Monday, November 13, 2017

"Aging In Place Can Have Many Dimensions, But Why Complicate It?"

What is aging in place? It depends on who you ask. There is a classic, textbook definition. There is a field application definition. There is a practical application. There even is an aging person's definition.

Let's look at the many facets of aging in place, but let's try to keep it simple. After all, aging in place is a very simple idea that does not require any complex solutions or treatments. They are allowed, and some people desire them. However, at the core, they are not required. While some people do plan for it, the aging part happens without any advance warning.

Aging in place means that a person can remain living independently in their current home for a long as they desire. Quality of life is great but it is not a sufficient requirement. Some people are going to have a more comfortable lifestyle than others, and some are going to have their homes more attuned to serving them well than others. Again, this is not a sufficient or necessary criterion for aging in place. That happens just by remaining in place. 

Not moving but staying put is considered by many to be a defining aspect of aging in place. Others allow or even encourage relocation and then start the clock over after the move. When the move is voluntary and made to facilitate an even longer, more permanent solution to someone's housing needs, this can be viable. Moving into a managed care or institution is not what is meant by aging in place because we are talking about staying in one's home and not needing to move from it. Finding a new home in which to live and age is not the same as moving into a facility.

Looking at the big picture, everyone is aging in place no matter their current age or ability. They can be living with other people or be living on their own. Children, young adults, families, seniors, singles, and people of various generations are aging in place where they are currently living. Doing so does not require any type of declaration that someone is aging in place, any admission to themselves or others, or any formal application or approval process. No one has to grant permission or conduct any type of inspection of their premises before declaring that they are allowed to age in place.

People simply live where they do, and as they continue to reside there - months or years - they are aging in place.

There is no reason to put any conditions on someone's desire to age in place or remain living where they are. There is no qualitative measure that needs to be applied to assess how well someone is aging in place or whether they are thriving or just getting by - the fact that they are continuing to live where they are satisfies the aging in place concept.

When we see or learn about someone who is not living in a style that we would recommend or find desirable, we can help them change it - but only if they are willing to accept our help. We have the means to assist them, but they must have the desire and the ability to have the work done.

More than anything, aging in place is individualistic. While we have the means, knowledge, and ability to create textbook solutions and showpieces for every home we encounter, that may not be the choice of the occupants. We need to remember that it is their home, and as long as it is not presenting an imminent health or safety concern for them - and they don't want us to make any changes - that's about as far as we can go. We might like to see them with a more accessible or comfortable home, but that is their choice as long as it is not endangering themselves or anyone else in the home. Even at that, it is still their home. 

There is so much we can do to help people age in place successfully, so let's look for those who welcome our help.

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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.