Aging happens, and so does aging in place if we let it. There are at least four different ways to get ready for successful aging in place without making any major renovations or improvements: (1) do absolutely nothing and just keep going, (2) do nothing more than one would do in the normal course of home maintenance, (3) get rid of the clutter and known or obvious safety issues, (4) provide greater accessibility in passageways and work areas.
Of course, if there is a specific sensory, mobility, or cognitive requirement that needs to be met or addressed, that goes without saying and forms the basis of any modifications that are performed to allow someone to remain in their home more comfortably. Even at that, many needed improvements are not made for budgetary reasons or because people choose just to live with their condition and make do with what they have.
As for people without any significant medical issues that would require more attention in a renovation that just safety, comfort, or convenience areas, many of their concerns are addressed over time through normal maintenance. When they find something broken or not meeting their expectations, they replace it. It might be worn carpeting, faded window coverings, drawer pulls that are too small or showing signs of wear, cabinet doors or facing that is severely dated, appliances that are showing their age, insufficient room lighting, and similar items throughout the home. They aren't waiting for a major overhaul to complete a new look but accomplish it a little bit at a time, over time. This is budget-friendly for them also.
Some people recognize that they have amassed a large amount of boxes of various sizes, shapes, and contents, clothes that have gone out of style or are too large or too small that are otherwise in good condition and wearable, sporting goods that are no longer used, obsolete electronics (video games, fax machines, old computers, cameras, cell phones, watches, and the like), small appliances that have been replaced with newer models or that require some repairs, and various odds and ends.
They also realize that such items are taking up more than their fair share of their living space so they set about culling what they can from the accumulation to open up closets, attics, garages, basements, and passageways. They literally are making their homes more accessible by increasing the available and functional living space without making one physical improvement.
Some people recognize the need to have more usable space inside the four walls of their home so they make some improvements on their own or hire it done. They primarily are interested in opening up spaces to make them larger, less confining, and more usable - more accessible. They don't have a particular need in mind necessarily other than making it easier to use those areas of their home - hallways, bedrooms, laundry areas, kitchens, or family rooms, for instance.
None of these scenarios have people doing anything specifically to get ready to begin aging in place. First of all, they already are aging in place. Secondly, they are adapting their homes (or not) to accommodate their own needs and desires and not specifically to prepare for future living conditions or perceived needs.
Many people, with and without physical needs, can and do age in place without making significant improvements to their homes to prepare in advance for remaining in their homes. We like it when we are involved to help them, but many people choose to do nothing or very little to their homes as they age in place and continue living in those homes.
The fact is that people can choose to modify their homes to get ready for what they think will serve them well over the next few years (or longer) of remaining in that home, but many people just cope with what they have. While there certainly can be, there really is nothing that must be done in advance to get ready for 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.