Among the nearly 75 million elderly in the U.S. today, more than 70 percent wish to remain in their own homes as they age, according to a study by AARP. And why wouldn’t they? For most seniors, their homes have been a place of joy and comfort for many decades. It’s where children were raised, family dinners were served, holidays and special occasions were celebrated. Their homes are where they and their cherished possessions reside; their homes are where they wish to remain steadfastly until the end of their lives.
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With the onset of the popularity of the term “aging in place,” keeping senior citizens living both safely and comfortably in their homes has become a reality for many families. What exactly does this term mean? Aging in place is when the elderly remain in their home environments as they age for as long as possible thanks to modifications made to the spaces and support systems within which they live, with the goal of long-term independence. This would include addressing activities of everyday living such as bathing and personal care, dressing, cooking, taking medications as scheduled, etc. Other, more indirect activities of everyday living that should be considered should include: driving, shopping for groceries, adhering to doctors’ appointments, attending to social considerations, caring for pets, etc.
Today there are design professionals who are certified in Universal Design, which is a niche of design that specializes in creating or remodeling spaces that are barrier-free, or accessible to everyone. In fact, this is the fastest-growing segment of the home remodeling industry, and these Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) are in high demand.
Some examples of aging in place home modifications include:
- Added lighting throughout the home
- Eliminating or lowering doorway thresholds
- Raising toilets and adding safety bars
- Lowering showerheads and adding in-shower seating
- Lowering kitchen sinks and countertops and removing cabinetry from beneath sink to allow for seated dishwashing
- Raising dishwasher and other appliances for comfort
- Reducing depth of cabinets for easier reach
- Adding brightly-lit knobs to stovetop
- Remodeling entryway to remove steps
- Increasing doorway width
- Adding non-slip flooring within the home
While such modifications to your parents’ home will likely bring them greater independence, don’t forget to consider their more indirect needs as well. Perhaps their community has adult care transportation that can help your mom or dad get to their favorite farmers market or to their physical therapy appointment each week, or maybe you can hire a local pet sitter to lend support with Fido. Some municipalities even offer home delivery of meals to senior citizens.
Creating more opportunities for greater independence for your parents in their home environment can bring them years of happiness. For more information and resources, please see the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC) at www.ageinplace.org, the Aging in Place Initiative at www.aginginplaceinitiative.org, or Neighborhood Works America at www.nw.org. Of course, please feel free to contact me for assistance with aging in place planning as well. I am a charter member of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAIPC and am delighted to offer counsel to you and your folks on this or any eldercare topic.
All the best,
[Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.]