90% of adults over 65 say they’d like to stay in their current home as they age. Is this a realistic goal?
Can You Safely "Age in Place?"
Advantages of aging in place
“Aging in place” has come to mean not having to move from your current home to have the necessary support services to meet possible future needs. The advantages of remaining in your home include feelings of independence, the comfort of familiar places, friends and neighbors, proximity to family, and long-term relationships with medical personnel.
Two kinds of age-related limitations
Every woman over 60 should consider two kinds of possible limitations as she continues to age:
• Normal limitations arising from a gradual decrease of physical and sensory abilities (hearing, sight, balance, strength, etc.)
• Special needs arising from late life chronic or acute illness.
Assessing needed support services
A first step should be assessing the expected support services you may need. These can be grouped into three levels:
• No currently known special needs: Individuals not experiencing health/mobility issues except for normal, age-related changes
• Progressive condition-based needs: Individuals with chronic or progressive conditions (e.g., diabetes, lung/heart disease) that are not currently urgent, but may require future home modifications.
• Traumatic change needs: This group includes those who have experienced an abrupt health and/or mobility change that demands immediate home modifications.
Home assessment and modifications
It is important to do a thorough assessment of your home to be sure it can properly handle both normal limitations or special needs as you age in place.
For example, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that falls are the leading cause of death from injury among older adults. So making sure your home contains fall-prevention features should be considered essential, even if you have no immediate health or mobility issues.
Some safety features—grab bars in bathrooms, adequate railings on stairs, unobstructed pathways, increased lighting, and getting rid of loose throw rugs—are easily done and not costly. Other modifications (non-skid flooring, entry and exit ramps, walk-in showers, stairlifts, elevators) can be more expensive but necessary.
Resources in the community
A naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) is another way older adults can age in place. A NORC, though not necessarily built for a particular age demographic, occurs where a group of residents 60 and older live cooperatively. Some offer recreational activities, and preventative health and social services for the community. This model can be supported by local, state, and federal dollars, as well as by community businesses, neighborhood associations, and private foundations.
Today, many homes are being built or retrofitted with the Universal design model in mind, which makes everything in the home accessible to all people, with or without functional limitations.
This is good thinking and good planning for two important reasons:
• The fastest growing part of our population is (and will continue to be into the foreseeable future) over 55 years old. This means we will have a growing need for housing that can accommodate possible needs and limitations of an aging population.
• Adults with functional limitations who wish to live independently come in all ages. With the right kind of housing accommodations, we can make this possible.
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For more information:
• wikipedia.org - Aging in Place
• wikipedia.org - Universal Design
• seniorresources.com - Aging in Place Assessment
• seniorresources.com - Aging in Place 2