Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Why Wait To Begin Enjoying Aging In Place?"

There are many people who speak of getting ready or preparing for aging in place as if it is an upcoming event like a graduation or a wedding. Clearly there is nothing to get ready for because it's already here!

Now there are things that can be done to our homes better for us to reside in - us personally and collectively as well as the people we serve. However, even when nothing is done, people are still aging in their homes. It can't be helped or stopped.

The idea is to make this process as pleasant, seamless, and unobtrusive to our general lifestyle as possible, but everyone is aging in place where they are. It doesn't take a move into a new dwelling before it can begin. It doesn't take a conscious decision or effort to make it happen. All of those can be beneficial and can assist the process, but it is ongoing even without our consent.

Since all of us are aging aging in place, why not enjoy the ride and make it as enjoyable as possible? Rather than coping or dealing with appliances, flooring, lighting, switches, door handles, cabinet hardware, bath fixtures, heating systems, defective windows, narrow doors, and other issues, it is possible to systematically identify and prioritize those items that are the most problematic in terms of safety, accessibility, mobility, comfort, and enjoyment within the walls of the individual dwelling space and then to begin addressing them - subject to the amount of work that needs done, the budget or available funds to help make it happen, and the tolerance for the work of the residents of that home.

Thus, there really is nothing to get ready for to begin aging in place. It's not like getting the spare bedroom ready for a new baby or for a returning child after college. It's not like making space for a hobby or a business in the home. It's simply going about the business of staying in our homes and enjoying it as much as possible.

If we can clean out unnecessary clutter and storage items - like we might do if we really were expecting someone to be moving into our home or joining us - that certainly will facilitate our ability to age in place much better than not doing this. One of the biggest issues we face that hampers our enjoyment (all of us) of our homes as we remain in them is the amount of stuff we have collected over the years. It has taken us a lifetime to collect and amass these keepsakes, collectibles, spare parts, and in some cases just stuff. These are not going to go away overnight unless we literally tossed it all. Since most of us aren't willing to do that. we'll have to live with hanging onto all or most of it or begin the slow process of weeding through what we have. In any case, we can organize and keep things more orderly than they are.

Cleaning out some of our excess items or organizing them better would be a great first step for aging in place, and in this sense, it's a way we can get ready to age in place. If it takes us weeks, months, or even years to do it, however, it doesn't mean that aging in place clock won't start until we are finished. It's already running.

In short, there is nothing we need to do to get ready for aging in place except to acknowledge that we want to stay in our homes and then enjoy the journey. Even if we decided that we wanted a different home, it would take time to find it and move out of our present one and into the new one. Meanwhile, we would be aging in place where we are.

It's great that it really doesn't take any formal preparation or commitment to begin aging in place. This way so many of us can do it. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master 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.