Is aging in place a noun? Yes. Is it a verb – transitive or intransitive? Yes, to both. Is it an adjective? Yes, again. Interesting how it can be all of these things, but it can and is, depending on how we use it and discuss it.
In short, aging in place is a very dynamic concept – it would have to be to represent three parts of speech.
Let’s begin with aging in place the noun. It is a thing, a concept, a strategy for living and getting older. It applies to the dwellings we and our clients occupy as in their aging in place home, forever home, long-term home, ageless home, or permanent home. Here, the aging in place part of the name is an adjective also.
Nevertheless, the way we approach design and renovations for any age group or any type of ability is directed at the idea of aging in place – the term, the noun. Some would even argue that aging in place the noun is a proper name to be capitalized. Nothing wrong with that in the right context, but not necessary either – especially as we are becoming a mainstream concept rather than something special that is set off with distinction.
Typically aging in place is the design concept or strategy that we apply inside the home or on the physical site of someone’s home to enable access and safety. The home is not built as an aging in place home because it cannot be done. Universal design and visitable principles can be incorporated to achieve results that facilitate aging in place, but each home must accommodate the needs of those who reside there – something that cannot be done in advance unless it’s a custom-built home. Even then, people’s needs change over time.
As for aging in place the verb, this is something we do. It can be intentional – something that we openly and consciously plan, agree to, or facilitate. It also can be casual or noncommittal for others – something that just happens or is allowed to develop. People just continue living in their existing homes and age in place because they do nothing to change their circumstances or find a different home that they think might suit their needs better than what they have at the moment. Therefore, they age in place but likely would not admit that this is the case if directly asked about it.
To age in place is to like the home we are in better than any alternative, due to its location or layout, our financial position with regard to what it would take to replace it, and because of all of the storage and stuff we have accumulated and amassed over the years that we don’t want to organize or deal with other than leaving it where it is.
To age in place is to create a living environment that is beneficial to our being present – one that is safe, comfortable, accessible, and offers many conveniences. It may or may not have all of these now or when we originally moved into it, but aging in place is a work in progress – it evolves. This is why there is no aging in place home – the noun – that can be shopped for online or in person and obtained. There are accessible elements we can look for and find, but no home, unless it is designed by a builder or architect specifically with our needs (and those of everyone else in the household with us) in mind, can be the ideal home for our aging in place needs. Even at that, mobility, sensory, and cognitive changes can occur over the remainder of our lifetime that are going to make the resent design less than ideal for our needs – necessitating updates to the design.
With respect to aging in place the adjective, it is the modifier that we attach to housing and specific modifications, improvements, or design elements that we use to create a living environment that accommodates our needs – and is subject to additional changes over time as our needs change. We talk about our aging in place home – one that we purchased as our lifetime home or one that we have begun adapting over the years to make it suitable and comfortable for our needs long-term. We speak of making aging in place changes to our home such as adding safe, strategically placed grab bars in the shower or bath, reducing the slipperiness of flooring by replacing it with something better or treating what is there, and of adding better and more complete lighting choices throughout our home, in addition to many other changes we can make.
Aging in place is powerful. This may be why it is found across our various parts of speech – as a noun, verb, and adjective. We are actively engaged in creating it for ourselves and others and in enjoying it once we have it.