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What is Aging in Place?: A Definition


Living in the 2000s means that we get to reap the benefits of technology and how it has transformed the world of health and medicine.  We have access to skilled doctors, life-saving medicines, and operations and medical procedures that were the thing of science fiction even a decade ago. All of these advances mean that we are living longer and that we have more power when it comes to deciding how and where we want to age.  In fact, new demands on the healthcare system have spawned an entirely new movement known as “aging in place.”

This trend is a direct response to the unforeseen challenges associated with living longer.  In just the past 50 years, the life expectancy for adults in the U.S. has increased by an average of 15 years.   While this seems like a win-win situation, it has created unintended challenges in how we care for our aging population.

Over the years, both the public and private sectors have addressed these new challenges with varying degrees of success.  During the mid-1950s and the early 1960s Congress passed a slew of laws meant to create public institutions to address the needs of elderly people who could not care for themselves without some type of assistance.  The inadvertent consequence of these laws was a booming nursing home industry and that soon began turning huge profits.

Today, many people cannot afford to transition from their home into a full-time nursing facility and moreover, they simply don’t want to leave their homes.  A demand by consumers for additional options beyond traditional nursing homes created a burgeoning market for in-home solutions.

Aging in place is becoming a more viable option for people in large part because of design developments that allow the elderly to customize their homes to accommodate their needs.  Whether it is a simple wheelchair ramp that allows easy access to their house or a walk in bathtub that allows them the opportunity to safely bathe themselves, mechanical devices and simple tools are changing the way people age.  In some cases, seniors who choose to age at home and take advantage of new technology can do without additional assistance completely, or at the very least, they can operate with a certain independence that would not have been possible just a few years ago.

The benefits of allowing the elderly to age in place go beyond simply saving money or easing the burden on the healthcare system.  There is a positive and significant psychological impact to retaining your freedom and mobility.  Depression among the elderly is a real concern and this condition only worsens as the burden of other health problems become more overwhelming.  Aging in place can help stave off the onset of depression and increase of the quality of life for seniors who are still young at heart.

Aging in place has become so popular that it has turned into a national issue that is being furthered both by independent organizations like the National Aging in Place Council and the powerful AARP.  In addition, the U.S. government is looking for ways to encourage people to take advantage of tools that will help them age in place.  

This movement has also produced new fields of specialization for healthcare workers, builders, and contractors.  For those interested in weighing the pros and cons of aging in place, they can consult a Certified Aging in Place Specialist who can teach interested parties about the resources available and walk them through the home modification process.

Ultimately, living longer does not have to mean spending your golden years in a nursing home.  As life expectancies continue to grow, people can age gracefully while staying in their homes and maintaining a sense of purpose and independence because the idea of aging in place is not a luxury, but a practical option. With all the resources and technology available, almost anyone can modify their environment and use technology to stay in the home they have come to love.

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