Aging in place is a topic that many people are reading about, hearing about, and talking about today. Unfortunately, for many who want to age in place or who already are doing so, there is a misunderstanding or difference of opinion on what constitutes aging in place, who can do it successfully, what type of home is required to do it well, and how much it costs to do this – among other considerations.
It’s important that we all understand – contrary to some articles that may be circulating on various platforms – that there are no entrance requirements or considerations for aging in place. Anyone can age in place – at any age, ability, marital status, education level, work history, physical size, or any other considerations or factors. It is something we all can do. How well we do it is a different matter, but we all can do it – even with an overt decision to do so. It’s not something that only applies to seniors (whatever that definition might be) or to people with physical limitations.
Aging in place is often a decision that is subtle or unproclaimed. People can just choose to remain in their current home and never move from it. There may be no conscious reason or thought process about aging in place or continuing to live in that home – it just happens. There may be shortcomings in hat home in terms of safety considerations, mobility and access issues, and their personal comfort, but they choose to keep going without making any improvements or moving.
Successful aging in place isn’t conditioned by the types of improvements we make or don’t make to our dwellings. We are in business to help people make improvements to make their aging in place more effective for them, but this isn’t a prerequisite for continuing to live in the home. People can choose to keep living in their homes and make no substantial improvements or renovations to them to accommodate their changing needs. They just ignore what doesn’t work so well for them or adapt to their living space as well as they can.
Aging in place isn’t a decision we make when we attain a certain age – 35, 40. 50. 60. and so forth, for example. It isn’t something we decide to do when the kids are raised and out of the house – it might be but these are independent events. It’s not something that we choose or that impacts us after an injury, illness, or more serious medical diagnosis.
Aging in place literally begins at birth – in our parents’ home and then as we progress through life. At each step of the way, we have the opportunity to enjoy a safe, accessible, comfortable, and convenient dwelling space. To the extent that these elements are missing entirely or deficient, we can step in as aging in place specialists and help to correct them.
We usually think of people aging in place in a home they own, but they could just as easily live in rental apartments, condos, or homes (including duplexes, quads, town or row homes). The homes (owned or leased) can be any size and style – single level, two-stories, split-level, or three- or four-stories, with or without basements.
The age or condition of the home people live in is not something that defines whether someone can continue living in their home and for how much longer. Many homes are quite old and have had relatively little done to them over the years to upgrade the electric service, plumbing, flooring, lighting, or kitchen or bath layouts. Doorways and hallways may be quite narrow compared to what we recommend now. There may be many other features in the home that we would change if given the chance. Still, people can age in place in such a home, It’s their choice. As long as the home is complying with local safety requirements, there is nothing else that has to be fulfilled before they can age in place there.
Even newer homes may offer some challenges for people due to the way previous owners maintained them or their physical and sensory limitations that affect and impact how well they can use their homes. We would enjoy helping to make their homes more accessible for them, but they are free to age in place in their home as they are right now and as the home is, too.
In short, there is very little about a home or someone who occupies and desires to remain in it long-term that can be regulated. There are no minimum criteria or conditions that must be met before someone can choose – by election or simply by doing – to age in place. Our challenge is to recognize that anyone is free to age in place and to identify those who seem to be having some degree of difficulty with the process. We want to help them enjoy their forever homes.