Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Aging In Place Works For Some Because They Are Adaptable"

Aging in place as a concept and as a lifestyle choice works on many different levels and for various reasons. The chief reason it works is because our homes are dependable. There is no worry from day to day about finding a new place to live or that the current home is suddenly going to be unfit for us - that we will somehow have reached or surpassed the end of its useful life.

Unlike many things that we buy and use, homes don't have an expiration date or a point at which they cease to be useful. Their functionality can decline based on our mobility or sensory abilities, by not having a new technology, or from the number of people who are occupying the space, but the essential structures remain and survive. Consider how many homes still exist that were constructed prior to 1950! Consider how many older homes are desirable and in demand.

One thing about older homes or ones that may not offer the most advantageous accessibility throughout is that people make do with them - they adapt. If the flooring is soft in a couple of places, people put something stiff over the spot that they can step on and not impact the weakness of the floor, or they walk around the affected spot if it is small enough and they remember where it is each time. If lighting for a space (such as stairs or a hallway) is inadequate, they find battery operated lights that they can adhere to walls.

People learn how to navigate their homes by avoiding (when possible) certain routes that cause issues. If a cabinet door is stubborn or won't open correctly, they ill stop using it. When a door pull breaks or becomes difficult to use, it could be replaced, or it could be modified or just ignored in favor of opening the door another way.

When a range or cooktop has one or two of the burners that stop working, they just use the remaining ones. This is true for ceiling fixtures, fans, air conditioners, and other appliances. Rather than replace or repair them, people are prone to using the broken appliances as is to the extent possible or just going without them.

Not everyone who is continuing to live in their home as they age fits this description - fortunately for us, or there would not be any renovations to assist with - but many people continue living in their forever or permanent home by overlooking some of the smaller setbacks or shortcomings of the home and focus on the general joy the home provides. They truly like living in it or know that they could never replace it - not financially, emotionally, or in practical terms - so they don't focus or dwell on what isn't working. 

Ignoring minor inconveniences in a home can be based on people not having the money to make the repairs, not knowing who to call to help them, not wanting other people in their home to make the repairs, waiting on someone such as a son or daughter to eventually help them, or just figuring that their home is getting older like they are and accepting or forgiving some of the little things that are happening.

Some people are so intent on remaining where they are that they might actually overlook some of the minor repair issues and go on as if nothing had happened. They adapt their daily activities to accommodate what no longer works in their home or what doesn't work as well as it once did. They almost treat their home like one of their aging friends. 

To help people in this form of acceptance or denial requires an understanding and compassion for what they are living with and possibly some of the factors that might be present. They may have the money for repairs but not want to spend it, they may not have the funds and need help in identifying funding sources, they could look at maintenance issues in their home as a sign of their own weakness in dealing with them, or they may claim to like things the way they are. They have learned to adapt and continue living there as if nothing is out of order.

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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.