Recently I received accreditation as a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist. So what is Aging-In Place anyhow? Let’s gain some insight into this phenomenon and the ever-growing trend. This is not about institutional, handicap applications (aka ADA), this is about real living, and growing.
Aging-In-Place is a Choice
Aging in place refers to the act of living in your home as you age, for as long as you are able. There are many factors that can affect your ability to do so, including (but not limited to) physical abilities, environment, support (family or community), comfort, health care, and finances. The amount of time you can live safely in your home can be extended by providing solutions to deal with the most common issues you may face as you grow older.
Why is it Important?
We’re all going to age. The situation the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe find are now becoming acutely aware of is that it is going to happen to a lot of people at one time. The Baby Boomer generation is really, really big and is not the only people their aging will affect; it is going to have an impact on our society as a whole. For a little insight, think about this: In 2020, our 60+ population will go from 43.8 million to 73.7 million.
In a nutshell, we not only need to make sure we are living the best, most comfortable life we can as we age but also that we do what we are able to reduce the stress it could place on our families and those in our community.
Your Aging-in-Place Plan
You’ve probably heard the saying, “We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan.” Well, it’s especially true in this case. Having a plan (and following it) means you have prepared yourself, and your household, to deal with the issues you are going to face as you age. There are many resources available to you to assist with developing a solid plan, from Certified Aging in Place Specialists, to financial planning worksheets, to long-term, multi-faceted care arrangements. These and other resources can be brought into play to assist you in creating a detailed, holistic approach to your aging-in-place initiative.
The focus of your plan should be control; control of your environment, your care, your dignity, your comfort, and your quality of life. Creating a plan that enables you to stay in your personal space and supports your security and independence should be your primary goal.
What is Universal Design?
Per Wikipedia: Universal design refers to a broad-spectrum solution that produces buildings, products, and environments that are usable and effective for everyone, not just people with disabilities.
It emerged from “barrier-free” or “accessible design” and “assistive technology” and recognizes the importance of how things look. For example, while built-up handles are a way to make utensils more usable for people with gripping limitations, some companies introduced larger, easy to grip and attractive handles as features of mass-produced utensils. They appeal to a wide range of consumers.
As life expectancy rises and modern medicine has increased the survival rate of those with significant injuries, illnesses, and birth defects, there is a growing interest in universal design. There are many industries in which universal design is having strong market penetration but there are many others in which it has not yet been adopted to any great extent.
Universal design is a part of everyday living and is all around us. Curb cuts or sidewalk ramps, essential for people in wheelchairs but used by all, are a common example. The “undo” command in most software products is a good example. Color-contrast dishware with steep sides that assist those with visual problems as well as those with dexterity problems is another. Additional examples include cabinets with pull-out shelves, kitchen counters at several heights to accommodate different tasks and postures, and low-floor buses that kneel and are equipped with ramps rather than lifts.
So the reality is, good design is not just about beauty and function for today. Think about tomorrow. The foreseen and the unforeseen changes that you may be dealt with. I am an avid believer that form follows function, and with the innovative products on the market today, your project can be beautiful and functional in more aspects than ever before.