Wednesday, September 27, 2017

"Let's Not Let The Idea Of 'Aging' Get In Our Way"

The word "aging" - when not applied to wine, whisky, cheese, investments, or antiques - doesn't always have the most pleasant connotation. It doesn't have a soft sound on our ears. Nevertheless, we all are aging, so let's learn to accept it and deal with it.

As aging in place professionals, our role is to help people stay in their homes over time and to have them remain safe and independent in those environments. Rather than refer to this as aging in place - which is what it is and what we are all about - some people look for a softer term to use. That's OK, but it doesn't mask or hide our mission so let's confront it head-on and talk about it.

Interestingly, the people who are staying in their homes refer to this process as aging in place. They have accepted it, so we should as well. Aging in place is a very common, and well-used term. We don't need to soften it or reinvent it with something else. It's fine the way it is, and people understand it for what it is and what it represents. They may not understand all of the nuances of it and exactly what they need to have done to help them live more successfully in their homes, but they are committed to remaining in their homes and aging in place.

Everyone is aging. It truly is a fact of life. If we are living, we are getting older. Everything around us - animate or not is as well.

After we get over the hurdle of confronting the aging issue - if that has been a concern - we can really get down to working with people to help make their homes accommodating for them.

Aging brings with it many issues that we can address - many of them safety related. Adding lighting to illuminate darkened areas, to create more uniform areas of lighting, to relieve eye strain, to make objects easier to see, and to generally make being in the home and able to use the furniture, appliances, controls, and fixtures within it more easily. Being careful to eliminate potential sources of glare and being sensitive to how glare from daylighting may change throughout the day is an important safety measure also. Adding lighting to the outside areas helps people feel more secure in their homes also.

Mobility is a huge concern as well, involving safe footing, ease of entry into and through doorways, and reach and use of cabinets, shelves, appliances, fixtures, and more. We can help eliminate or reduce the potential for slipping on tile or other smooth surfaces, the tripping or stumbling potential of area or throw rugs or worn carpeting that gas stretched, and the obstacles of tight spaces created by furniture placement or doors opening into passageways.

When people can't function in their homes effectively because they can't reach items that they need to use, they feel disadvantaged. Doors, shelves, closets, cabinets, pulls, knobs, controls, switches, and windows may be too high, too difficult to operate, or too stiff or tight for them to use or access easily. This isn't always an easy or inexpensive fix, but any help we can provide will enhance their use and enjoyment of their space.

People are aging in different ways and have various needs associated with that. Some people are going to require more help than others, but the ultimate objective is to help them remain in their homes over time - regardless of any physical limitations they may have.  The more we know and the more we learn about how to help them makes us an increasingly valuable resource an asset for them.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.