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Definition of Aging In Place

Updated on March 27, 2013

House Keys Are a Symbol of Independence

Keys to the house may be one lasting symbol of independence in our senior years when so many other freedoms have long gone.
Keys to the house may be one lasting symbol of independence in our senior years when so many other freedoms have long gone. | Source

What is Aging in Place?

The majority of older adults want to remain in the own communities, in their own homes, and do so throughout their lifespan. Ideally, this can be a reality regardless of age, income or level of ability.

Few people have the goal of spending the last years of their lives in nursing homes, not that nursing homes don't have an important role in caring for those who need those services. But moving to a nursing home is to give up the last vestige's of one's freedoms; to move out of a home and familiar community into the unknown.

It isn't unusual for a chronically ill person or an older adult, either one facing the imminent and inevitably of death to simply want to go home from the hospital or health care facility. The comfort of familiar surroundings and the memories there cannot be replaced by medical equipment or the best health care staff.

To be able to age in place is something I wish for myself and for my senior family members. Whatever we can do to make that wish a reality for as many of us as possible is something about which we are all in agreement.

It's comforting for many people of all ages to be able to live in a familiar place, and especially so for older adults.
It's comforting for many people of all ages to be able to live in a familiar place, and especially so for older adults. | Source

Architectural Design Challenges for Aging in Place

Aging in Place Requires Forethought and Planning

Wishing to be able to age in place is often not enough to make doing so a reality. Individuals and communities must use forethought and planning to prepare for the years ahead.

For individuals and couples, thought must be given to practical considerations such as affordability of remaining at home through the years following retirement, the functionality of the home if physical limitations should require use of mobility devices, upkeep of the home and property and more.

Communities, states and even the federal government needs to look at the realities of the aging population, one that continues to grow in number both due to the influx of baby boomers reaching retirement age and the fact that people are living longer than in the past.

Will current city and state services be able to meet the needs of older adults in the years to come? Isn't being proactive now and developing long-term plans for such services and other public safety and public health concerns in the best interest of people, no matter their age? Wouldn't it pose less of a financial burden on taxpayers for more people to be able to age in place rather than going into long-term care?

Aren't these older adults still assets in their neighborhoods and communities? Even infirm bodies don't mean infirm minds. The wealth of life experience and wisdom gained from those experiences mean older citizens have something unique to offer to those around them.

Aging in Place: Remaining at Home Through the Lifespan

Most everyone would prefer to remain in their home until they pass on rather than live with family members or in a long-term community or facility.
Most everyone would prefer to remain in their home until they pass on rather than live with family members or in a long-term community or facility. | Source

Aging in Place and the Silver Tsunami

Perhaps you're familiar with the term "silver tsunami." It's a phrase that the effect that aging baby boomers have as they turn 65, which began to happen, and continues to, at a rate of 10,000 people per day, everyday, since January 1, 2011 and will continue through the end of Dec. 2030.

The phrase itself is neutral; the context in which it is used ranges from negative to positive. Medicare and Medicare supplemental insurance may be concerned with the silver tsunami, but perhaps no more so than the younger generations who may be correctly concerned about how this influx of older people will affect everything from taxes to the housing market to citizen-contributed benefits such as Social Security and Medicare.

There are other groups, particularly those that stand to profit from the needs of this aging population, who likely wring their hands in glee when mentioning "silver tsunami."

One thing is for certain: The picture of aging in place and all the changes that will be necessary in housing, services, health care and its products, adaptive equipment and more will become even more diverse and of greater importance as 76 million baby boomers approach and pass retirement age.

Aging in Place: Practical Solutions for the Community

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How Aging in Place May Effect Communities in the Future

Already public officials are aware of the changing needs of the older adults in American society. In December 2011, a jointly researched "State Survey of Livability Policy and Practices" was published by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Public Policy Institute of AARP. The research topic? Aging in place.

The two bodies examined the areas of land use, transportation and housing, breaking down each broad category and considering the specifics of older adults' needs. Topics considered ranged from urban sprawl to joint use of public facilities to rural access to transportation, the need for volunteer drivers, affordable housing and more.

The purpose of the information gathered, including examples of working programs in areas throughout the nation, was to give elected officials and other in public office insights into the future needs of those wishing to age in place and to provide insights and solutions as to how to meet those needs.

At some point in time, many older adults put away the car keys for the last time. No longer driving themselves to appointments or the grocery store, how will this very real need be met? And while many communities throughout the country have provisions for transportation for necessities, how will older adults be able to continue to participate in community and social activities?

Many positive changes have occurred over the last decades in making physical access to public buildings and sidewalks manageable for people with disabilities, but there is more work to be done. The numbers of people with mobility impairments of one degree or another will increase as older adults age in place.

Private residences were built to the usual specifications for most people, that of a healthy adult of average height and weight, with all abilities intact. For those aging in place, at least some modifications for safety and accessibility are likely to be needed at some point. Homes built on more than one floor may require modification to use stairways or to live on one level.

These issues are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adaptations and changes communities are making now and will make in the future.

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    • DWDavisRSL profile image

      DW Davis 

      3 years ago from Eastern NC

      You have done an excellent job of outlining the needs of our aging population and identifying how it will affect not only those of us among the 'silver tsunami' but also those who will inevitable foot the bill, our children and grandchildren. Thank you for an informative Hub.

    • L.L. Woodard profile imageAUTHOR

      L.L. Woodard 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Michael Tully, it is people such as yourself who have been caregivers for older adults, and older adults themselves whose voices should be heard loud and clear by community planners and elected officials so that necessary changes can be implemented.

      Thank you for your read and comments, and thanks for Sharing.

    • Michael Tully profile image

      Michael Tully 

      5 years ago

      This is an outstanding survey of some very critical issues, Lee. I had to confront many of them during my mom's last five years of life. Architectural barriers and access to transportation were among the most perplexing. Voted up++ and shared.

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