Aging in Place

 

 

Older Woman Celebrating Birthday
Older Couple

 

 

What is Aging in Place and Why is it Important?

Our homes are important to us. They hold memories, shared experiences, good times with family and friends. They are our place of comfort - a place where we feel safe.

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As a family member ages, a caregiver may face the challenge of deciding whether the best living choice is assisted living, nursing home care, or aging in place.

"Aging in Place" is the ability of an older adult to continue to live at home safely and independently.

 


If it is decided that aging in place is appropriate, it would be worthwhile to check the home for hazards and to consider home modifications and/or devices to address any hazards found. The potential for falls is of prime concern. As bones age, they may become frail and it may take longer for an older adult to heal from a broken bone than a younger person. Many nursing home placements begin with a broken hip.

So, what should a caregiver do?

  • First, use one of the various home safety checklists to evaluate the home.
  • Second, learn about simple home safety remedies.
  • Third, find out what home modifications might be made to make the home a more safe environment for aging in place.
  • Fourth, secure the services of an Aging in Place Specialist, if needed.
    Note: Caregiver Specialists are also available to help a caregiver make appropriate aging in place decisions.

As you explore this area of information, you will see three terms come up regularly. They are:

  • accessible
  • adaptable
  • universal design

The North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design (see below) offers an explanation of each.


According to the Center, the differences are subtle but important. They are frequently used interchangeable and often are misunderstood. The definitions may help you as you try to make sense of the various home modification techniques and offerings.

 

Logo Easter Seals provides information on accessible housing and they offer an accessible home virtual tour and a photo album of a Raleigh, NC home that has been adapted. Check it out!

 

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Certified Aging in Place Specialist

The National Association of Home Builders has developed a three day program to train builders and remodelers how to address the typical concerns faced by families who desire to modify their homes to accommodate the special needs of an aging family member who wishes to continue to live at home independently and safely. After training, the graduate receives a designation of Certified Aging in Place Specialist.

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Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is any piece of equipment or any device that can be used to increase independence by making everyday living easier and more convenient for a person with a disability or limited functioning. Assistive Technology offers many options to help an older adult be able to remain in his or her own home for as long as possible.

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Disability Resources

Disabilities are as varied as people. Some are barely noticeable except to the person experiencing them. Others are visible for all to see.

Caution Sign for Elderly People
Older Couple on Bicycles

 

Each type, though, impacts the person's ability to function independently and with safety. Many resources are available to those who have a disability. These resources can range from types of assistive technology to paying for home modifications. Most resources are free of charge. Find out what is available in your state.

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National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification

This resource is located at the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center and is funded through the The Archstone Foundation and The California Endowment. "The Center's mission is to make supportive housing and home modification a more integral component of successful aging, long-term care, preventive health, and the development of elder-friendly communities."

According to the NRCSHHM,
"Home Modification refers to converting or adapting the environment to make tasks easier, reduce accidents, and support independent living. Examples of home modification include:

  • Lever door handles that operate easily with a push
  • Handrails on both sides of staircase and outside steps
  • Ramps for accessible entry and exit
  • Walk-in shower
  • Grab bars in the shower, by the toilet, and by the tub
  • Hand-held, flexible shower head
  • Lever-handed faucets that are easy to turn on and off
  • Sliding shelves and lazy susan in corner cabinet
  • C or D ring handles on cabinet doors and drawers for easy gripping

They also point out:

  • Many persons are living in older structures that are deteriorating to the point that they are hazardous and contribute to the falls and injuries.
  • Home modification and repair can help prevent accidents and falls. Research by the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that one-third of home accidents can be prevented by modification and repair.
  • Modification to the home environment can be a key factor in increasing the likelihood of older persons remaining independent in their homes and active in their communities as long as they desire.
  • Home modifications can enhance comfort, increase safety, prevent injuries, and facilitate ongoing access to community social, recreational, and supportive activities and services.
  • Removing barriers and safety hazards also help alleviate the stress associated with reduced physical capabilities as people age."

They offer a Nationwide Directory of Home Modification Resources.

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Universal Design

North Carolina State University (NCSU) has studied universal design for many years. They offer the Center of Universal Design. Universal design is different from aging in place. Universal design works to build homes that are accessible and won't need modifications as homeowners age in place. However, since all homes are not yet built with universal design principles, NCSU has made information on accessibility and home modifications available online.

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They also offer a DVD for a nominal charge that "provides an overview of problem areas in the home and possible solutions for greater accessibility. It includes sections on entrances, doors and doorways, windows, kitchens, bathrooms, housing controls, and level changes".

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Paying for Home Modifications and Repairs

Assistive Technology Centers and Disability Resource Centers/Agencies can be of great assistance in finding out what financial resources may be available to help you pay for needed home modifications and repairs.

 

There are also other options for paying for home modifications and repairs that may be applicable in your situation.

 

From time to time, the federal government makes grant money available to states to try to keep older adults in their own homes as they age in place. Contact your state Aging Agency, local Area Agency on Aging, or Caregiver Specialist to find out if such a program is in effect in your area.

 

Caregiver Specialist

 

 

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