We know that aging in place means remaining in the home of one’s choice long-term – as in forever. While there are some who consider that purchasing a new home late in life and then moving into it and remaining there is aging in place. It is in a sense, but perhaps not in the original concept. Likewise, there are some who advance that moving into an independent living or assisted living facility starts the clock over, with aging in place beginning at that point. This is true as well, but again not in the original concept.
We know that people are aging in place throughout life wherever they happen to be living at the time and that they have various needs depending on the physical, sensory, or cognitive health. People of any age or ability is part of our concern as aging in place specialists.
Still, the original concept of aging in place is for someone to decide to remain in the home they are living at the time – perhaps for many years prior to this – and not to be concerned about finding another home that is smaller or easier to maintain or in moving to a managed care facility of some type.
There is a difference of opinion on what constitutes a decision to remain in one’s home and age in place. Many people define aging in place as a conscious, deliberate, or intentional decision to live in the home of their choice as they age. While this is true, there’s a little more to it than this. Aging in place does not have to be a milestone decision that people remember making long after it happens. The date of the decision is immaterial. It’s the decision that matters, and it doesn’t even have to be a formal one.
If people just continue living in their home and make no attempt to leave it or find another one, they have informally or unconsciously decided to age in place. No one can point to a decision date or possibly even get them to admit that they have settled into their forever home, but the result is the same as if they had done a big party to reveal their decision to their friends.
People who are living in a home that they would like to move from but never get around to acting on that idea (through procrastination) have decided by default to remain in that home and age in place. They may not be happy about their home or feel that it provides for their needs very well, but they have decided to remain there anyway – by making no decision to move. After a time, it really will be too late for them to move. They are no less aging in place than people who have intentionally made their decision.
While good health is a great asset for aging in place and may be a contributing factor to people deciding to remain where they are, it is not a sufficient determining factor. People who require the assistance of a family member or outside help from nurses or caregivers can and do age in place. There could come a time when moving to a managed care facility would make sense, but many people, even in challenging health conditions, can live at home and age in place. We have so many more ways to work with people in their homes than at any previous time.
A good quality home also is important, but that’s why there are aging in place professionals like us to assist people in making changes to their home that will facilitate their long-term residence there. Some homes are going to be better at the outset than others for aging in place well. It has less to do with the quality of the structure than it does with the layout and how the occupants relate to it. If two families were to examine the exact same home and consider that this was going to be their long-term arrangement, they likely would have very different ideas on how well it would serve their needs and what might need to be done to the home to make it more to their liking.
Decisions to remain in place as people age are arrived at in different ways and serve various purposes. Some people enthusiastically embrace their home – even without making any changes to it because they really love that home. Others reluctantly decide by accident not to move because they just never do. Then, there are those who like their home but want to make a lot of changes to it to accommodate their changing needs.