For anyone living reasonably well in their current home, even with vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive, or other difficulties or limitations, aging in place is just continuing to do what has been working so far. There likely will be some challenges – age seems to bring that, regardless – but the fact is that the home is accommodating that person right now. They may not be as well off as they could be, or they might be doing quite well.
With caregivers, support groups, non-profit agencies, aging in place consultants, OTs and other HCPs, and educated and dedicated family members, helping people to remain at home is not near as difficult or challenging as it has been in the past.
Many appliances, cabinetry, lighting, flooring, hardware, bathing, and other options exist to help people do well as they age. It’s a matter of finding solutions – often universal design ones – that can help someone to remain in control of their surroundings.
This really is the key – remaining in control. While someone’s lifestyle may not measure up to what we would want or expect in a home, they are in full control of their environment and are managing it – even with physical limitations that cause them to adapt to their surroundings. Even without any outward improvement to their living space, it still may continue to work for them.
People on a fixed income or with modest means may have trouble justifying an expense to improve what they already deem to be an acceptable living space for themselves. There generally are ways to improve it – often low-expenditure ways – but they may not be open to it. This does not automatically mean that they are living poorly or that they cannot or should not continue to live in their home and age in place. There could be something better we can offer them, but they are making do with the status quo.
Some people may choose to leave their home of a few years to as many as a few decades of living there to move into an adult living facility. That’s their choice, and people have various reasons for doing so. Nevertheless, it is not automatic that this happen.
There are so many ways that people can remain living viably in their present homes, and it doesn’t have to cost much, if anything at all, to make this happen. People can just continue living where they are with what they have, no matter how recently they may have acquired their furnishings or what condition they are in. Of course, they can make an improvement or two, or they can do something more substantial to their home to make it even more desirable to live in as they age.
If we just did one or two simple fixes to every home we saw – a doorway, lighting, flooring, rocker or push button light switches, improving safety by picking up or moving something that constantly is in the way, swapping out cabinet hardware, or anything of this nature, we would be so much further ahead will helping people remain safely in their homes over time.
Back to the original question of whether people can remain living in their homes as they age, the answer is a resounding “of course.” How well they live and how easy it is for them to continue to navigate that living space becomes more of a concern for them and us. When we can make suggestions and actually create solutions along these lines, they will be better equipped to remain in those homes, but they can continue living there anyway. Determining ways to approach this is a way we can spend some of our time – assuming this aligns with our business model and delivery system.