What is Aging in Place?
Aging in place is a term used to describe a senior living in the residence of their choice as they age, while being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change, for as long as they are able. To be clear, though, aging in place is one phase of a person’s life. It is not the answer to anything. Rather, one period of time that an elderly person can enjoy and still get the things that they require.
Aging in Place: Planning for Quality of Life
The focus of aging in place, as stated above, is to help seniors ensure they can live where they choose and get any help they need for as long as they can. It is more than that, though. The goal of an elderly person (or anyone) wanting to age in place should be to maintain and/or improve their quality of life. In order to do that, a good plan that focuses on your quality of life and covers your self, home, finances, care and other items should be created as early as possible. This plan should be maintained over time as your situation changes.
Why is Aging in Place Important?
Currently, the majority of senior persons aged 65 and older are living either with a spouse or alone in their own home. Many of these elderly people struggle with everyday tasks, their health care and the lives they lead in their homes. For many, their quality of life goes down as they get older.
As of 2000, there were approximately 35 million Americans over the age of 65. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2030 there will be approximately 71.5 million Americans over the age of 65. That number is more than twice what it was in 2000 and represents nearly 20% of the entire projected U.S. population in 2030.
The challenge this number of older Americans will bring to the country is unprecedented. Given the facts surrounding the current economic problems, a failing health care system and the lack of local support systems needed to support older people, this is a serious predicament for our country. But, more importantly, it is a very big problem for millions of Americans who are aging in place (or wish to).
What does it mean to my family?
Issues that families will continue to have to deal with include home remodeling (accessibility, universal design), support issues (finding more time for themselves, balancing work and family responsibilities of caregiving, and managing emotional and physical stress), answers to common problems (home remodeling ideas, long-distance caregiving for those caring for aging parents, lack of a support system), independent living, education and more. All of these issues will need to be dealt with in a way that empowers those aging in place and their caregivers, so people can make informed decisions about their lives and care.
Aging in Place Is a Choice
Deciding you wish to age in place means you are choosing:
- how you want to spend your retirement years
- how you want your home to be set up
- what your health care choices will be
- which types of assistance are right for you
- what your wishes are for major life events (sickness, housing transitions, financial decisions)
Making these choices gives you control over your independence, quality of life and dignity. Most importantly to note, aging in place does not mean you have to do everything yourself; that’s where the plan comes in. It means you get to plan how your needs are met, who meets them and when.
An Aging in Place Plan is Not for ‘Old’ People
It’s for responsible people who want to ensure their quality of life and live it out in dignity, without being a burden to their family or community. Regardless of whether you have retired or not, it’s for you, right now. If you haven’t retired yet, it means you have time to think about your needs, research your options and put together a plan that is good for you and your family. If you have retired, putting the time in to building a plan will help keep you in control of your life. Building a plan will help you deal with issues you will encounter down the road and ease some of the burden your loved ones will experience.
For those caring for an elderly parent or loved one, it’s for you, too. You can be the most help by working with them to ensure their needs are met and wishes are respected. It also will help you provide the level of care that is right for them, and show your respect to them by ensuring their dignity is kept in tact and their needs are met.
What Is Universal Design?
Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.
Universal Design is related to aging-in-place remodeling and a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) can help you remodel your home using universal design concepts. The NAHB Remodelers in collaboration with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB 50+ Housing Council, and AARP developed the CAPS program to address the growing number of consumers that will soon require these modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants.
To find a CAPS remodeler in your area visit www.nahb.org/designationsdirectory.
What makes a home “universal”? It’s simple. Everyone can use universal design! It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. You could be short or tall, healthy or ill. You might have a disability. Or you may be a prize-winning athlete. Because of universal design, people who are very different can all enjoy the same home. And that home will be there for all its inhabitants even when their needs change.
Here are some of the more common universal design features that are also incorporated into aging-in-place remodels:
- No-step entry. No one needs to use stairs to get into a universal home or into the home’s main rooms.
- One-story living. Places to eat, use the bathroom and sleep are all located on one level, which is barrier-free.
- Wide doorways. Doorways that are 32-36 inches wide let wheelchairs pass through. They also make it easy to move big things in and out of the house.
- Wide hallways. Hallways should be 36-42 inches wide. That way, everyone and everything moves more easily from room to room.
- Extra floor space. Everyone feel less cramped. And people in wheelchairs have more space to turn.
Some universal design features just make good sense. Once you bring them into your home, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. For example:
- Floors and bathtubs with non-slip surfaces help everyone stay on their feet. They’re not just for people who are frail. The same goes for handrails on steps and grab bars in bathrooms.
- Thresholds that are flush with the floor make it easy for a wheelchair to get through a doorway. They also keep others from tripping.
- Good lighting helps people with poor vision. And it helps everyone else see better, too.
- Lever door handles and rocker light switches are great for people with poor hand strength. But others like them too. Try using these devices when your arms are full of packages. You’ll never go back to knobs or standard switches