The intent of aging in place is for people to remain long-term in the home they are residing in now without needing to move into any type of congregate living or care facility – or changing their residence to something else. Moving in with family, while often a great solution for aging needs, is not the same as aging in place either. True, in the broadest sense aging in place can mean getting older wherever a person is living (and whatever their age or ability) and having the highest quality of life possible wherever that might be. Nevertheless, for our purposes as aging in place professionals, we are concerned about keeping people in their present home.
We like to think of someone’s current home as the one they selected years ago and occupied it continuously ever since. Some people have not chosen that well and now realize that they do not like the location of their present home or that it is not providing the quality of life they expect. Thus, they intend to look for and find a home more to their liking – presumably something that will become their forever home from this point forward. Then, they can begin to live a textbook aging in place lifestyle.
As some people age, they are going to want to move into a retirement center, senior living facility, or other type of a residence where there are other people their own age, activities for them to do, and meals they can eat. This is a type of aging in place but not what we are talking about or thinking of when we speak about aging in place. This is more of an aging in some place (a differnt place) rather than in the home they have been occupying.
In nearly every case, we can help people stay in the home they are in right now – even if they don’t think they have a lot of money for improvements and home modifications seem to be necessary to create a safer, more functional and accessible environment for them. We can find help them identify some financial resources, and they may or may not need a lot of work done. Sometimes just a few safety improvements can make a huge difference.
We want people to remain in place. They have a vested interest in that property. Perhaps they have raised children there. They have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries of various sorts – theirs, other family members, and friends. They have decorated for holidays and entertained family and friends on those occasions. In short, they have watched their home grow old, almost as a family member, along with them. Unless their home is unsafe for them to be in or is totally failing to address their current needs, we want people to stay in that home for which they have such a history.
Even there are shortcomings in the home because of the way it was built, the sizes of the rooms, the width of the hallway or doorways, the type of bathroom fixtures, the functionality of the kitchen, the heating and air conditioning system, the integrity of the roof or foundation, the size of the windows for natural light and ventilation, or other aspects of their dwelling, these can be fixed. They may not need them all addressed, and they may have a budget for only a portion of the long list of items that could be remedied. The point is that we can help, and we can help them age in place where they are rather than pulling up stakes and going elsewhere. That move – wherever it is – will be expensive also.
If people are selling their present home and moving on to another one or moving in with their adult children, there are many costs associated with marketing and selling their present home. Some of the most obvious repairs will need to be made before they can show their home to anyone or before a would-be buyer takes possession. It likely will need to be painted. Keepsakes, mementos, and other stuff that has been retained and stored over the years will need to be packed for the move, with much of it being sold, donated, or discarded. Doing this will take a large amount of time and is one of the three main reasons that people stay where they are and don’t even consider moving.
A non-financial cost that is often overlooked when moving from what otherwise would have been the forever home into another dwelling, a facility, or in with family, is the separation anxiety and trauma that comes with saying goodbye to a long-time friend and closing that large chapter of one’s life. Not that moving will be unpleasant. It just might be unnecessary. We can help people stay where they are and age in place there – not just someplace or somewhere.