Sunday, October 12, 2008

Age in Place - Living Well in the Home You Love

For the majority of 76 million baby boomers and the 90 percent of seniors who prefer to age in their own homes, there’s help. Certified “aging in place” specialists and Senior Resource have checklists of changes to consider making at home. This approach has much in common with "universal home design" - “design that is universal, that accommodates needs of people of all ages.” For example, Peggy Arbaugh suggests “paddle or lever handles instead of door or faucet knobs. They can be easier for small children or parents with an armful of groceries, as well as those who might be slowed by arthritis.”

"People want to live in houses, not institutions," says William Owens, president of Owens Construction in Columbus, Ohio.

Before they need it, those who live in a two-story home move the master bedroom from the second floor to the first. Others choose elegant yet easy-to-use products, “such as better lighting, bigger light controls, easy-grip handles and cabinet hardware, adjustable shower heads, seats and bars and bathtubs with textured bottoms. Other home changes to consider are services you may need and “low-step showers, wide doorways, first-floor bathrooms, hard flooring, low-pile carpeting, electric stair lifts and even in-home elevators.”

Other possible changes: remove scatter rugs, install an ADA-height toilet or toilet seat and more. As we get older we want more security and less maintenance. New technology helps.

There’s money in serving us boomers. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that aging in place will “capture at least 10 percent of the $214 billion home improvement industry.” Next steps for aging in place trend: healthcare.

Says Laura Gitlin, director of the Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “ “What helps people age in place is not covered by insurers at this point. Many seniors have chronic health conditions, such as dementia, diabetes or urinary incontinence, and must take multiple medications. But their medical care is often disjointed. Their primary care doctor doesn’t have the time to coordinate that care, and nurses, home aides, geriatric care managers and technological devices are rarely covered by insurance.” And, since our lung capacity diminishes as we age, removing allergy-causing airborne pollutants from the home also helps us live healthier longer at home. Some books to read are Universal Design for the Home, Making Your Home Senior-Friendly, The Senior Solution, Aging in Place and Retirement Living by Design.

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