Simply put, this preparation is largely unnecessary although there may be some value in planning ahead and looking at the bigger picture. In the short term, people begin aging in place by just continuing to live in their present home. It happens. They are doing it by definition. It doesn't require anything more than this.
As aging in place professionals, we want people to enjoy their living environment and age gracefully along with them. Nevertheless, we can't tell someone how they must live or how they need to modify their home to make it more accessible, safe, or comfortable for them. Even if we did, not everyone would heed our recommendations. We can only advise, and only then if we are asked.
There are many homes that have too much stuff in them, seem poorly lit based on what we consider to be good overall illumination, have flooring issues, may not be particularly well-ventilated, and present other issues that we would love to be able to rectify. The occupants may like it that way, may not know that it can be any better, or just don't want to consider any changes. They are aging in place in an environment that we consider less than ideal, but it is what they have chosen for themselves.
People cope with existing living conditions, adapt to their living space (even with physical limitations that suggest home modifications would make their lives so much easier), and in general live with and through what they have. While this segment of the population definitely could use our help, reaching them is another matter. Just finding them and having a conversation with them is a challenge. funding issues might be present also, but there are many resources available that might help.
The one factor that we need to be aware of and then be prepared to deal with is that a person's home often is a reflection of them and their personality. We need to be careful how we approach and identify improvements that we think need to be completed. We risk insulting or offending people if they don't understand our motives, which are simply to help make their lives easier and more enjoyable inside their homes.
While the people who choose not to do anything to improve their homes and just remain in them is one definite segment of the aging population, there are others. For instance, what about the people that realize that their homes could use a little help now they know they are going to be remaining in them? This is where we come in.
There are many people who need help - specifically our help, from a little to a lot - because their homes have not kept pace with their advancing years or because they have limiting personal conditions that make using their home more challenging. Their needs range from improving general accessibility to meeting larger, specific physical needs they might have.
People who need the kind of help we can provide may not know what is available or who can provide it. This is where networking through strategic partners and referring professionals can be a huge help. Normal, targeted marketing also is a plus. We need to let people know what is available and how to contact us to begin that discussion - and ultimately an agreement for services.
Aging in place can be a lot easier, safer, and more pleasant for them with a little assistance from us.
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.