news – July 2020
Just Don’t Call it Aging In Place
Yes, aging is happening, but the goal is “living” in place — enjoying everyday activities in a comfortable home environment.
By Bill Hensley
COVID-19 CASES ARE ON THE RISE IN TWO-THIRDS OF U.S. STATES, adding over 50,000 confirmed cases daily and approaching 3 million cumulative infections — over a quarter of the world-wide total. (Let’s pause here and remind ourselves that wearing a mask in public and socially distancing are still the right things to do.) The face of new infections has swung much younger in this second round, but it is our older family members and loved ones who are still at greatest risk from serious COVID-19 complications.
In the next issue of Technology Designer, we’ll take a look at the impact of the new Covid-19 world on housing choices for seniors, particularly those who might have otherwise considered a senior community, assisted living facility or long-term care home. Does it make sense to stay in place? If so, what modifications does the home need to help us thrive gracefully through these years? Everyone’s situation is different: A couple may have a different opportunity spectrum than a single person. Proximity to family, loved ones, and preferred health care must be considered. Of course, finances also play a role, particularly further investment in what for most of us is one of our largest assets — the home.
So, what makes for successful aging in place during our later decades? First, it’s important not to think of it as “aging in place” at all. Yes, aging is happening but the thing we all are doing first and foremost is living — getting on with our everyday activities in a comfortable home environment.
As designers and home technology professionals, we are the ones who can make a difference as our clients embark on a home reset that helps them get on with living. Perhaps they are looking at modifications to an existing home to make it more friendly and responsive to their approaching years of reduced vigor. Perhaps they are planning a new home that meets these same needs, while downsizing out of the larger home in which they raised a family. Perhaps it is the adult children of that family planning a remodel that creates a separate-but-connected apartment for mom or dad to move into. In these or other situations we do what we as design and technology professionals always do — we ask questions. Questions that uncover not just the surface wants, but the needs that underly them. Questions that help us create that one-plus-one-equals-three scenario where the home not only removes dangers and obstacles but is intuitive to the occupant’s needs. The design-build team asks questions and creates solutions that enable the desired lifestyle.
The older generation has needs and considerations that might be less important for a young family. Mobility is an obvious one; those stairs to the bedroom wing that feel like good exercise may one day be a major obstacle. Floor surfaces that were easy to navigate in younger years might be more challenging as our gate changes.
As always, teamwork is everything, and when the designer, technologist, builder and other partners work together to understand the clients’ desires and anticipate their needs, the results will enable successful living in place.