“The Big Aging In Place Lesson From 2020”

Some of us had many individuals and pets in our homes, across generations, at the same time for an extended period of time, but we made it work as we learned what it is like to age in place.

 

Stay at home mandates

Many of us, without prior warning or notice, were required to remain at home for much of 2020. To an extent, that continues even today.

We didn’t have a choice, and there was no preparation. No target date on the calendar to look toward. One day we were out and about, and the next one, we were at home. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway. How many of us knew what we might have wanted our homes to do or provide for us for a period of several months duration?

Nevertheless, we were pleasantly surprised. We learned that we basically like our homes and that we could remain relatively happy for weeks on end by remaining in them. We had not selected them for this purpose, but they came through for us. We learned what aging in place is all about.

An extreme example

In many ways, the lockdown and remaining in place that we experienced over the last three-quarters of 2020, and perhaps to an extent even now, was a rather extreme example of aging in place.

Aging in place was never intended or envisioned that we necessarily would be confined to our homes and property, but we could be, and that’s what we learned. We discovered that even if we couldn’t leave our homes that we could be happy and comfortable in them as they were. Could we still make a few tweaks here and there? Sure, but largely, they worked for us.

Procrastination lost

So many of us had big plans for our homes – modifying certain rooms, painting, picking up, reorganizing floor space, repurposing various areas of our homes, and more to fit out ideas of a long-term plan, but those plans got upended. No more time to get ready. Reality set in.

Our days of putting off improvements and wistfully planning for some future day suddenly came to an end. Now, it was time to make the most of what we had and to make things work as best as we could. We modified, adapted, and often accepted what we had as the best way to move forward. We persevered.

While it would have been nice, in some cases, to have been able to do what we had planned, we did what we had to with our homes to make them safe and comfortable for us. Many of us learned that our homes were basically sound for us as they were.

Becoming reintroduced

During this period of close encounters caused by all of us being at home at the same time for an extended period of time, we became reintroduced to each other as individuals and to our homes as a place to be. Many of us were not used to getting up in the morning and having the entire household present, or to look around us at noon or 4:00 in the afternoon and see the same people. It was quite different. We learned to accept each other’s needs and their spatial requirements.

We found that our homes were far better suited for accommodating us 24/7 than we had ever imagined or contemplated previously. We found out that we liked our homes, and we acquired a new appreciation for each other. Sure there were some awkward moments, and we discovered some things we needed to do a little bit differently, but largely this worked!

A short course in aging in place

With this short course – immersion – into aging in place and what it means to be in our homes for extended periods of time surrounded by pets, loved ones, furniture, and other familiar items, we found that this was not such a scary or awkward situation.

How many of us could have planned for such an experience to learn what it would be like to spend extended periods of time at home among those we love and to conduct our daily activities from within our living space? Clearly, very few of us could have designed such an experience, and yet this is exactly what we lived out. The future of aging in place at home is not nearly as menacing now as we may have thought since we know we have lived a little of it in the present.

While we could not have created this scenario nor wished for the events that contributed to this experience, we came through it quite well and learned a tremendous amount about our homes, our family, and our ability to adapt and get along with the situation we are given.

We may decide that we want to make a few changes to the layout of our homes to make them even better for the future, or we may just want to organize things a little better. Maybe we discovered that we actually do have too many items that we’ve hung onto that we now can see ourselves releasing.

A coat of paint or a new piece of furniture here or there may make a big difference. It may not take that much. After all, we did quite well with what we had for several months!

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