Aging in place is not something we do as an activity. It's more a state of being than one of action. We don't age in place like we go to the store, take in a movie, go for a walk, bake a cake, read a book, paint a wall, do the laundry, make the bed, prepare a meal, cleanup after eating, take a shower, watch TV, listen to music, get dressed, go to bed, make the bed upon waking, talk on the phone, send a text message or email, surf the internet, type a paper, take a photo, and so many other things that we might do.
Notice that "doing" is the key word. However, with aging in place, it's not really something that we do. It's not like planning for and taking a vacation or trip. It's not like cleaning out the garage, raking the yard, cutting the grass, weeding the garden, or even planting flowers or vegetables. It's not like decorating the home - inside or out - for the fall and winter holidays. These are all activities - things that require us to physically and consciously do something.
We don't have to take lessons, go to class, study with anyone, apply for a license, or receive permission from anyone in advance. Aging in place for many is not a conscious decision that is thought out over time and then acted upon. It sneaks up on some, just happens for others, and is readily embraced by some. Generally, people find themselves living in a home that they enjoy, that provides for most of their needs, is located conveniently for them as far as neighbors and services are concerned, and one that they could see themselves remaining in. This happens gradually. Few people can point to a date on the calendar when they decided to remain living in their present home and to commit to doing everything possible to make that happen.
It's more of a realization than a specific decision people reach that this is their final home. Then, they go about keeping their home relevant for them. In other words, it's not what they do ahead of time to get ready for aging in place but what they do after they determine that they are aging in place and remaining in their home long-term.
While not an observation that applies to everyone, aging in place seems to be much more of an occurrence or situation than a conscious activity or decision that is reached. People don't take stock of their home to see how well it meets their needs or what they need to do to improve it before just agreeing - consciously or not - that this is their permanent home. They don't conduct their own audit of their home and their needs and then make an objective decision about whether to remain living in it. They just keep living there - even, in some cases, when the home is not that well equipped to provide for their needs. Clearly, some homes are better suited than others to meet the needs of their occupants as those individuals remain in their homes long-term. The point is not whether the homes are ready to serve but that the residents just keep on living in them. This makes it aging in place.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, 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.