Aging in place is not reserved for seniors. It is not a senior event. It doesn’t apply just to seniors. It is much larger than this.
People classified as seniors typically are the focus of aging in place discussions and design, but it shouldn’t be this way for a couple of reasons. First, people of all ages deserve the focus and benefits of aging in place considerations. Second, there is no clear definition of what constitutes a senior.
To that second point, AARP markets to people at age 50. Fifty-year-olds do not consider themselves to be anywhere close to what they think of as a senior, yet the title begins to be applied to them. At age 55, some restaurants and other businesses extend senior discounts – still young by many people’s standards.
At age 60, we start seeing a more plausible definition of a senior; however, this is largely still an age where people are working full-time. At age 62, people can elect to begin collecting social security benefits. While many are still working, retirement can occur, and businesses often grant discounts at this age.
The traditional retirement age – and the age often associated with the term “senior” – has been 65, but that has been moving back to 66 and 67. Some people think 70 is young, and others think this is old enough to be considered a senior.
In short, there is no consensus on what age or age range defines a senior so when we use the term “senior” in conversation to refer to a group of people, we have no clear idea of what we are referring to or meaning. Each person who uses the term senior may have a general idea of what they mean, but it varies widely. It literally can be any age from 50 onward. How, then, can aging in place be limited to seniors when we can’t define what a senior is?
When it comes to Baby Boomers, a generation rapidly aging and thought by younger age groups to possibly be considered as seniors, the oldest of them is just turning 72 while most are in their mid-fifties and sixties. We have to look at the SIlent or Greatest generation (people born from 1927-1945) to find people that most would agree have attained senior status. They range in age from their early 70s to just turning 90.
More to the point of aging in place, however, each of us – from birth onward – is aging in place. Early in life, our parents determine where we live, but this does not mean that we are exempt from the precepts of successful aging in place – safety, comfort, convenience, and accessibility. For children experiencing mobility or sensory issues from birth or as a result of a progressive condition they contracted early in life, they have as many or more needs as a person similarly affected that is much older.
Whether living on our own, with family, or with others – and at any age or physical ability as we progress through life – aging successfully and functionally in place (where we are living at any moment) applies to all.
While often used in the context of referring to seniors – and we have no clear idea of who fits into this classification – aging in place applies to everyone. This means that everyone deserves to have a living space that accommodates their needs and allows them to pursue their lives in a comfortable and safe way. To the extent that this does not happen, we can become involved with them to help address such shortcomings and help people age in place in a dignified way.
Aging in place knows no age limit or restrictions. It is not just a senior phenomenon.