One of the most difficult topics to bring to the table is “Where do you want to live as you get older?” AARP, based on its research, notes that “more than 75% of seniors prefer to age in place; staying in their own homes, continuing to make independent choices and maintain control over their lives.” How many people are we talking about? According to the US Census Bureau, the 65 and over population is expected to increase to 55 million by the year 2020; an increase of nearly 60% over the year 2000 demographic. Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1965, started turning 65 in 2011. Today this generation numbers 77 million, comprises 28% of the total population who own approximately 48% of all homes. We are a demographic with power and money to spend.
We desire to remain in our homes where we raised our families and created so many wonderful memories. The National Aging in Place Council defines aging in place as “the ability to continue to live in one’s home safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level. It includes living in a familiar environment and being able to participate in family and other community activities.” One major stumbling block that often derails such plans is our declining physical and cognitive abilities. As we age we must adapt to the challenges of performing the activities of daily living that we take for granted such as climbing stairs, bathing, meal preparation and managing the house.
Take a proactive approach by evaluating your environment. If the house isn’t easily accessible this could be your biggest roadblock to a successful outcome. Begin by considering these six areas:
Entrance and Exits- Can you easily get in and out of the home? Are stairs an issue? Are thresholds visible and easily negotiated? Does the door open easily? Is there adequate lighting?
Stairways- Are steps in good repair? Do the railings stretch the entire length of the staircase and is there lighting at the top and bottom?
Main Living Areas- Are passageways clear of clutter, wires and cords? Is flooring safe? Can you easily get on and off furniture?
Kitchen- Are counters, cabinets, appliances and outlets easily reached? Is flooring safe and in good repair? Is there adequate work space?
Bathroom- Is the doorway wide enough to accommodate a walker or wheelchair? Is the shower or tub easily accessible? Are there grab bars? Is the toilet high enough? Is flooring safe and if there are bath mats do they have a secure rubber bottom?
Bedroom- Can you easily get on and off the bed? Are light switches within reach? Can you access clothes in the closet? Is there a phone next to the bed?