Aging in Place 101: What, Why, and How?
Aging in Place 101: What, Why, and How?
The number of people expected to live beyond age 100 in the US is projected to increase from a few hundred thousand in 2012 to 3.2 million by 2050. Unsurprisingly, a majority of people wish to not only live a long life but a quality one. In 2007, researchers found 26% of people who feared nursing homes reported they mostly feared losing their independence. Undesirable transitions are difficult adjustments and can result in physical and psychological deterioration.
Many older adults are choosing to remain in their homes rather than transition to an assisted living community or other alternative environment. Research shows older adults want to remain in the community they know and love for as long as feasible.
Aging “in place” is about so much more than remaining in the same physical space. It permits older adults to be surrounded by familiar sights and sounds and preserve their social identity even as their health and mobility needs change.
What is aging in place?
The term aging-in-place is often defined as, “Remaining living at home in the community, with some level of independence.” Critical components of aging in place include maintaining a desired level of independence, privacy, safety, and control over one’s environment.
Why is aging in place important?
Most older people prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible because it provides more control over their lives, preserves their identity, and promotes well-being. Additionally, institutional care is much more expensive than community care for most populations including aging and older adults.
Aging in place is important for all the reasons already mentioned. There are also social and psychological costs of transitioning out of the home too soon or before an individual wishes to do so. Relocation is frequently associated with the loss of social relationships, changes in daily routines, loss of personal possessions, and loss of independence.
How to age in place?
The benefits of aging in place are clear. When someone is happy with their environment and feels a sense of personal control, they are going to experience more positive outcomes. However, if their environment is not working for them, but rather against them and their changing mobility needs, it can be unsafe and cause emotional distress.
Designing a home for quality longevity is the most crucial element of safely and successfully aging in place. One of the most significant concerns regarding aging in place is the way in which one can successfully adapt the physical environment to changing functional abilities. As limited mobility is an increasing concern, remodeling home structures efficiently becomes an increasing priority. For example, you may consider investing in infrastructure that supports safety and functionality in the bathroom including converting a Bathtub to a walk-in shower with The TubcuT™ or perhaps renovating your tub to a walk-in shower. Add nonslip tubs, shower chairs, grab bars, or toilet seat risers. Older adults with hearing loss or challenges with coordination may feel safer utilizing car service or public transportation. Paratransit vehicles are also available for people with physical disabilities.
Beyond making changes to the home to support the functional needs of the aging adult, purposeful positive activity is also critical. While it is important for the environment to be safe and accessible, it is just as important that the house remains a home. Having company for Monday dinners, hosting the Sunday football game, or regular evening video chats with loved ones helps support emotional health and well-being. Be intentional about continued and regular physical and social activities to support successful aging in place. The key to aging in place is identifying the ongoing needs associated with aging and changing your environment in ways that continue to allow you to live your life the way you wish to without the limitations of an inaccessible home or the premature and significant cost of relocating.
Whether you or your loved one is fiercely independent or deeply connected to the local community, aging in place is increasingly popular and may be right for you.
Dr. Tabitha 😊
Cavanaugh, John. Adult Development and Aging. 6th Edition, Wadsworth, 2011.
Iecovich, E. (2014). Aging in place: From theory to practice. Anthropological Notebooks, 20 (1): 21–33.