In 2011, baby boomers will be retiring at a rate of 10,700 per day. That’s according to a study conducted by AARP, which also revealed that 70-80% of respondents would prefer to live out their days in their own homes. Who can blame them, with the crippling effects of the economy and the seemingly uncertainty of life after entering into a nursing home or assisted living program.
The good news? Baby boomers are discovering an alternative way to enjoy the golden years, and it’s called Aging in Place. With increasing popularity among those aged 65 and older, Aging in Place provides a way for people to remain in a familiar environment by making modifications that improve the safety, functionality and comfort of the home. And it isn’t just retirees that are implementing these changes; those with chronic illnesses, or children of elderly parents, are also considering these options.
In a four-part article series, we’ll discuss how Aging in Place affects each area of life, including: physical and emotional health, safety and security, finances, and environment. Let’s begin by talking about the ways in which Aging in Place can maintain, and even improve, physical and emotional health.
Part 1: Physical and Emotional Benefits of Aging in Place
It used to be that when household tasks or personal care became difficult for an aging person, it was time to move them to an assisted living facility or retirement community. Obviously, this was never an easy transition for the aging person or their children. Nevertheless, many people felt they had no choice.
But according to the environmental press theory (developed by Lawton & Nahemow in 1973), these traditional “burdens” of home ownership may actually serve as support for one’s physical and emotional health. Environmental press suggests that meeting the challenges of living at home can preserve brain function. Furthermore, home is a place where memories have been made and routines have been established. Its familiarity gives people the ability to control and enjoy their experiences.
So how can Aging in Place assist people in saving their physical and emotional health, while helping them stay in their homes? By introducing low-maintenance materials and easily accessible features to the home. In this way, Aging in Place helps people continue to perform daily tasks with the types of modifications that meet their competency and mobility needs.
Here are just a few of the changes that can allow people to remain in their homes for longer:
- Low-maintenance shrubs and plants
- Built-in pet feeding system
- Central vacuum systems for cleaner, more comfortable surroundings
- Wheelchair accessible entrances, hallways and landings
- Easy-to-operate hardware and fixtures
- Adjustable-height counters
- Base cabinets with roll out trays
- Open or pull-down shelving
- Task lighting
- Laundry chutes
- Easy-to-clean surfaces
- Lowered windows or taller windows with lower sill height
In addition to these modifications, there are many other adjustments that can be considered. Just like any other decision that affects one’s lifestyle, all facets of Aging in Place should be evaluated. Furthermore, only a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) builder holds the credentials to consult, design, and implement these types of modifications. Be sure to research the background and accreditations of your builder before agreeing to any services.