This traditionally – for as long as we have used the term – has been the concept behind aging in place. We want to create successful and functional environments for people to remain living in as they grow older. Generally, we are interested in the senior population although there are many times when we work with younger people.
But, when does aging in place begin? At what age? What are the early signs that someone is ready to begin aging-in-place? Clearly, there are any such indications. In many ways, it just happens.
That suggests a new, broader way of looking at this issue.
Instead of just looking at seniors or the older population as the ones who are wanting, desiring, or needing to age in place and focusing our efforts in that direction, what if we aim at a much younger group? What if we broaden our definition of aging in place?
If we think of aging in place as merely the idea of people living peacefully and comfortably in their home – owned or rented – for as long as they desire to live there, and whether it is their forever (permanent) home or not, then we will have much larger population to serve – and both the people we help and us as providers will find fulfillment.
We know that aging in place can include people with progressive conditions and traumatic injuries, so already the very young – even infants and toddlers – can be part of what we define as the aging in place market. Thus, it is not strictly a senior population phenomenon.
By actively focusing on helping people – regardless of their age or current ability – to function well in their homes, we will, in essence, be delivering aging-in-place strategies to them. Universal design and visitability are two excellent ways to begin doing this.
Everyone is getting older on a daily basis – it’s a fact of life. Therefore, everyone is aging where they are currently living – at home with their parents, at school or in their first apartment, in their first home, in a home where they have started a family and have several young ones living there with them, in a move-up home from the one they began in (with or without children), in a vacation or seasonal home, or their forever home that they have selected as the last home they intend on occupying.
We have the ability to help people have safe access into and within their homes – at whichever stage of life they happen to be currently – and to enjoy a safe and secure living environment.
This is not limited to any particular age group, and the more we begin serving people at younger ages, the more we can help them live safely and comfortably in their homes for a longer period of time – even if they eventually move from that home they are in presently. They could occupy several more homes in their lifetime (or not) depending on their present age and how well that current home meets their needs and those of the other household members.
There is nothing that says that one’s present home (even at an early age) cannot last them a lifetime if other factors that suggest moving or changing residences don’t apply (too little space, needing to be closer to a work site, or moving to another area of the country for employment or school).