Almost all of us has had to walk through the tough days and years of caring for elderly grandparents or parents, understanding that finding the right living situation for them is not only physically exhausting but is emotionally draining and mentally challenging. Everyone loves the comfort of their home. It may not be the most beautiful, or even the tidiest home, but it’s ours. It has our touch, our memories…and our “feel.” It’s the space of “us”.
In decades and centuries past, it was the custom to keep elderly relatives close by and in a family home until their passing. Then, as families dispersed across the country and the world, nursing homes, and assisted-living communities sprang up. As the boomers are nearing their twilight years, and they have had to watch those before them sell the family home and start over in a group home or community, they are wondering if there might be an alternative that would allow them the comfort and pleasure of their home of choice, while meeting their changing needs, for as long as possible. They are searching for technologies and resources that will provide for the needs of the elderly who prefer to stay in their homes instead of moving into a retirement community.
Out of this desire to stay at home for as long as possible sprang up the growing trend of (with plans and technologies to support) Aging In Place.
WHAT IS AGING IN PLACE?
Aging In Place addresses the rapidly increasing needs of Eldercare by exploring a new frontier in housing and technology. It also incorporates other industries such as healthcare, community development, and transportation. Regarding housing, Aging In Place means creating a space that is enjoyable, safe, usable, and easier to live in. In a study by AARP, two-thirds of individuals 45 and older want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and the trend is only increasing. Concepts such as Green Living for Elders also considers how to support living healthier, lowering maintenance, providing efficient energy sources, and lower operating costs of a home overall. These ideas not only provide real solutions for Eldercare but are impacting the way we look at long-term living arrangements for all populations.
SENIORS IMPACT ON THE HOUSING INDUSTRY
Right now, one in three Americans are over the age of 50, and by the year 2020, 55 million people will be over the age of 65. Jump to 2050, and it is projected that 20% of the entire U.S. population will be over 65 (aarp.com). In addressing the needs of a rapidly aging population, a government task force for Healthy Aging determined that two major needs required attention:
- A greater supply of affordable houses. Currently, there is a shortfall of 6.9 million homes for low-income households. Of that, 2.6 million were elderly. The shortage is expected to grow significantly, and many will transition from ownership to rentals.(cdn.bipartisanpolicy.org) The most recent statistics estimated the median retirement savings account of U.S. residents is only $23,000 (statisticbrain.com). How we prepare for our retirement will determine whether we can stay in our homes or if we can access affordable housing.
- The importance of transforming homes and communities to meet the demands of Boomers and Gen-Xers who want to Age In Place. The task force recognized the importance of keeping Americans in their homes by altering their current living accommodations to facilitate elder needs, building New Urban communities, and addressing the benefits of multi-generational housing.
TRANSFORMING HOMES FOR ELDER NEEDS
Being able to stay in your home into your later years is the ideal scenario for many Americans. We are living longer, many are giving better attention to their health, and technology is creating a variety of solutions available for in-home care. For those individuals who plan ahead, remodeling or purchasing a home that incorporates a design that creates a safe and usable space for the elderly will enable them to extend the years they have in their personal havens. Thanks to Universal Design, A home ready for Aging In Place does not have to be a sterile, cold environment. It is possible to design your living environment to change seamlessly with your needs while maintaining beautiful, attractive, and charming elements and design.
Whether you are considering remodeling your home or building one that is suitable for Aging In Place, consider
incorporating elements such as:
- One floor design
- Zero-step entry
- Slip-resistant flooring
- Recessed lighting (instead of floor lamps)
- Curbless shower
- Rise and fall cupboards
- Door and window alert
- Automatic lights
The most important factor is to eliminate the possibility of falls as much as possible. Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, and most falls occur in the home (aarp.com). As mentioned previously, Universal Design Homes are ideally suited for those families who are looking to create or purchase a home that will grow with them – or even meet current needs. My blog post on Universal Design Homes will give you ideas and links to explore the many possibilities that universal design has to offer. It is an exciting trend in housing.
TOP TRENDS IN AGING AND TECHNOLOGY
In addition to a great home design, the use of technology will allow those who desire to stay in their home for life. Look at some of the biggest trends in age-related technology for the home (also visit our links below):
- Doctors via Skype (Already a reality!)
- Remote Patient Monitoring
- Online Medical Records
- Caregiver Robots
- LED lighting on walls, counters, cabinets – everywhere in the house.
- Smart homes (thermostats, locks, appliances)
- Sensors on everything
- Apps to track body vitals
- Whole-house sleep mode
As developers are considering the impact of the growing elderly community, organizations such as AgeInPlace.com are encouraging us to look beyond the home and into creating Livable Communities. New Urbanism is being utilized by many developers to create close-knit communities that fit the lifestyles of young families through the retirement years. Communities built around central common areas, readily accessible pedestrian walkways and open spaces. An age-friendly or special-needs community would eliminate the need for automobiles in some instances as many places would be in walking distance. Some community ideas incorporate multi-generational housing.
Aging In Place is not for everyone, but it is the trend of the majority, and the impact of their desires and needs will have a significant influence on the housing needs and trends for the next 15-20 years. If you are interested in learning more about Aging In Place, I have listed several excellent resources for you below. With the technologies available to use and a few adjustments to your home, the prospect of living out much of your later years in the comfort of your own space is a very real possibility and can save you a considerable amount of retirement money in the long-run.
If you or someone you know has a special needs or an elderly family member, I would love to sit down with you and talk to you more about what I have shared. Even if your retirement years are a couple decades down the road, it is never too early to strategize and plan for Aging In Place, if that is your desire. Finding a comfortable, safe, and usable home space for you and your family is my biggest priority! I highly recommend reading two other blog posts: