Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"The Role Of Comfort In Aging In Place Decisions"

There are many reasons that people choose to remain in their current homes as they age. They may truly like their home. They may find their neighborhood offers a setting that appeals to them. There are the financial and economic aspects of not being able to replace what they have for anywhere close to what they have invested in their present home and the out-of-pocket cost of actually moving. There is the volume of what they have collected and amassed over the years of living in this home and previous residences.

One of the biggest reasons for wanting to remain in their current home, however, is comfort. Who doesn't like being comfortable? We wear old blue jeans and flannel shirts around the house and yard long after they are something we would want to be seen in at the store. We have that favorite (or more than one) old pair of shoes that are just so comfortable to wear that it's actually a pleasure to put them on and walk about in them. Many people have that favorite chair or recliner that they enjoy sitting in to watch TV, take a nap, or read.

There is so much to be said for comfort.

Along with convenience of where and how fixtures, switches, controls, and other operating elements of the home are located; the general accessibility and freedom of movement afforded by hallways, doorways, furniture placements, cabinetry, appliances, and other items located in or along passageways in the home; and the general safety of the home that is evident in so many areas, comfort is part of the top four areas of concern in keeping people in their homes over time.

When items in the home are comfortable to use, they are safer to use, get used more often, and help accommodate the residents of that dwelling. Comfort has to do with the relative ease or difficulty of use and how it feels in the hand when grasping it - hard, large, small, soft, slippery, controllable, or sharp, for instance.

When people are in control of a situation and their general living environment, they feel more comfortable with their space. They know how to navigate it well - even to the point of finding their way without difficulty with decreased or failing vision.

Adequate lighting, non-slippery flooring, pleasant wall paint and decor colors, furniture that is enjoyable to use, and a temperature that is easy to adjust all contribute to the general comfort level of the occupants of a dwelling.

Just as an old piece of clothing or footwear just has that indescribable pleasant feel to it, a home can provide the same kind of comfort. It's this "old friend" nature of a home that people have come to live and respect that makes it so much easier to want to remain living in it and so much more difficult to turn their back on it and look for somewhere else to live. Comfort cannot be overstated as a reason people want to remain in their current homes long-term.

Where comfort does not exist to the extent that it could, we can come alongside the occupants and help them to achieve what is missing. We might make some safety, accessibility, or convenience recommendations as well, but comfort needs to be right up there in priority.
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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. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.