“As We Are Aging In Place, What About Our Homes?”

So many people – upwards of ninety percent depending on which source is used – want to remain in their current homes as they move into their fifties and beyond. Fortunately for them, that is an extremely doable and viable scenario for them, and we are trained to help them do this as aging in place professionals. 

The issue is actually twofold. People are getting older and as such have many more physical limitations and conditions that typically they did at a younger age. Also, theirs homes are aging. Sometimes, depending on many factors such as when and how they were built, our homes age much better than humans and show aging issues at a much slower rate. Sometimes, however, they age rather rapidly.

Thus, as we are contending with people and their changing life conditions in their homes in the form of mobility, sensory, and cognitive issues that might be arising or continuing, we also must be aware of and be prepared to address the physical condition (maintenance) and limitations (the floor plan and the way it was constructed) of the home itself.

When we do our assessments and evaluations of what exists and what might need to happen in a home to enhance or improve accessibility, safety, comfort, convenience, and general enjoyment of the living space, we must look at both the individuals residing there and the physical structure itself, regardless of how many levels or stories might be involved.

Characteristically, homes built in certain time periods used architectural styles, layouts, and construction materials common for that time. Nothing is inherently wrong with that having been done except when we fast forward to today and find that many homes are not being friendly to their occupants.

Many mid-century homes were built with narrow interior doorways (often only two-feet wide, especially with closets and bathrooms), narrow hallways (less than thirty inches in width), a rather small central hall bath that served all of the people living in the home as well as guests and visitors, and several steps that needed to be climbed to get inside the home (from the outside and often the garage as well, when it was attached).

Often those designs worked for them in which they were built. Otherwise, people would not have accepted them as they did. The issue is that people today do live the same way or use their homes the same as they did several decades ago.

Many things exist today that were uncommon or even yet to be invented when those homes were built and offered to the marketplace. Think of the various home appliances and services that we have today (or have access to even if we don’t personally use them) that are rather recent additions to the home front: curling irons, hair dryers, central air conditioning, microwave ovens, induction cooktops, spas, swimming pools (with heaters and pumps), computers, televisions, audio systems, wi-fi, bluetooth, smartphones, home monitoring and security systems, and more. These create an electrical demand that was unheard of not that long ago.

We must remember now as we are looking at how people relate to their homes and the floor space, how well they are able to circulate within the home, and generally how accessible it is with pathways, cabinets, fixtures, and more, that the home is responsible for providing a good environment for its occupants. Lighting, flooring, passageways, access points, doorways, windows (and how they open), HVAC, glare control, and so many other aspects of presenting a safe living environment must be evaluated and remediated as necessary to provide the safest possible living area for those who are remaining in the home.

People are expecting to age in place in their homes, and it therefore proper to expect that the homes would do their part to age well with them. This is where we come in to help.

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