What Does Aging in Place Really Mean?

For some time now, I have been espousing the value and benefit of helping people remain in their own homes as they age as long as they wish. I have cited studies that show that the vast majority of people want to remain in their own homes for the rest of their lives. I have talked about different home modifications that make our homes safer and more comfortable as we age. I have talked about the principles of Universal Design which seeks to create living spaces that can be used by all people without regard to disability or limitation. During the last three or four years I have worked tirelessly to educate people on the fact that this idea of remaining in your own home as you age is called aging in place. This term (most often seen in quotes) refers to a mindset and an attitude as well as specific actions that refute the notion that it goes without saying that we have to give up our homes and our independence at some point in our lives as we age. Many directories of products and services do not contain a category for Home Modifications to enable aging in place, but they are full of retirement homes you can move into after you give up your home. This idea that you have to move out of your home is one that I, for one am working hard to eliminate. Mostly because its just not true. Month after month in this column I explain techniques and tactics that make aging in place not only possible but preferable.

Against this background, imagine my surprise when I read an article the other day about the opening of a new assisted living. The article says that the facility offers “age in place living”! Now, as I’ve described aging in place refers to remaining in your own home as you age. By definition moving into a retirement community or assisted living facility is not aging in place. Let me be clear that I believe that seniors and their loved ones who are caring for them should have as many options as possible, and for some people, these facilities offer an ideal living arrangement. But it is definitely not aging in place.

Besides the advantages of remaining in familiar surroundings and remaining close to family and friends, aging in place usually offers financial incentives as well. In a recent article by Patrick Egan from The New Old Age Blog entitled “When the Assisted Living Bill Baloons”, Mr. Egan describes how assisted living costs climbed 5.2% from 2009 to 2010 to a national monthly average of $3,293. In addition sometimes minor changes in ability can trigger a new level of care (and large price increases).

Clearly aging in place has its challenges as well. See the December Senior News for a discussion of senior villages, a small but growing movement of seniors banding together in local communities to facilitate easier access to products and services needed to age in place. I am constantly looking for new ideas, products, and solutions to aging in America a less daunting and more rewarding journey. If you have questions about aging in place, Universal Design, or Home Modification or would like to see something addressed in this column, please get in touch with me. You can write to me at Chris Moore, Solid Rock Enterprises, Inc., 428 West Riverside Drive, Salem, VA 24153, email me at cmoore@solidrockenterprises.com, or give me a call at (540) 556-0650. Remember my goal is to provide solutions to aging residents. In closing I wish each and every one of you a blessed and healthy New Year.

Solid Rock has written many articles for Housing Matters, including subject matter for Retirement, Enjoying the Outdoors and Aging In Place.  Please visit our Housing Matters Index of articles here.