Aging in place is largely exactly what it sounds like. The Centers for Disease Control define the concept as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level." While for some in our society such a near-end-of-life desire is a given, for many others there are barriers to remaining in your own home past a certain age. Increased average lifespans also mean that most people face the potential of not only outliving their savings, but also their ability to function independently. Giving up control over your own day-to-day activities can be challenging for anyone, and particularly so for those who do not have support systems in place to aid them through the transition.
An entire industry is evolving around the concept of aging in place, seeking through home remodeling, technology, and managed care to make it easier for people to remain in their own homes for as long as reasonably possible. Most modern houses aren't constructed with aged individuals in mind, yet with a small number of modifications accessibility can be dramatically improved. These additions can be as simple as improved lighting or non-skid flooring on stairwells. Other options can be more difficult to install, but often dramatically improve the quality of a living space for seniors. These can include extra support in a shower or bathroom, or an added light switch at both ends of a staircase. Ramps, walk-in showers, home elevators and stairlifts are all examples of potentially costly retrofits, yet they can have an immediate and lasting affect on a person's ability to age in their own home.
As the global population ages, their needs will only increase, and the desire for people to remain in their homes for as long as possible while they near the end of their life isn't going to go away. As the "Baby Boomer" generation reaches seniority over the next few decades, America is set to face a unique challenge that strikes families at a basic and core level. The population of the United States that is over age 60 is set to spike from 43,043,000 individuals in 2005 to 73,769,000 in 2020. This represents a staggering 71 percent increase. The need for aging in place services looks set to only grow in the coming years, and steps are already being taken to facilitate their management.
With such a dramatic increase in senior citizen populations taking place all around us, nursing homes and other managed care environments are likely to be stretched to their individual limits of accomodation. One third of households in America are already home to an individual above the age of 60, and while some 90 percent of seniors report that they wish to remain in their homes during the final phase of their lives, this desire may not be realistic for many. For those who are capable of such an existence, however, aging in place programs can make all the difference, allowing them to maintain both their independence and dignity for as long as humanly possible.
[Images: Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain and Borya via Flickr | CC BY 2.0]