Earlier this year, my heat decided to stop working. I’d like to add that this was smack dab in the middle of winter! I can't even put into words the process to getting a new HVAC system, but I can say there were a few 20 degree weather nights when it was just a space heater and I. All by choice. I made the choice to stay in my home for as long as I could, which is similar to aging in place.
I'm sure Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" is not the only person who's ever said "there's no place like home." I'm also confident many of us enjoy our place of residence even if there are upgrades/modifications that could make it better. The one thing I'm not so sure of is how often we think about aging in place and what it will take for us to do so.
Aging In [Place]
According to a recent survey by AARP, roughly 75 percent of people ages 50 and older would like to stay in their home as long as possible. That's understandable, considering aging in place helps us remain in a familiar environment, as well as in the community. It's not often that I hear someone say they want to move into a long-term care community, yet it happens every day. Some reasons to why is because there's a change in the level of care needed for an individual, or it may be related to safety concerns. At the end of the day, to remain in our homes and be as safe as possible, we should consider asking ourselves these three questions (really more than just these) when it comes to aging in place:
Are you planning and preparing? Let's keep in mind that the two besties planning + preparation play a huge role in aging in place. Although some planning and preparation may, at times, involve "dolla', dolla' bills y'all," they provide an opportunity to think about what will be best for us as we continue aging. What does preparing to age in place look like for you?
A universal/trans-generational design allows accessibility for everyone and is one way to cater to our needs within the home throughout our aging experience. When it comes to our current home, or one we plan to purchase, keep these things in mind: walk-in showers, grab bars (they're more attractive today), or a bedroom on the first floor if your home has multiple levels. More cost effective additions could be easy to grab handles/door knobs, a sturdy step stool, LED light bulbs, or a grabber tool to help with bending down. Preparations to help us continue aging in our homes can be minor/major and it all depends on what YOU need and what will help you.
Now, if by chance you answered "no" to this question of being prepared to age in place, fret not! Asking yourself if you are prepared to age in place is the first step. This gets your brain going and pushes you into action by causing you to examine what your needs and wants are.
What is your support system looking like? One thing we will forever need throughout our aging experience is a team of people who have our backs. Not only does having a support network enhance our well-being and help us socially, but it also plays a huge role with aging in place. This network of people could be made up of family members, homies, church members or sometimes even the pizza guy. For individuals who need additional support with tasks around the home, such as cleaning, cooking, running errands, etc. having a plan for how these key people can help you is a must.
Also, when thinking about who is in our social networks, remembering that it is okay to ask for help is important. Ashton Applewhite talks about the "independence trap" in her book "This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism." Many of us pride ourselves for having a high level of independence, but how often does that have a negative impact on our aging experience? At times being independent limits us from receiving the help and support that we need. Ashton talks about the importance of being interdependent, not independent. That is one of the perks of having a social network, knowing that we need each other and filling in where necessary. Removing the shame of needing assistance and being open to help contributes to our success with aging in place.
"Asking Empowers" -Ashton Applewhite
Here's a list of helpful resources for you and your loved ones. SAVE THESE LINKS!:
Aging Life Care Association
Department of Housing and Urban Development 202-708-1112 202-708-1455 (TTY) https://www.hud.gov/
The More You Know...
With all of this information I've shared today, I do want to remind you that sometimes aging in place is not the best fit. Alice Fisher once said "Aging in place works, until it doesn't." There may come a point in time when living in your home, could transition to living with loved ones, or to a long-term care community. However, in the meantime in between time, planning, preparing, gathering people to be in your support network, and knowing the resources that may be of assistance to you while living in your home is key!
Stay tuned for Real Homies Wanna Know live!! Yes, Real Homies Wanna Know will be going live for the first time ever on Instagram this Wednesday, July 13th at 6:00 PM ET with The Neighborhood OT. The Neighborhood OT is an Occupational Therapist and specializes in aging in place. We will be talking more about aging in place and answering questions. You won't want to miss it!!