“Does It Really Matter What We Call Aging In Place?”

It’s a funny thing about aging – few people like the idea of getting older, but most people would rather do it than not. Which brings us to the point. The word aging is offensive or bothersome to some people. It clearly is a fact of life. Everything ages – animate as well as inanimate objects – people, animals, cities, buildings, cars, rocks. Everything that exists now was once younger – by a minute, hour, year, or longer period of time. For people not alive now, or for objects no longer visible or used, their memories continue to age with us. 

So back to the aging issue. Some people would like a much softer term to apply to the process that affects all of us. While there might be some nicer sounding synonyms, what really is the point?

Aren’t all of us getting older? Aren’t we aging? Does it really make any difference what we call it – aging is still aging or getting older chronologically? Will calling it by a more genteel-sounding name make it go away or any less of impact?

There are a few “softer” terms that have been advanced recently, such as living in place or thriving in place rather than aging in place. Is there any real, tangible difference here or just semantics? If there is a difference, is it apparent or do we have to define our terms each time?

Living in place sounds nice – all of us a living where we are. Sounds like a truism. Likewise, all of us are aging where we are – from birth onward throughout life. While aging in place as a concept tends to focus on the senior population, it actually includes everyone – without exception.

Notice that neither term – living or aging – implies any type of quality of life. That’s by design (as far as I am concerned) because we get to supply the treatments and solutions to accommodate what people require for where people are in their journey through life and to meet their physical, physiological, social, and cultural needs as much as their budget, design preferences, and home conditions allow, suggest, or permit.

A term like thriving in place has a nice sound to it, but what is thriving, and does it vary from one person’s interpretation of it to another’s? There may be an underlying definition or sense of what thriving is supposed to include, reference, or represent, but that is largely subjective. What is thriving to one person – in terms of their health, living environment, finances, and other aspects of aging – may not be to another.

While aging in place is such a matter-of-fact term, most people are dealing with it and have come to accept it. Notice the tremendous number of lectures, seminars, reports, classes, and other information that is available under the heading of aging in place.

Rather than trying to reinvent what we call the science of aging in place, let’s devote our attention to becoming even better at understanding what people need, why more people aren’t embracing the types of changes that would allow them to lead safer and healthier lives as they age, and in continuing to offer cutting-edge (even if very modest and simple from a budget or design standpoint) solutions and treatments.

So, does it really matter what we call the idea of continuing to get older (day-by-day) and remaining in the homes of our choice (by intent or because it seems the easiest course of action)? You be the judge, but aging in place seems to work fine.

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