“A Tribute To Aging In Place: National Senior Independence Month”

Entertaining the grandkids and getting down on the floor with them in our long-term home of choice is healthy aging in place and a mark of independent living – one that helps keep us younger also

No, this observance – “National Independence Month” – didn’t sneak up on us, we don’t have to be concerned that we missed preparing for it or celebrating it. It’s already over for this year, yet the concept remains strong and viable all year.

The official “National Senior Independence Month” occurs annually in February, and we obviously are past that point on the calendar – over halfway toward the next official observance. Still, we can continue to celebrate this concept every day. Our focus doesn’t diminish just because there is not an official banner across the calendar page.

Every month, and the days within those months – literally every day –  can and needs to be one for senior independence. Senior independence is synonymous with aging in place. Independent living does not require a move into a facility that contains an independent living component. Instead, independent living or senior independence means that we continue to occupy and maintain our long-term home of choice.

We can remain living independently by remaining in our long-term homes and occupying them as long as we are able. for many people, this never moving from their present homes.

Independent living is often used to describe a move from one’s home to a campus where apartment-type living is offered as a sole component or in addition to other types of living choices such as assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing. However, we are using the term independent living to mean that people get to consciously select to live in their present homes indefinitely. Even those who are not so obvious about their declaration can still enjoy independent living by continuing to remain in their present home.

Independent living or aging in place does not rule out a move from one home to another that might be more suitable for a long-term occupancy – one on a single level, one with few steps or no entry steps to gain access to the home, one that has more storage potential or one that has allowed a downsizing of the physical space as well as the amount of contents that would reasonably fit in it, one with wider hallways of doorways, one that is newer with fewer potential maintenance issues, or one that has a better economic outlook that the current home in terms of where it is located and the potential for an increase in value.

Nevertheless, aging in place or independent living doesn’t mean that anyone needs to move. In fact, the classic definition of aging in place suggests that a move from one’s current dwelling to another one is contra-indicated and that people need to remain where they are.

We know that the current home may have issues that are more expensive to address or require more space planning to achieve than finding a reasonable alternative that serves someone’s needs from this point forward. This will still allow aging in place in the new dwelling, but this certainly is not necessary and will be the exception rather than common practice.

We know that many people choose to move in with their adult children – under the same roof or in the backyard in an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). This is not quite as independent as remaining in one’s home of choice on their own terms, but it serves as a good alternative for some people. There are many advantages to moving onto a family member’s property, but it is not quite the same as remaining in one’s own home on their own terms.

Regardless, aging in place as we choose to view it – remaining in one’s own home indefinitely, with or without any modifications or renovations that might be suggested or necessary – means living independently. Even with that, we have health care professionals and social services that can come into the home to provide the necessary assistance. Living independently does not mean erecting a wall around our property and allowing no one to enter or for us to leave. Life goes on as it has – making any modifications to our activities or the physical space required or seeking professional help as necessary.

Independent living means doing what we have our entire lives – regardless of our present age or level of ability. It may mean that we are a little slower and take a little longer to move about or for our senses to respond to what they are noticing. Still, we are in living in our long-term home.

Independent living is what we have been doing since we moved out of our parent’s home years ago or we took over the family home to begin leading it. It means that we are responsible for what goes on within its walls and that we don’t need to check with anyone before going out or deciding to do something in the home itself. We are in charge of us. This is independence.

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