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Aging in Place
It's no secret. Most people want to stay in their home as they age, whether it be the home they have owned for 40 years or a brand new downsized home in a new town. They're looking for alternatives to traditional long-term care facilities. As a result, baby boomers have helped develop a new term and a new industry called Aging in Place.
What is Aging in Place? The Center for Disease Control defines it as "the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level." It is being in the place where emotional, social, and physical needs are met. It is where you feel safe and in control.
As we age, though, that place can change. A house can become hazardous. Emotional and social networks can disappear. How can you stay where you no longer feel safe? Who can help you recapture that sense of home?
The National Aging in Place Council can help plan a future that navigates through all the potential Age in Place roadblocks. The council is a consortium of public, private, and non-profit service providers who can provide assistance with anything from assistive technology to elder law to occupational therapy to remodeling to universal design principles.
The possibilities can be limitless. The University of Florida and the Georgia Institute have developed smart homes with smart appliances that can detect food expiration dates or tell residents when it's time to do laundry. GrandCare Systems (https://www.grandcare.com) uses an aging adult's TV and internet connections to communicate and monitor his or her health and security.
There are also simple and affordable modifications you can make now to your home to save you trouble later. Decluttering is at the top of this list. Consider fall support in the bathroom and along stairways. Add grab bars, a hand-held shower head, non-skid flooring. Increase lighting inside and out.
What about systems that turn on lights and raise blinds with a hand clap or a remote click? How about a smart speaker that can offer reminders, answer questions and more? Rocker switches, sliding shelves and lever handles can assist those who have less hand stength.
If you want to age in place, the time to start planning is now. A wealth of resources is available. You might start with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-older-home) and the National Aging in Place Council (https://ageinplace.org). Also check out Elder CoHousing (http://elder-cohousing.squarespace.com) for a list of current senior cohousing communities and more.
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