We’ve all heard it a million times…”You’re not putting me in a nursing home!” or “I’m staying right here in my own house!” As Baby Boomers move into their retirement years, aging in place has become a buzzword. Aging in place is typically used in the context of creating a physical living environment that is adapted or adaptable for the evolving needs of an aging occupant. The reality, however, is that aging in place is a multidimensional concept that has different meanings for different people.
There is good cause for the layout and structure of a person’s living space to be the most commonly discussed aspect of aging in place. For many, the biggest challenge of aging in place is making their family home a safe place of comfort and refuge as they grow older. The most common design concepts for an aging in place living space involve:
- All rooms on one floor
- A level entry way or ramp for a wheelchair
- Bathrooms with grab rails, walk in bathing facilities, highrise toilets and extra knee space
- Lower and more easily accessible storage spaces
- Extra wide entryways to accommodate wheelchairs
- Keyless door locks
- Low maintenance grounds and exterior
Goods and Services
Although making a home adaptable to the needs of an aging resident is certainly important, there are other aspects to aging in place that are equally vital. One aspect that is often overlooked is access to goods and services. A home might be constructed and laid out perfectly, but if there is no grocery store nearby or no one to help take care of the yard, the perfectly laid out home will not be a good place to grow old. An additional consideration is the proximity and response times for local emergency services. Helpful family and friends as well as the use of delivery services can help alleviate problems of remoteness, but if the home is isolated to the point that the necessary goods and/or services are not readily available, aging in place might mean finding a less isolated home.
In addition to the availability of goods and services, a good aging in place plan will mitigate the social isolation that often accompanies aging. Again, the best laid out home might not be good if its residents feel trapped and isolated from friends and family. Although moving from the family home may mean giving up memories and familiarity, these losses can be made less painful by moving to a place that allows for continued growth and the formation of new memories.
Finally, it is important to consider the possibilities for aging in place brought about by the ever evolving world of technology. Safety products like fall alert devices and home security systems have been around for some time, but seniors now have options to address issues such as isolation and loneliness through technologies like Skype and Facetime, as well as social media. Additional living options can be opened up with technology like web cams and automated reminders about medications and other daily tasks.
Beyond the buzzword, aging in place is a multidimensional concept that will mean different things for different people. What might be good for one person and situation may be totally unworkable for another. The key is to think ahead of time about all the possibilities that aging can bring, both good and bad, and make decisions about how your individual situation can be made to work best for you and your family.
Barry M. Meyers
David M. Neubeck
Elder Law Offices of Barry M. Meyers, P.S.
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