A critical and oft-desired component of “successful” aging, or aging gracefully, is maintaining independence. The mental benefit alone of remaining independent is proven to be enormously effective in helping seniors more fully enjoy and even extend their golden years. One way to achieve this type of independence is by aging in place; the ability to stay in your home as you age, as opposed to moving to a senior living or care facility.
AARP reports that a majority of older adults express a desire to age in place and related housing data confirms that 80 percent of seniors are indeed realizing that goal and living independently in their own homes. Estimates for the future of this trend are astounding: Over the next 40 years, America’s population of people over age 65 is expected to reach 80 million and those over age 85 will comprise 20 million. A large percentage of those people will want to age in place, which presents a considerable societal challenge regarding the provision of everyday services and other demographic hurdles.
Many people familiar with the scenario of an elderly parent or relative living in their own home can attest to the overall feeling of peace and happiness that accompanies even basic activities such as sitting in your favorite chair or watching the birds through the back window. Indeed, most Americans view the prospect of aging in place as intensely personal, with a visceral connection to home and family.
That being said, today’s local, state, and federal organizations face a challenge of addressing barriers to aging in place and developing solutions to enable millions of people to do just that.
Barriers to aging in place
Aging in place is an evolving process of people and environment. We know many older people want to stay in their own homes but an array of challenges can make this a challenging goal to reach. Difficulties and frustrations with everyday activities can simply become too much to handle and ultimately defeats the goal of remaining at home. Necessary components required to address the needs of a rapidly growing independent population include housing, transportation and mobility, land use, community stakeholder cooperation, home design, and health concerns. Let’s look closer at some common barriers to aging in place.
Housing and home design
Housing barriers require attention to planning, including steering away from development trends of single markets like “starter homes” and instead focusing on intergenerational neighborhoods. Affordable and diverse options must also be available, including co-housing, villages, and cottage homes. Within these homes must be universal design features to accommodate all ages and abilities to make life easier, keep people healthier, and provide needed support.
Transportation and mobility
Today’s transportation facilities are much too focused on cars, with near total lack of options for non-driving adults or households without cars. Public transportation options, if available at all, often lack connectivity and are difficult for older adults to reach, board, and safely get home. For older adults that like to walk, even that can be a challenge as most cities have miles of crumbling and cracked sidewalks and related pedestrian facilities are inadequate.
It’s not like we don’t know it’s coming, yet many people are simply unprepared for aging in place. For the most part, people don’t think that far ahead and are unsure what to do in the first place. If they do prepare, it is typically not well enough for the demands to come.
Our ability to accomplish daily tasks diminishes with age and as a variety of health issues creep in, living needs increase accordingly. That typically means people need easier access to everyday tasks, objects, and locations. Surrounding our homes, most cities include ADA regulations to enforce the bare minimum of accessibility but it is severely limited. Office buildings, public areas, sidewalks, and restaurants are simply not easy for the elderly to access.
Efficient use of land is not typically a driver of conversation regarding aging in place but it has a significant impact. The scourge of sprawling overdevelopment focuses on cars and has virtually no connectivity to homes and community locations. In addition, development includes formal delineation of residential, commercial, and recreation areas which makes it incredibly difficult for the elderly to reach amenities and daily living destinations like doctors’ offices or grocery stores.
Other useful resources for aging in place
- What is “Aging in Place”?
- Common Mobility Aids for Seniors Aging in Place
- Why is Aging in Place Important?
- Preventing Falls with Aging in Place Home Modifications
- 10 Useful Smartphone Apps for Seniors Aging in Place
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.