Aging in place is the trend of the future. Simply defined, aging in place is the ability to live safely in a home of your choosing for as long as you wish as you grow older. Learn why you need to know now to reap the benefits long before you’re a senior.
Picture your dream retirement….where are you living? How does your retirement home look? Are you dreaming of your own home? If your answer is “yes, I want to stay in my own home forever!” then you’re dreaming of aging in place.
This is no surprise to me. In my over 20 year career as a home health Physical Therapist, almost all of my patients tell me that the only place they want to live as they age is in their own home. For many, “own home” is anywhere that isn’t a retirement facility.
It doesn’t mean that you need to do everything involved with running a household by yourself. It means that you design a life that is meaningful to you. Choose modifications, technologies and services you need or want to stay living in your home comfortably and safely.
Benefits of aging in place
- Independence – Being independent is always a top goal of my home care Physical Therapy clients.
- Freedom – You decide your daily schedule and activities and which services fit your wants and needs.
- Quality of life – You can continue living in the home that you love. Stay in the neighborhood or community where you know your neighbors and that’s close to your family and friends.
Our bodies, they are a-changing
It’s common knowledge that as we get older, many physical changes occur to our bodies. These changes require us to adapt or modify our activities. Often, our environment must also change so that we can continue to function at the same or close to our previous level.
Common changes with age include:
- Decreased strength and endurance
- Reduced mobility (ability to move around)
- Increased risk of falls
- Increased risk of disease processes
- Decreased vision
- Decreased hearing
- Decreased cognition (brain processes such as memory)
Help at home
We are living in a fantastic era when new technologies and services are coming into the market every day. These innovative products and resources can help to make your life easier, safer, and more convenient. They can also help you to remain living in your home much longer. Each person’s situation is unique. Pick and choose what you need or want help with at any given time.
Here are just a few of the hundreds of examples to get you thinking. Many wonderful resources for aging in place are already available. But the amount of senior friendly resources and products will grow exponentially in the next decade.
- Home modifications such as ramps, stairlifts, zero-step showers, raised toilets and grab bars
- Assistive devices including canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters
- Home maintenance services like lawn and landscapers, handymen and HVAC technicians
- Food and meal delivery services such as Peapod, Amazon and your local restaurants
- Personal caregiving for help with bathing, dressing, cooking and walking
- Home therapies with Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Therapists
- Cleaning services for your house, vents, gutters, and pressure washing
- Ridesharing services such as Uber, Lyft or your local senior transit
- Telemedicine and health monitoring to communicate with your doctors without actually having to be with them in person
- Remote banking and financial services to manage your finances from the comfort of your home
- Safety and security services such as cell phones, call buttons, and remote door cameras
A tsunami is coming
The US Census reports that the number of people over the age of 65 will more than double from 2000 to 2030. With about 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the United States, there will be an overwhelming amount of seniors who are aging in place.
This trend has even been referred to as the “silver” or “gray tsunami” because it will pose a considerable challenge to supply all of the needed resources. This large segment of the population will place tremendous demand on health care and support services.
The secret to aging in place
If aging in place sounds like something for you, there is one thing that you must do ASAP – plan thoroughtly, early, and often. Aging in place strategies and solutions often won’t improve problems much after they have occurred, but making changes before problems arise helps avoid more serious problems in the future.
Planning thoroughly, both initially and ongoing, is extremely important and a key to successful aging in place.
Planning is key
The very best time to plan for aging in place is, well….yesterday, but today is the next best time! There are many moving parts to an aging in place plan, but those that will take the most planning and time will be physical changes needed for your home.
Some homes need only minor changes to become aging in place friendly, a railing or grab bar here, and better lighting there. Other homes may require a vast remodel, such as adding an en suite bedroom and bathroom onto the first floor or an elevator to access the second floor. Most homes need a moderate amount of changes to make them safe and efficient.
But some homes may not be worth trying to adapt at all because the costs may far outweigh the benefits. A house that has many levels, cramped spaces, and narrow doorways may be too expensive to remodel. Instead, finding another home with a more flexible layout may be a better option.
A marathon, not a sprint
Once initial home modifications have been made, they will likely need to be tweaked over time to continue to provide the same benefit as they did when first completed. Likewise, a cane may help you to maintain your balance today. But a walker may be required two years from now as you need more support. Everyone’s needs evolve, so aging in place is a long-term strategy, not a once and done project.
Aging in place is not just for the elderly
Most people consider aging in place to be something for seniors or those in their retirement years. Aging in place concepts are closely related to Universal Design which is design that allows anyone at any age and of any ability to live as independently as possible.
If you are willing to embrace change, think outside the box, and invest in the life that you want for your future, the possibilities are endless. There has never been a better time to plan for or be aging in place.
We are living in an era when innovation and technology are rapidly changing. Ever improving products and services are available to everyone, including aging adults. Many things that required significant effort and expense in the past are now available at the touch of a button on your computer or smartphone.
An aging in place plan evolves over time. Therefore, younger people should understand the concept now so they can being their long-term planning. The key to creating a successful future, one in which you can age in place in the home of your choosing, and maintain your independence and quality of life is to plan well and think ahead.