We don’t need to be intentional about aging in place?
Aging in place is a very simple, intuitive process that does not require any advance planning, thought, or formal commitment. In fact. It happens whether we acknowledge it or not. We can plan for it, and many people do. However, many do not. We can make a formal decision and declaration to those around us, or we can just allow it to happen.
Aging in place simply means that we continue living in our current home indefinitely. This is our final home, and we like living in it. Barring any catastrophic health issue that would interrupt or interfere with our plans, we aim to continue living in our current home. This can be either a formal or informal decision, but this is the essence of aging in place. Thousands and possibly millions of people around the world are doing it.
It’s more possible now than ever
Aging in place, whether we know and identify with this label or not, is more feasible and achievable now than at any other time in recent memory. We can remain independent in our own homes as long as we are able, and then family, professional caregivers, or health care providers that come into our homes to assist us can mean that we get to stay at home.
We can move in with family, as many people have done in the past and continue to do to avoid moving into an institutional setting, but most of us now have the ability to remain in our own homes. This likelihood should become even more common in future years. People don’t want to leave their home with its comfortable and familiar surroundings, and largely they won’t need to do so.
What are the alternatives to aging in place? There are a few, but all of them require giving up the independence we have treasured our entire lives – the ability to do what we wanted when we wanted to, within the parameters of legal, moral, and ethical guidelines. Of course, some people are going to be more limited in what they can do physically. They still are able to reside in familiar surroundings, doing things for themselves, or having family or professionals coming to the homes to assist them.
Living at home and aging in place does not imply that someone should be in denial about getting older and dealing with age-related changes in their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities. It does mean that they can remain where they are and adjust to these changes to keep going.
We can choose – on our own or with outside help coming into our living space to be with us on an occasional or regular basis – to remain in our long-term home where we are familiar with what our home affords us in terms of comfort, accessibility, convenience, safety, and peace-of-mind. Or, we can decide that we should move in with family or into some type of congregate or managed care facility to have extra built-in help when we need it.
No level of expectation
Unlike other activities that we look forward to pursuing in life that generally correspond to attaining a certain age or reaching a particular stage of life, aging in place for what we think of as the retirement years (age 65 and beyond) has no specific rules or guidelines. We know that aging in place has no such age parameters, but this is a common focus.
It’s expected by society, family, friends, and what we have come to embrace, that we will start school at age 5 or 6 (generally), that we will graduate from high school, and that we will go on to college, technical school, start a business, or begin working for an employer. Along the way, we will find one or more apartments or homes to occupy (rented or purchased). That process continues for most of our adult life. Then what happens? We keep going in the jobs we have been doing, venture into something else, or we retire.
However, should we retire (or reach the traditional retirement age but continue to work), there are no rules or standards as to how we are to go about our so-called retirement days. There may be expectations that we have acquired from others as to what is considered to be normal or expected behavior, but there are no rules to follow. No manuals or handbooks.
We are free to make up our own rules as we go along aging in place and adapt to what life brings our way.