If aging in place is your goal, consider modifying your environment.
Posted August 20, 2010
Have you asked yourself the tough question, “Where do I want to spend the rest of my life?” You are not alone if you answer, “I want to stay right here in my own home.” According to a respected senior association, there are now 22 million senior homeowners (65 years or older) in the U.S. Eighty-five percent of them want to stay in their homes and communities for the balance of their remaining years. It is important to make this decision as early as possible so they may make necessary changes to the home (such as a first floor bathroom) over time. These changes do not need to make the home look different than any other home in the neighborhood. In fact, consumer demand and technology has created a look to fit almost any decor.
Key to successful aging in place
Making your home your partner is a key to successful aging at home. We are living longer, healthier, and more active lives. As we age, activities we did with ease can become difficult. We often blame our inability to do things on ourselves when it really is the environment we are living in. Builders never took aging into account when many of our homes were built. Most homes were built with only the needs of the young growing family considered. Builders did not take into account that with aging may come limited range for reaching, or limited mobility.
Most of us wait until there is a crisis—a sudden hospitalization, decreased vision, an injury from a fall—to realize our home now requires some changes before we can return there, and/or continue living there, in declining health. It takes planning and forethought to realize that the way you’re presently functioning will not necessarily be the level you will be functioning at ten or even twenty years from now.
It’s better to prepare for our later needs as we age, as early as possible. Making changes to your home room by room over time not only can assist you in aging at home (while allowing you to finances these revisions over a longer time period), but also will increase the value of your home and increase its sellability, as these revisions will have already been completed for the new potential buyer.
You may need advice when considering changes
There are a number of items to consider when remodeling your home. You may wish to consult a professional early in your evaluation process. A certified aging-In-place specialist can provide information about home modifications specifically for an aging population.
You may want to consider having a certified aging-in-place home. This is a home that utilizes “Universal Design”—a term that means the home is able to be used by everyone, and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Home modification can vary, from simple installation of lever doorknobs on an older home to more complex structural changes, such as installing a walk-in shower. The point of home modification is not to redesign your home entirely, but to make a range of changes that transform your home into a comfortable, user-friendly, and safer place to live.
When making home modifications, be wise regarding the modifications that need to be made. If you have arthritis, consider the fact that your mobility may be a factor in the future. Focus on modifications that will allow you to continue to have mobility and freedom in your home. The same goes with sight, hearing and heart conditions.
The goal is to make your home your partner to enable you to live independently in your home for as long as possible, and avoid having to relocate simply because your home is too difficult to get around in.
Diane Carbo, RN has over 35 years’ experience in a variety of nursing settings, including orthopedics/rehabilitation nursing, home care, discharge planning, case management, oncology, hospice, senior behavior health, assisted living, and long term care. Her passion is to help people plan for long-term care needs, and to that end started AgingHomeHealthCare.com. Her goal is to assist aging seniors and their families to develop plans that allow individuals to remain home, safely and comfortably, in the least restrictive environment, regardless of age, income or ability level.