In a time before such phrases as “In-Home Care”, “Elder Care”, “Senior Care” or “Assisted Living at Home” became a part of the American lexicon, the Nation’s elderly lived out their lives in the family homestead. Remember The Waltons , the hit TV series from the 1970s? In that show, set in the 1930s, family members shared the old West Virginia farmhouse, with Grandma and Grandpa Walton helping to raise the youngsters and then, when they got too frail to bake pies, go fishing or mend fences they were cared for by their adult children and lived the remainder of their lives in the familiar and safe environment of the family home.
The 21st Century version of the Waltons, sometimes but not always minus the younger generations, has come to be known by the term “aging in place.”, The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” It has grown in popularity and is celebrated by the National Aging in Place Week and the National Aging in Place Council that promotes the positive outcomes of older adults having a choice in their care and living arrangements.[However, its meaning goes much deeper than a sterile definition.
In a broader sense, it means living in a place where emotional and functional needs are met. Home is a foundation where family histories are created and rich memories have been woven from shared experiences. Our homes contain a life-time of cherished objects that support identity and delight the senses. It’s also nestled in the community we’ve cultivated over the years; which is the center of those daily rituals we love so much. The essence of home is to feel safe in an environment where you not only have the ability to control your experiences but also the capacity to enjoy them with the same satisfaction as you did in your younger years.
However, aging can lead to reduced physical abilities and loss of “environmental competence”– a fancy phrase for the ability to get around. Later in life that home you loved and cherished for years can become increasingly difficult to maintain or may even become unsafe. The good news is that there’s a rapidly growing number of options to help you not only stay in the home you cherish but to continue to enjoy it and, in so doing, improve the quality of life as well.
In a series of reports in the coming weeks and months we’ll be taking an in-depth look at the subject of aging in place – from planning, to home modifications, to emerging assistive technology that will amaze you plus a whole host of other factors addressing the needs and concerns of seniors, their caretakers and their families. So, as the saying goes … stay tuned.