The bigger picture
Aging in place is a strategy or concept for people to remain in their homes long-term and for us, as aging in place professionals, to help them throughout their lifetimes to be able to stay safe and viable in their homes. Nevertheless, it is not confined to just the living space within the walls of their home. Focusing on just the interior is to miss the larger picture.
To be sure, safety, accessibility, visitability, security, comfort, and convenience all are essential parts of our overall focus for effective aging in place solutions, but there should be more to our approach than just the interior spaces.
People have to be safe in and on their yards, driveways, garages, carports, patios, porches, and sidewalks.
Getting to and from the front door
Getting from the street to the front door – or the reverse, going from inside the home to the street – needs to be easy, safe, and comfortable. This is where and how aging in place strategies extend from inside the home to the area immediately around it. The footing needs to be solid and sound. Broken concrete, uneven or soft surfaces, missing material, weeds and grass interrupting the pavement, rocks or other debris such as twigs and leaves, and encroaching bushes and flowers can all impact the safety and movement on and along walkways.
Unfortunately in terms of easy access, some homes have severe elevation changes between the home and the street, with many of these issues not easy or inexpensive to solve. People need to be able to leave their homes to be in their yard – for exercise and yard activities, light yardwork and maintenance, fresh air and sunshine, and to be able to play with children, grandchildren, or pets. The challenge for many homes is creating a reverse type of visitability where the occupants can comfortably move from the front door (or back or side door) out into their yards and beyond without encountering obstacles.
Leaving the inside of the home and going outside into the yard or venturing down the sidewalk – even using a walker or wheelchair – is good exercise and good for the spirit. When people encounter their neighbors or just keep pace with what is going on around them, it keeps them better grounded and happier.
Using the area around our homes
Many people love being able to garden, care for their plants and vegetables, or just do minor landscaping work – and some go in for much more strenuous activities. These necessarily need to occur in the yard (front or back) outside of the home and be easily accessible from the home.
There are those who like to work on their hobbies, such as collections, woodworking, or repair projects in their garage, basement, or shed. While some of these areas may technically be part of the dwelling, many people must go to another structure for them. Either way, it is a destination away from the normal living space.
For those who are interested and able to do so. leaving the inside of their home to walk, jog, walk their dog, ride a bike, rollerblade, or partake in other outdoor activities, gets them outdoors and away from their home for fresh air and a change of scenery. Even raking or bagging leaves is an outdoor activity that is done in the yard but outside of the home. Putting the trash or recycling out for collection is an activity that is done outside – whether on the driveway or at the street.
Destination activities in the yard
Some people may have a pool, hot tub, or spa on their patio, deck, or in the backyard. This is certainly an out-of-the-home pursuit that can be enjoyed by the occupants of the home as well as their invited guests and neighbors.
Outdoor kitchens are extremely popular and range from a very simple barbeque grill to extensive kitchen areas with full appliances (often even a pizza oven), wet bars, seating, and more.
Thus, there are many things that we need to do – and that we should do – to help ourselves and others use their homes well and effectively as we get older (regardless of our current age or ability). Aging in place strategies are both an indoor and outside focus around someone’s living space, and beginning at our own home gives an additional insight to be able to share and extend to the marketplace.