When people hear about aging in place, they may tend to think about older people remaining in their forever homes. While it’s true that people age 65 and over – what often is referred to as being a senior – are a main focus of aging in place and home modifications, this is not an exclusive group. In fact, as we know, aging in place applies to all people of every age and ability.
To be sure Baby Boomers are the impetus for aging in place designs and considerations, but it is not limited to this generation of people in their mid-fifties to early-seventies in age. Still, Boomers have redefined what it means to be retired and are still experiencing life in a big way, often engaging in new businesses or careers after leaving the corporate world or what they had been doing. Many have found the home they want to remain living in and see no point in taking the time to replace it or look for another when the one they have is fine for them. Perhaps, it will need a little work here and there, which we can help them with, but they like their home and want to remain in it. In terms of priorities, replacing their home is way down on the list if even on it.
There are many types of improvements that can help the senior population remain in their homes successfully because there are many sensory and mobility changes happen with age. We can help make their homes safer, more accessible, more comfortable, and generally more enjoyable for them to stay in over time. Widening doorways and hallways, improving front entrances (adding lighting, reducing steps, and providing weather protection), adding interior lighting and changing them to LED illumination, changing out the door hardware and cabinet pulls, and making the bathrooms and kitchens easier to navigate and use are just some of the changes that might be appropriate for them – and anyone else of any age.
That’s the point. While we can suggest and implement changes and modifications to someone’s living space because they are getting older (as is everyone) and may have less ability than just a few years ago, that same argument or reasoning might apply to much younger people. Certainly, modifying their homes in the ways just mentioned would benefit a person of any age – not just a senior.
We want people to function well in their homes, and age has no bearing on how well someone can use their home safely and easily. Getting into their residence, going from room-to-room, having enough space in various rooms to use them effectively (such as the kitchen bathroom, living room, and bedroom), and being able to access the various controls, switches, doors, drawers, appliances, and fixtures in the home apply to anyone, seniors or not.
Because we are all aging, a universal design approach to home design and modification makes sense. Creating access to the main features in the home and facilitating easy passage in hallways and while moving about in the dwelling apply to any age. The same is true for providing solid surface flooring that is not a tripping or stumbling issue for anyone and for providing lighting of sufficient brightness and number to illuminate the space and eliminate dangerous shadows.
It’s as much the dwelling itself than the occupants that we need to look at for safety and accessibility. Frequently this is even more important than someone’s ability to use the space effectively. If their home does not provide reasonable access, room to maneuver easily, good flooring, adequate lighting, and other features that are easy and safe to use, the home may be presenting sufficient challenges for aging in place well. This would be for people of any age or ability.
This is why aging in place issues with respect to home assessment and renovations apply as much to people under 65 as they do to those over that age. Seniors gain our attention and focus because they often have age-related concerns (vision, hearing, balance, joint difficulties, standing, sitting, bending, reach, and range of motion, for instance), but people of a younger age can have sensory, mobility, or cognitive issues also.
Whether people are experiencing issues that make using their home somewhat challenging, or the living space itself is creating issues because of its design, construction style, or age, creating aging in place improvements for people can benefit them at any age. People who are older may have a more urgent need for renovations, but they do not have a monopoly on the need for such improvements.