We think of aging in place as something that is geared toward or defined by the seniors, but even the term seniors is something that is not easily defined. That’s because the term seniors does not have a clear expression of who is and who is not included in the category. We can be sure that those born prior to 1946 (the pre-Baby Boomer generations which also are known as the Greatest or Silent Generation and the preceding GI Generation) are seniors. Some, especially those in younger age groups would label the Boomers as seniors even though the youngest members are still in their mid-fifties in age.
So, if aging in place is not exclusively for seniors, who is it for? It’s for everyone – even those too young to have a say in how they are living, those who are indifferent to how they are aging in place, and everyone else who is trying to have a good quality of life in their current home.
Everyone is aging, and we all are aging in place, too. Some are more aware of it than others, and some are more prepared to do it well than others, but we all are aging in place. Aging in place well does not take any special preparation, but it does take an acceptance or recognition of the home being lived in as the home that will be the lifetime, permanent, long-term, or forever home. It could have been occupied relatively recently, or it could have been moved into years or even decades earlier. In some case, where it is a generational or farmstead home, a person likely was born into it just as their parents were. Their home is the only one they have ever known.
When we acknowledge that our present home is the one that we want to continue living in – either because we consciously have decided that we like it and want to remain in it or we have not done anything about finding another home and have made an implicit decision to age in place there by default – we become attached to it the way we do anything that we have owned or known for a long time. We develop that special bond or relationship with our homes.
As with any relationship, some people are demonstrative of their affection than others, and these are the ones who will repair their homes, paint them keep them in good working order, and make little improvements to help those homes age well with them and continue to provide for their needs. Others will live in their homes over time by doing less to maintain their homes. It’s not aging in place only if we perform certain tasks or make various improvements to help our homes remain in good condition or continue to provide for our needs. It’s aging in place whether anything is done to the home. We hope that isn’t the case, but we know that it can be.
It’s nice when people recognize that their homes need some changes to enable them to use them more easily and provide enhanced accessibility to features and fixtures within the home. That’s when we get to help them. Still, it’s still aging in place if nothing is ever done in the home. That is not a necessary criterion for aging in place – that the home must be upgraded or improved to be made more safe or accessible.
As for ages who are living in their homes long-term, we are witnessing both multi-generational homes and multi-generational experiences of again in place. In the first instance, people in their twenties and thirties are either remaining at home with their parents or moving back in (temporarily or semi-permanently – with Pew Research noting that one-third of Millenials are currently living at home. At the other end of the age spectrum, elderly parents are moving in with their adult children so that two generations, and very often three (or possibly even four) are living together in the same home or on the same property (in the case of detached accessory dwellings).
For multi-generations not in the same home, we are seeing people of all ages making the decision to age in place. This is in addition to those who are aging in place in their parents home as children. People are shopping for homes more carefully in many situations and selecting homes that can work for them long-term, or they are making improvements to their homes that can satisfy their needs for the foreseeable future. Aging in place is being experienced across a range of ages, locations, lifestyles, abilitieis, and incomes.