Friday, May 26, 2017

"Aging In Place Need Not Be Expensive Or Exclusive"

Aging in place is frequently talked about and a subject that is in the news often. People are looking for ways to remain in their homes as they get older, and this is a great idea for them. The fact that it is reported on so often or widely discussed doesn't mean that there is accurate information all of the time, however.

Someone who is familiar with the term from having heard it but not really having any real understanding of what it entails easily may have a misconception about its purpose. Often, people get the idea that aging in place needs to be planned for or thought about in advance to make it work, that it takes a lot of money to make necessary improvements, or that it takes a special type of individual to do it well. This simply is not the case.

Aging in place is for everyone, and it includes everyone. Typically we think of it as involving the Baby Boomer generation (all of whom are in their early 50s to early 70s) and their parents. There is nothing that says that the Millennials and other generations can't benefit from providing and having safe and comfortable dwellings, whether they own them, rent them, or live with someone else.

The idea of aging in place means that people can stay where they are without needing to move to enjoy a safe lifestyle that accommodates all of their needs. This is where it gets subjective rather than objective. There is no set of measurable criteria that applies to all homes and circumstances that says that a home subscribing to all of the items listed is in compliance with aging in place and others are not. Who is to say that someone is not enjoying their home even though it might not be something we would want for ourselves?

By not having a measurable set of guidelines or standards, aging in place means that people can decide for themselves what is best for them. This includes doing absolutely nothing (the least expensive option) to a minimal update to more major renovations. The amount of work undertaken, the finishes and products selected to use, and the physical needs of both the residents and the structure that need to be accommodated will be reflected in the size of the budget.

The fact that anyone, of any financial means and physical ability or age, can undertake making their dwelling as safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and accessible for themselves as they desire means that aging in place as a concept is not exclusive. It can and does apply to anyone. Not everyone will choose to make improvements to their dwelling, but whether they do or not, all can remain living where they are indefinitely.

Homes are so personal, as they should be. No one is coming along - without invitation - and telling people how they need to live. However, when people ask us for our ideas on what it will take to accommodate their physical conditions or how their homes can be made safer (wider doorways, safer bathrooms and kitchens, move room in hallways and other frequently used areas, more solid flooring, and better lighting and ventilation, for instance), we are prepared to work with them and bring together our team to create a solution. Depending on their budget, many ideas can be implemented.

As people desire to remain in their present homes, or move to another one and then remain in that home long-term, they don't need to set aside a huge budget. Of course, the more they can invest, the more they can do, but not all improvements are going to require that much in funds to accomplish. Some are going to be relatively simple and modest in terms of budget. The type of treatments that are selected will affect how much is spent also.

People can spend what they want - from nothing to a very large number - and achieve a wide range of results. They don't have to be anyone special to do this, and their home does not have to meet any baseline qualifications for them to commit to making it better. Aging in place solutions does not need to be particularly expensive (although it can be), and it can apply to anyone who wants it.

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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.