Homes are inanimate
As much as some of us might want to think of our homes as being somewhat human or desire to assign human or functional characteristics and qualities to them, they are inanimate. Might they know when we are neglecting their maintenance or showing our love for them? Who’s to say? However, we know that they don’t require the same level of adjustment and adaptation for their own sake that their occupants do.
While our residences are going to benefit from changes that we make to them and the way we maintain them for the sake of the specific or perceived needs of those of us living in them, such changes are made for us rather than the structures.
The closest thing to making changes in our homes to keep them up-to-date as they get older is to overlay a universal design template to the door and window hardware, the doors and windows themselves, the flooring, lighting, appliances, bath fixtures, HVAC and electrical systems, home technology, and other aspects of our homes to make sure they are continuing to provide a safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible lifestyle within them.
To be sure, our homes age too
Let’s be clear. Our homes age over time just like everything else – our furniture, clothing, cars, and us. The trees in our yard get older. Everything does that continues to exist. Some live on in our memories as well.
So, while our homes and everything in them and around them (landscaping, accessory buildings, decks, patios, pools, driveways, walks, and pathways, for instance) get older by the day, we don’t think of meeting their needs specifically. When we do make improvements, repairs, or generally upgrade them, it’s done for our benefit rather than specifically for the needs and requirements of our homes.
We are not interviewing our homes to determine what they need and then addressing those inadequacies. Rather, we are looking at what we need in our homes and addressing those specific issues – even if they are just safety improvements. The end result may look the same as if we had made the improvements for the sake of our homes, but they didn’t request it or consent to it.
Putting the emphasis where it belongs
Let’s remember that aging in place is personal. It focuses on the individual. Each of us has our own specific needs. Even in the same home with spouses, children, siblings, partners, roommates, multiple generations, or any other type of occupancy situation other than living alone, needs can vary. We would expect that they would. All of us are different. We age in different ways and respond to changes in our physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities in various ways also.
As we get older, and as our friends, neighbors, and clients are aging – because none of us can avoid the fact of getting older, we need to evaluate how well the physical environment of the homes we live in is continuing to meet our needs. In other words, what will it take to make our homes easier to navigate, safer to be in and use, and more enjoyable to occupy?
We don’t evaluate and then modify certain aspects of our homes because they are requesting it or demanding it of us. We make such modifications to accommodate the occupants of those home as their needs and requirements changes. True, our homes need to be up to the challenge of allowing us to live and grow older in them well, but they can’t tell us what needs to be done. We have to determine that based upon our observations of the needs and requirements of those living in these homes.
Creating balance and addressing personal needs
To be sure, everything is getting older – it can’t help it. As we age in our homes, our requirements certainly can change. Our sensory perception, balance, and physical abilities can lessen – but not on any prescriptive basis where we can look at a chart and anticipate what I’d going to happen and at when. Some people will experience more changes than others.
Similarly, our home will change in the sense that they may not accommodate us the way that we remember them doing when we first moved into them. They likely didn’t change, except for some general maintenance issues. but we did.
So we need to examine our living spaces to see if there are some things we can do to make them safer and easier to use as our abilities have changed or are continuing to do so. What possibly was easy to use or comfortable at one time in the past may no longer be the case.
Our homes, in themselves, don’t need or require any accommodation for aging other than general maintenance/ Even updates are the prerogative of the owners. However, we likely need to implement changes in and to our homes – from a little to more substantive – over time.to remain connected to our homes and feel that they are serving us well.