a lifelong pursuit and so is providing the means for people to live well in their homes and apartments during that journey. 

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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.