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Aging in Place? Then You Need to Create a Plan

Article submitted by Kellie Hudson

Denver Metro Area & Northern Front Range - For the first time in US history, the 55+ age group will continue growing over the next twenty years into our largest population segment. Impacts from the swell in our senior community will be evident both socially and economically for decades to come. As well-informed and proactive choices drive their life decisions, this health conscious, independent group will sway the future of health and housing services across the country. One clear preference they express, according to AARP surveys, is the desire to age-in-place.

Aging in place, as defined by the Center for Disease Control, is “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The time to plan for the age-in-place needs of your home environment is now. Creating a plan can prevent unexpected events from turning into crises that compromise one's ability to live independently. Often what brings us to consider our own future is the experience shared with our parents or others that we are caring for in their aging process. Researching options and putting action plans together that address future needs and ensure necessary services are in place, when they are needed, allows you to live safely and comfortably in your home for years to come.

Personal health and housing concerns are often linked. That link becomes more apparent as we age. When a living environment meets our physical needs, we are more likely to remain healthy and independent; likewise, maintaining good personal health, helps us keep up with the maintenance of our living environment. The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Awareness (IDEA) states that successful aging in place requires careful planning; physical, mental and physiological changes that accompany aging often require that modifications be made to the home. Physical changes associated with aging often have a strong influence on how a person is able to interact with their living environment. A holistic approach that integrates strategies and services addressing both personal health and housing challenges faced by our aging population can positively impact their ability to remain healthy and independent.

No longer does the historical perspective hold true that as an individual grows frailer, he or she requires a continuum of senior living facilities, physically moving from one residence to another as health or housing needs change. Increasingly over the last ten years there has been growing acceptance of the idea that older persons do not necessarily need to relocate as their needs change, but can modify their environment and enhance their wellness by adding supportive services and reconfiguring their residence. Supportive services designed to promote healthy lifestyle choices through nutrition, exercise and life balance are effective measures for successful, independent aging.

The Commission to Build A Healthier America states that “in light of the growing body of evidence about the many ways that housing can affect health, it is clear that strategies (for improving health) must be multifaceted.” Good physical and mental health depends on having homes that are safe and serve your needs over time. A well designed home, or one that has been modified so that it is usable by all ages and abilities support a safer, more independent lifestyle. Integrating the expertise of an occupational therapist who is a Specialist Certified in Environmental Modification (SCEM) with that of a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) Class ‘A’ building professional creates a home environment that serves your needs today and into the future. Evaluating the skills necessary to perform daily living tasks, assessing how the environments matches task performance, and implementing home modification that addresses any incongruence between the person and their environment promotes positive outcomes.

Successful aging-in-place strategies offer a range of flexible services that fit the specific needs of the individual. Providing personal healthcare services, along with home modification and maintenance services is an integrative approach that serves the whole person. Aging in place works best as part of this comprehensive and holistic approach.

© 2012, All Rights Reserved by Kellie S. Hudson, CAPS, Hudson Integrative Health + Home

Posted September 2012 on www.SeniorsResourceGuide.com