Aging in place – the act of someone continuing to live in their present home and remaining there for as long as they desire – is becoming increasingly popular, but it doesn’t always happen because people have planned for it in advance. Sometimes it happens because people don’t make a definitive declaration to remain in their current home but don’t do anything to change it either.
We know that the vast majority of people (as high as 9-out-of-10) would choose to remain living in their current home rather than having to move into a nursing home or retirement enter if faced with that option. Some make specific plans to make this a reality, while others just keep living in their present homes without deciding that they have found their forever home, The end result may be the same, but the way the home accommodates or address their needs may be quite different.
Many homes are not that well-suited for people to remain in them effectively without modifications, but through procrastination on the part of the occupants, that’s exactly what ends up happening. People stay in under-performing homes long-term because they never decided that they were going to do so. They didn’t decide to the contrary either. They just remained in their homes and thus aged in place by default.
As aging in place professionals, consultants, and providers, we get to help people realize their declared objective of remaining in their homes successfully through modifications that allow their normal activities as much as possible in their present homes. But what about those who never get to the formal decision stage and just keep living in their homes? Again, the long-term result is the same. People stay in their current homes and don’t move from them.
Thus, the real challenge for us as design, aging, and renovation professionals is working with or addressing the needs of this large number of people who want to remain living in their homes but who are just aging in place in their homes more accidentally or indifferently rather than intentionally.
Ideally, aging in place is an intentional decision and action that people choose for themselves – and then learn about how to make the necessary improvements and modifications to their homes that will facilitate their accessibility, maneuverability, comfort, convenience, and personal safety as they remain in their forever or permanent homes long-term – indefinitely actually.
Nevertheless, people may continue to live in their current homes without any regard or thought as to how well equipped those homes are to accommodate their changing needs as they age. It’s not something they focus on or think about. They get up each day and just keep going as best they can.
Just as many people are in denial about getting older or about needing to take certain aspects of their home or lifestyle into account as they no longer function in ways they have in the past, they also are unwilling to admit that their homes require any type of modification to make living in those homes safer, more comfortable, easier, or more pleasant.
Thus, aging in place often is unintentional – it just happens. There are many individuals who currently are putting off or delaying any thoughts of how well they may be able to function in their current homes as they age, and we need to be ready to help them as they slowly come to the realization that their homes are not that well designed to meet their needs. For some, they feel as though they always will have the same level of mobility or activity they have today. For others, they know they have limitations, but they cope and adapt to get by as they have in the home they enjoy.