In America today we are celebrating Independence Day. This is a very special day, and it also serves as a great reminder that people want to remain independent while they continue living in their homes to age in place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) define aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.” Notice that independent is included in their definition. It is a huge factor in people’s emotional health and well-being. It is a fitting tie-in to today’s patriotic commemoration.
As people make the decision to age in place – consciously by selection or unconsciously by just continuing to reside where they are – they are looking to their homes to continue providing for them whatever they have come to expect of them. They find their homes to be a perfect place for them to return to when they have been away or to wake up to and enjoy if they are remaining at home that day. Some people are still working when they find their forever home, and some are already retired. Some have been in the forever home for several years before actually identifying it as the home that they want to continue living in – it provides for their needs as well or better than any other home they could imagine so they have no interest in even thinking about another residence.
As far as independence, at some point, they had the prerogative of selecting this particular home that was to become their permanent or forever home. There could have been many factors – price, location, the chance of appreciation, the neighborhood, the layout, the features, the condition of the home, how recently features have been updated, the curb appeal, and meeting their needs – that affected or influenced their decision to acquire it. Their financial position (income, what they paid for the home, how much – if anything -they still owe on their home, taxes, association dues – if any – improvements they have made or still contemplate) may have a bearing on their decision to remain in this home, but essentially they are free to leave and find another home or free to stay and continue living there. This is a tremendous empowerment.
While people are free to find another home, most choose not to. They have identified their current home as the one that fulfills their needs – perhaps with some general modifications that we can provide or more specific ones that will be needed to address mobility or sensory changes in their lives. Nevertheless, they like this home. They are free to come and go, and they don’t depend on others setting a schedule for them. Even if they come to a point where they do require in-home care, they still are exercising their independence by having the care provided in their home on their terms.
Think of being or maintaining one’s independence as being in control. Most people want to be in control of something. It could all decisions affecting their daily life – what to wear, when to rise and retire for the day, what to eat, what to do for the day, whether to nap, how much TV to watch and which shows, other entertainment or recreational activities they might want to do, and whether to remain at home or go someplace. It could be something as simple as maintaining control of the remote control or the thermostat. It’s calling the shots – the extent possible – for their life. In the case of two or more people in the same household with differing opinions of who is in overall control, there generally is the opportunity to exercise a little control in certain areas.
Remaining independent also means being able to choose furniture, wall colors, accessories, and other items in the home that give it the character they are trying to achieve and personalize it as their home and no one else’s.
Being able to talk with us about helping them to make improvements and modifications in their home, regardless of the reason for it or the extent to which it is necessary, and ultimately being able to decide to use us and engaging us to help them is part of their independence also – as is determining a budget and funding it. Selecting priorities is likely part of the process as well unless they have the ability to undertake everything they want or need to be done or their home requires very little in the way of improvements.
Happy Independence Day in celebration of July 4th for all Americans, and happy continuing independence for all those who are aging in place in their forever homes.