Take a Walk Through a Forever Home

Here is a link to a tour of a room-by-room home built for "forever". We really like this example because it explains a lot of the details that go into creating a home for Aging in Place that may be overlooked. We always say, "It's about a lot more than grab bars," and this slide show explains that well. From the laundry to an accessible kitchen, and being able to utilize your electrical outlets, the details are a big deal when designing your home for aging in place.

 

Aging in America

Aging in America today means a lot more than making changes to your living space. The original retirement age set forth by the government in 1935 was 65 -- because back then, average life expectancy was only 62. Now, it's quite likely we'll live 20 years past retirement age or more. In other words, the population of the USA is rapidly changing, as this video explains that there are more people in the US over the age of 60 than under the age of 15. That means neighborhoods, transportation, work expectations, and even social security will have to adjust to meet these new needs.

 

Getting Your Home Aging-Independently Ready: Do a Little or Do a Lot?

Making the decision to add onto or renovate your home in order to ensure you can stay in it as long as possible is a big deal. You can do a little to your home, or you can make big changes. You can even downsize into a brand new home that's custom-built for your particular needs. The scope of work to provide you with an Aging-in-Place appropriate home runs the gamut. 

This article from AARP that sums up the costs of making basic changes to your living space to make it independent-aging ready. Here is a breakdown of their basics:

1. Accidents in bathrooms are one of the number one concerns as we age. Putting in non-slip tile and adding handrails and grab bars are a great way to head off would-be falls. You can have a custom wheelchair-ready shower built, or you can simply add suction cupped, non-slip mats to the bottom of the tub (if you're able to get in and out on your own). These changes start around $1000 for a customized shower -- that's one-fifth the cost of a month in assisted living. 

2. Doorknobs are harder to turn as we get older because our grip isn't what it used to be. So changing out existing knobs for handles that simply pull down is a simple and inexpensive way to make aging independently a reality.

3. We recommend that doorways be 36" wide in all new builds to accommodate wheelchairs, and certainly in a home you're wanting to stay put in as you age; it's absolutely possible to modify almost any existing doorway in your home to 36", accommodating wheelchairs and walkers easily. The article explains that materials can cost as little as $100 to start, but it's a good idea to consult a professional carpenter or framer to make sure the job is done right and done safely.

4. Have one entrance that's "step-free." This is absolutely essential if you or anyone living in your home requires mobility assistance. They will need a means of getting in and out of your home quickly and safely. If you don't have a ready area for a flat entrance, there are ways to work around it. AARP says this work can cost you $1000-$4000, and that's a good range. Remember that money is meant to prevent injuries and accidents later. Emergency workers are often faced with how to manage getting a person out of the house quickly while navigating steps with a wheelchair or a walker, and that extra time can be precious.

5. Eliminate rugs or securely tape them to the floor to keep them from tripping anyone up. Falls are a big deal as we age.

6. Hallway and staircase lighting can come in different forms (see our page of CAPS examples), but having it makes a big difference in your home's safety. Our vision deteriorates as we age, and being able to see your way to the bathroom or the kitchen is important, and could save you from unnecessary accidents along the way. 

What were the first changes you made to your home to get it Age at Home ready? 

Tough Choices: Caregiving & Aging at Home

Have you seen the wonderful ads that AARP & the Ad Council have teamed up to create yet? If you haven’t, click “play” below -- it’s well worth one minute and six seconds of your time, I promise.

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Okay, so the message is clear: caregiving is really tough. Tougher than Danny Trejo, which is pretty tough. And yet, millions of Americans make that choice every single day: to care for their aging parents or loved ones in their own homes.

 

And, yes, many of them are men. My husband, Kevin, is among them, as is my father-in-law, Bob. They both work hard to care for my mother-in-law, Theresa, as she spirals further and further into Alzheimer’s and dementia and all that comes with that path.

 

We’re doing all that we can to make sure Theresa is cared for and loved and stays at home as long as possible. We’re modifying their home so she can stay there. We make ourselves available as needed to talk, to listen to Bob, because he needs a judgment-free outlet. Kevin goes down to spend a few days with them when he can. And then I’m the listener -- every day, several times, and every night. I love Theresa, but I worry about my husband and the added stress of caring for his mom and worrying about his dad. But it’s okay. It’s what family does. So I will do my part, keeping our child and our house and our business running when he has to be away, and being available as much as possible to him.

 

Caregiving is absolutely tougher than tough. But I believe that we are making it easier for everyone involved, most especially Bob and Theresa, by keeping them in their own home. Theresa needs her familiarity, her routine, her things, her space, her Bobby. I’m glad we chose to make sure their home is age-at-home ready and appropriate so that she can comfortably stay there for as long as possible, with her caregivers at her side.

Aging at Home: an Anthropologist's Perspective

Jared Diamond’s TED talk titled “How Societies Can Age Better” is a worthy listen. The takeaway is that we -- as in the human race, not just the western world -- haven't ever figured out the best way to handle our aging population. Yet, as Diamond points out, we are rapidly approaching a population explosion of those over the age of 65 in this country and beyond thanks to modern medicine and healthcare. So how do we ensure we’re not leaving them behind?

In some countries that remain hunter-gatherers, elderly citizens are simply left behind when they move on to the next camp, once they’re unable to contribute food or work to the tribe. They are left to fend for themselves until they perish.

It seems cruel. It’s difficult for most of us to understand. Yet, Diamond explains that the majority of the elderly citizens in the U.S. live out the end of their lives separately from their loved ones, too; they are left in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. And if we don’t even consider how we feel about leaving behind our families, we can simply look at the cost of those facilities -- around 5 times greater than in-home care, according to a 2007 National Institute of Health study. The NIH found that the cost of of long-term care while living in your own home averaged $928 a month, compared with $5,234 a month in an assisted living facility or nursing home. And costs continue to rise -- almost 4% in 2012, and climbing.

The bottom line here is that planning ahead for aging is critical. If you wait, you’re going to lose the opportunity to choose to age at home at all. If you wait, your family members will scramble to try to come up with the best, most expedient solution because they’ll have to. Aging at home is a smart choice because whether you choose to make renovations to your current home or build new, you’ll be holding on to your freedom of choice for as long as possible.