After several years of schooling, at the elementary and high school level or in college, this is the time of year that we recognize the achievements of those who have completed their coursework and are ready to move on with the next chapter of their lives. Commencement programs have been underway – primarily for the teens and twenty-somethings – at colleges, high schools, and other academic institutions. These formal ceremonies signal the end to the preparation part of their lives and grant the graduate a passport to their future – graduate school, the military, a profession, a new business, a craft or trade, employment with a prestigious firm, their first full-time endeavor, or something else they have planned for themselves.
These commencement programs have been attended by parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, former neighbors, friends of the family, coaches, mentors, and other adults who remember their turn at graduation and came to celebrate with their young charge. For some in attendance, that graduation day was many years ago.
So, what does graduation or commencement at an academic event have to do with aging in place? The purpose of commencement at a college or high school is to proclaim to the student and the world that now is the time for them to get on with their lives as best they can. They have been trained in their studies and now should be able to put that information to use to serve an employer or the general public. They are standing at the threshold of their future.
With aging in place, people of any age or ability, but definitely people who classify themselves as seniors, similarly are standing at their respective thresholds and are preparing to commence with the rest of their lives the best way they know how to do so. For some, they will require our help, and we are standing by to assist them.
Commencement, in the sense we’re looking at it, here is standing at the threshold of the rest of our lives and determining that we want those coming years to be useful and fulfilling, whether we are able to do as much physically as we once could or not. We want to remain in our homes and be safe there. We expect to have a comfortable and accessible living space that makes it pleasant and easy to move about and to come and go. We look forward to remaining in our homes without needing to think about moving. We want our homes age and adapt along with us.
While commencement at the academic level is a special time – a coming-of-age-event and recognition of the number of years it took to get to that point – aging in place is similar. It a recognition that we have had possibly several housing adventures over the years, living in various different styles, sizes, types, and locations of dwellings. We now are prepared, in anticipation of the many good years ahead of us to enjoy them in our present homes. Sure there may be some aging challenges and some physical, sensory, or cognitive difficulties to address along the way, but we are looking forward to the journey. We no longer want the effort or adventure of moving. We are committed to remaining in our present homes. Let our future commence from here!
We are ready to get on with our lives with relatively little difficulty or challenges, or we have several immediate needs to address. We might be looking at an easier or safer entry into our homes, better movement within the living space, more conveniently located controls and storage areas such as shelves and cabinets, and generally more control over our living environment and daily activities. We are ready to shut the book on the way things have been and commence a newer, better lifestyle.
In a word, these commencement activities can be summarized as independence – being able to remain living at home but also in having those homes be user-friendly to anyone coming and going there – resident or visitor.
We can help people open a new chapter in their lives by working with them to create the home and lifestyle that serves their interests, whether they have significant physical conditions to address or not.