“Can An Aging In Place Home Be Designed – Yes & No, It Depends”

Can an “aging in place home” intentionally be designed and built? Generally, no. We have to remember that aging in place refers to the occupants of the home and the way they choose to remain in their home over time and not the home itself. But hold on before changing channels.

If someone wants a home that is created specifically for them to allow them to age in place and meet the current and projected needs – and they are working with a CAPS trained architect who also is using a CAPS trained occupational therapist and a CAPS trained interior designer, then yes, the chances are very good that the client can get an aging in place home designed for themselves.

Otherwise, a home gets constructed that may have many quality features – universal design or visitability features – that will allow someone with limitations to live in that home well and to reside there long-term. This doesn’t mean that the home itself is an aging in place home (it can’t be by definition) or that it was designed as an aging in place home (again, not possible) but that it can accommodate someone who wants to live there indefinitely as they age in place. On the one hand, it’s the home design which cannot accommodate specific needs without knowing what those are. On the other, it may be a home that provides good access and flow that can be modified as necessary to provide for the specific requirements of those occupying the home.

Just to clarify concepts, a home may be designed and built from scratch with many quality universal design features and ideals that permit anyone (regardless of their  physical ability, age, stature, cognitive or sensory ability, mobility, or other limiting conditions) to use the controls, switches, doorways, passageways, countertops, cabinets, appliances, bathroom fixtures, and more in that home. That would be a universal design home that facilitated aging in place rather than an aging in place home because there still could be many aspects of a person’s lifestyle needs that would need to be addressed specifically for them.

If someone is remodeling their current rather than building a new home from scratch, they can get an aging in place solution or treatment of that home if they have selected the right team to help them achieve this. The home might already provide some generally accessible and friendly features that could be supplemented, but the home would already exist unless it was razed and then raised again.

To say that a home is characteristically an aging in place house is to give it more credit than is appropriate. A house is a structure, a building. As such it has the ability to shelter one or more person in a family unit or unrelated individuals living under the same roof. The house itself does not have a dedicated character such as an aging in place home. It’s what the occupants of that home do that makes the home one fit for aging in place – even if nothing at all is done. They can live there for a period of time without so much as even painting the walls, but that home will still be the one where they age in place for a time. We often associate aging in place with seniors and in living the remainder of their lives in a home they like. While this is true and a large part of our focus, younger people can and do age in place where they are, even if that is not their forever home.

Just as it is with many descriptions, placing the adjective before the noun gives improper and untrue attributes to the noun – and aging in place home versus a home where people age in place. The adjective or description needs to follow the noun. A person with a mobility limitation is a person who has an impairment or a person with a disability. They are not a disabled person or an impaired person. Placing the adjective in front adds the wrong emphasis. A disabled or impaired person sounds like something is wrong with their character or nature instead of just describing a condition they are experiencing. Calling someone a blind or deaf person alludes to the quality of their human nature instead of describing a physical condition they have such as a person who is blind or deaf, seeing or hearing impaired, or sight or hearing challenged.

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