Aging in place definition
Aging in place is defined as remaining in your home of choice (generally one that you own and occupied for several years, but not always). It has nothing to do with moving although if this is done early enough in life to find an ideal long-term home, this can be a good decision. It is not about growing old in some type of managed care facility. It is staying where you are and living out your days in your familiar home that you chose because you like it. It can include moving in with family or friends – but on a long-term committed basis. In short, it staying where you are and living there.
The CDC has a similar definition for aging in place that you may like to use – the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level. Notice that it’s a person’s present home – nothing about moving or finding something else.
The concept of aging in place is clear. It means using what you have where you have it – the place you are now. That’s where you are aging in place.
Nothing complicated about it
There are no formulas or prescriptions to follow for successful or acceptable aging in place design. There are ways to improve upon or make the existing living space safer and better to occupy, but there are no specific design guidelines that apply to everyone as it is an individual application.
There are four major guidelines that I have created for guidance, and those are flexibly applied – safety, accessibility, comfort, and convenience. To the extent that our living space accomplishes all or any one of those, we should do rather well in our living environment.
Think back to our early teenage years. We decorated our bedrooms with what was important to us to personalize our space. Even if it had no connection to what the rest of the family enjoyed, liked, or appreciated, we created our own space to make it comfortable and agreeable for us. Likely, our needs have changed and our homes or apartments do not look the same as they did then, but the point is that they accommodated the way we were living. That’s aging in place in its simplest form – allowing people to enjoy their living space in a safe and comfortable way. Of course it the rooms back then had so much in them that it was difficult to navigate the limited floor space or to remain safe, this would not be a good example of effective aging in place considerations.
Nevertheless, how we want to enjoy, occupy, and live in our living space at whatever age we are, type of dwelling we may have, and whether anyone else is living with us in our space,
No compliance required
While we may want to incorporate universal design elements or certain ADA guidelines because they make sense for us or our clients, there are no requirements for creating an aging in place environment save anything prescribed by the local building department for general construction elements.
To say or feel that someone can’t age in place well or that they do not have the money to create the effective living environment they want may be overstating the issue. Aging in place takes no universally applied improvements although there are several elements that are desirable to include if those can be accommodated by the budget and priorities. Some items are going to be more urgently needed in some homes and with some clients than others.
We are not going to be following a script or a playbook but rather following the wishes, desires, needs, and budget of our client. Even at that, there are many things we can do to create a safe and effective space for someone at a lesser expenditure than we might use in other situations.
Keeping it simple
The main guideline for effective aging in place living spaces – accessibility, safety, comfort, and convenience – it to keep it simple. Generally, this will keep the budget in check also. There are many ways to create a particular improvement from investing a relatively small amount of money for a straightforward, simple solution to a more lavish approach. The effectiveness of the outcome should be our main concern. Then we can work with our clients to determine what they can afford and what they would like to have.
We just need to focus on the solutions our clients require, and we can begin by suggesting some simple approaches which often require less disruption in their living environment and cost them less for the improvements.