“There Is No Owner’s Manual For Aging In Place”

Imagine that we could have an Instructional manual that would tell us what to expect and what we need to know or consider for aging in place well before we get to that particular place in our lives.


Blazing a new path

Just as there is no instruction manual for what to expect in various stages of life, how and what to eat for optimal nutrition (although there are many opinions and resources to use), what biometric numbers or measurements are important and how to obtain and monitor them, and many other facets of going through life, there are no directions for how to age in place. It’s all individual.

Each of us is unique in our abilities and the way we approach and live our lives. We may have been brought up in the same neighborhood as someone else – even under the same roof as our siblings and parents – but each person lives their life according to their unique life experiences, personality, and other contributing factors.

Each day brings unique opportunities for us. Even if we have some level of expectations as to what might occur because an event is on our calendar, the day unfolds according to its own designs and may be quite different that what we expected or anticipated. Even if it’s a recurring event such as a staff meeting, the details of the meeting, what is discussed, the personalities of those present, our attitudes as possibly affected by outside influences (things that happened prior to the meeting that are unrelated to it), and the outcome may be quite different that the previous session.

Managing expectations

It would be great to know what is coming in the future (short-term in a day or two as well as longer-term of several months or a year or more) or least have a preview of what could happen in the days and weeks ahead. Or so we think. While people who have lived more days than us could tell us about their experiences, there is no certainty that these happenings are common to everyone. Still, it could be helpful information for us to have available.

While there are many articles and scientific studies about how our senses change as we age. Along with some of the mobility challenges we might face, there is not a widely available report on proactive measures that we might take to accommodate changes that are likely to happen or to ward off preventable issues.

When we buy an appliance or a car, there are operating, storage, cleaning, and general maintenance and troubleshooting tips supplied in a printed owner’s manual or as an online pdf version.

Learning as we go

So much of what we notice and the information we have available to help guide us as we get older, from whatever age we are now, comes from personal experiences. Unless we have a parent, coach, sibling, doctor, or neighbor who has experienced the same thing as us – or something similar – we won’t know if what is happening is normal or cause for concern. We won’t necessarily know what to expect. Maybe we saw our parents or others dealing with similar life issues as they aged, but it may be brand new territory for us.

Similar to on-the-job training where we learn how to perform a job or work skill as we do it – with or without coaching or instruction and possibly in a controlled setting – we are tackling the unfamiliar life episode or event and making an immediate adjustment to it. There likely is little mentoring involved. It’s on us to figure out what we are facing the best we can and to come through it well.

It’s unfortunate that there aren’t any manuals or guidebooks – other than journals, blogs, or writings that have published on their observations. There is no definitive authority on how to age in place successfully other than to make the most of our homes by creating safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible features and living space for us.

We are resilient and persistent

While potentially frustrating that such a guide does not exist, it’s probably good that it doesn’t. After all, aging in place is an individual response to one’s specific living environment. Home features and layouts vary between dwellings. The age of the homes and their general condition varies as well. What one person or household favors, needs, or requires to live well or successfully in their home may differ dramatically from their neighbor or someone miles away from them.

If we had a guide, we might not read it thoroughly or refer to it anyway.

However. one thing that can be said for the human spirit is that we are adaptive, resilient, and persistent. If we want to make a situation work, we will find a way to do it – on our own, with the help of family or local organizations, or with an aging in place professional. It’s this collective help that is available to us that provides a lot of the answers we seek.

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