There are many opinions about what type of planning is required to age in place successfully, when someone should begin this planning to age in place well, what it actually takes in terms of a commitment to age in place, who should and should not consider aging in place, and possibly even relocating to a home more suitable for long-term living rather than remaining where they are living. Nevertheless, all of these concerns are largely overrated.
What if someone wakes up one day later in life and suddenly realizes that they intended to move but never got around to doing it, that their current home is not the one they had thought they would remain in but now they seem to be committed to it, that they figured they would have found a more suitable home for their later years but never really looked or have yet to start that search, or considered that they would need to make some improvements to their present home if they decided to remain there – and nothing toward any of those plans has happened?
Does this mean that they can’t age in place? Of course not. Is their home going to be inadequate to allow them to continue living there? As it is right now, it may not accommodate their needs, but this does not mean they can’t continue living there. Many people adapt their lifestyle to a home or floor plan that is not that accommodating to them, but they make do and get by with what they have. Are we advocating that people just get by? No, but we know that we can’t reach everyone who can use our help so we know that this is a possibility.
The bottom line is that people can and do age in place even when they do nothing to improve or modify the home they have been living in. The lighting may be an older style incandescent or fluorescent rather than LED, the carpeting may be worn out and in need of replacement – causing a footing, potential tripping hazard, and air quality issue – but they live with it anyway, the doorways may be narrow and hard to get through, the appliances may be old and inefficient, the bathrooms may be difficult to use, and there could be other concerns that we would immediately note if we did a needs assessment, but they are living in this home and may do so without anything to change it if we don’t know about their needs, they do not contact us, they don’t have a very large (or possibly no) budget for making any improvements, and they are unwilling for anyone to help them.
It’s great when people understand that their homes need to have a few minor adjustments (and sometimes more than that) to help them remain in their homes safely over time – regardless of their current age or physical condition. This also is true regardless of the age and condition of their home, what it was like when they moved into it, and how long they have occupied it.
We stand ready to help people have a safer, more accessible (and usable), more comfortable, and more enjoyable home, but we can’t force ourselves upon anyone. They have to want the work done and have to have the financial ability to make it happen. If the work cannot be done because they won’t allow it, their home will go on being what it is now, subject to wear and tear and normal depreciation in quality and condition. We can do something but not everything that we note and recommend, they will have a home that serves them better than the current configuration and condition of their home, but it won’t be as complete as we would like to see.
As far as someone becoming alarmed that they forgot to make changes to their home or just never got around to it, there is still time. There is always time. If the treatments are expensively and rather comprehensive, they may choose just to do the most pressing ones and address items affecting their personal safety first, followed by convenience issues. We want people to have a home that allows them to age in place safely and to enjoy their living environment. However, we also know that many people will never make any changes to their homes and just continue to remain in their homes as they are (even with physical conditions they have that would suggest the need for changes) – even though we would consider them to be dated, inefficient, or inadequate in terms of how we would modify them for the better.