The concept of aging in place is pretty simple – remain in one’s present home for the duration. Not complicated. Of course, it may need some tweaks for that to be a functional reality. It may need some more major revisions. It may be good to go as is.
Aging in place, although a very old concept that was done long before we ever attached a name to it, is a simple idea that people who have lived in the same place for many years just keep on doing so. Everything they have kept and stored remains. All of their daily tasks are committed to memory – they can even be done without concentrating on them or even in the dark, depending on what they are.
People choose a place to live for many reasons. They may like the location – they say that that this is the number one, two, and three top reasons for choosing property – location, location, location! Maybe this is the same neighborhood where they grew up – or it reminds them of it in appearance and how it feels. They may like how convenient it is to shopping, recreation, employment, the airport or transit stations, or other opportunities. They may like the general layout and floor plan of the home they have selected. Most of all, they probably like the price they paid.
Once a person has lived in the same home for a number of years, they get comfortable with that location. They know how to come and go. They look forward to returning home after having been away for a few hours or multiple days. It is theirs!
Also, as people have lived in the same home for many years, they acquire a strong equity position in that home. Many have paid off their entire mortgage loan and now live in that home without the additional monthly burden of debt service – leaving their funds that previously were committed for this purpose to be allocated elsewhere. Even if the entire loan has not been satisfied, it has been paid down dramatically, and the end of their term is in sight.
As people have lived in the same home for many years, regardless of how long that has been or what they had previously, they develop their own set of memories attached to that dwelling. When children or grandchildren are involved, those youngsters have an attachment to the home also. Memories abound.
Illnesses, injuries, and joys are part of life. There have been their share of these within those four walls. Leaving this home and turning one’s back on all of those memories – positive and not so pleasant – is to shut out the past. Those memories will have to transferred and relocated to a new home – to the extent they can because they happened and were experienced in the former residence.
Occasionally something in that home will have happened of an extreme traumatic nature that makes it painful to remain in the same home and to be continually reminded of those events and the emotions surrounding that event. Understandable but not the typical situation. Still, moving to a fresh location does not erase those memories – it only relocates them.
Aging in place, in its classic sense, means deciding to remain in one’s present home forever. If that home fails to measure up in certain respects – lighting, passageways, flooring, access points, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, windows, doors, and other components or features of the home – they can be changed and modified subject to personal wishes, safety considerations, and the budget. While it might seem easier initially just to turn one’s back on a situation that is not ideal or has become dated and to look for a fresh start, that is not always easy or inexpensive to do. Plus, this stretches the idea of aging in place. True, that new home becomes the location where the clock resets on aging in place and begins anew, but this is not true to the original concept of aging in place or remaining where one is.
In most cases, remaining in place – without moving – is advisable. Before any move is contemplated it needs to be thoroughly vetted and discussed with family and professionals. A move is not as simple as packing a few suitcases and moving across town. There is a huge disruption in one’s daily activities for weeks (possibly months) as everything is packed up and transferred to a new location. There is the inconvenience of doing without or not knowing where things are when they are packed away at the current location or still in boxes at the new one.
There is a huge emotional trauma associated with transferring addresses – a separation anxiety from leaving one very familiar address and set of living circumstances and going to an unknown to re-establish everything. When we are younger it can be an exciting opportunity. However, as we are older and more established in the home we might be leaving, this challenge is much more difficult to resolve.
This is why aging in place is meant to be staying in one’s current home for the duration and making what changes may be reasonable or feasible to help facilitate that.