We spend a lot of time and energy as aging in place professionals trying to get people to stay in their current homes and then to adapt or modify those homes to provide for their continued comfort and safety as the years pass. We would really like to ensure that they have the best of possible situations to remain living in, but what of that forever home they have selected (or allowed just to be) isn’t perfect for them? What if it has some shortcomings even after we have finished our work?
That would mean that they are enjoying a home that is safer, more comfortable, with more convenient fixtures and features, and one that provides greater maneuverability that was the case before we started. We helped to get them to that point.
Three things really account for finding people’s home the way they are and noting that even in a forever home that has been modified it still might not address every issue or concern.
First, some people will just refuse to do anything about their current home even though this is the one they have decided – either consciously or through default – that they are going to remain living in for as long as they can. They did not want to spend the money – even when they had it – to do anything about the comfort or convenience of their living space.
They resigned themselves to having the home that they had and figured that they would make do with what it was – even if there were challenges that they faced in terms of mobility, access, safety, or comfort. They adapted to what was there and made the most of it although they certainly could have done better with even some modest improvements.
Second, there are many people who have engaged us to make improvements to their homes. They have modified their kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, laundry rooms, bedrooms. entrances, access to the second floor, and other areas of their homes. Some have spent a relatively modest amount even though they could have spent more and there certainly was more that could have been done. Others have invested a significant amount in major overalls of their living environment.
They approached aging-in-place seriously and did what they could and what they were counselled to do to get ready for the coming years.
Third, there are people who have taken aging-in-place seriously and have had assessments done to determine a feasible course of action and have consented to investing in the recommended improvements. Their home served them well for a while. Then, changing physical or cognitive conditions began to outpace the improvements that had been envisioned and completed. They literally were outliving the usefulness of their home.
Thus, there are many ways – from doing nothing, to not doing enough, to doing what was recommended at the time but finding that inadequate in the future – that the forever home turns out to be less than perfect for its occupants. Still, it’s far better than the alternative – moving out and going to an institution.
Even when the forever or long-term home comes up a little short for meeting the mobility, sensory, or mobility needs of its occupants, they are still getting to stay in their homes. Their homes don’t have to be perfect (can they ever be anyway?) – they just need to provide reasonably comfortable and safe shelter.