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  • Writer's pictureCharlinda Diaz

Aging in Place: To Plan Or Not To Plan

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

"I really don’t like my shower, so I just don’t shower anymore.” Besides slowly backing away, what would you do if someone made that statement to you?

Nobody admits statements like that, but this reality happens more than you think. Despite all the smart home technology and “smart design”, the U.S. housing market is far from adequate for those with health challenges or physical disabilities. Basic accessible features that allow for entry, access to hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms are available in just 3.5% of U.S. homes.

The Result: most homeowners stop doing the things they used to do. They slow down. They are limited in the selfcare they can provide for themselves and their home. They become less active, less engaged, and more deconditioned.

For many clients I have encountered, this reality looks like:

-Sponge baths instead of showers

-TV dinners instead of nutritious homemade meals

-Growing clutter and dust in the tight spaces they can’t reach or clean

-Sedentary lifestyle and progressive weakness (when hallways and doorways cannot accommodate the walkers or wheelchairs they rely on for safe mobility)

-Sleeping in recliners due to inaccessible bedrooms

-Never leaving home due to inaccessible entries

When homeowners are forced to fit their routines and lifestyles to the limitations of their homes, it often results in significant physical and mental health concerns including: depression, physical deconditioning, anxiety, skin sores, malnutrition, and falls (just to name a few).

The good news is homeowners can adapt their home to their life instead of adapting their life to there home. This can be done by finding the right home and/or modifying the home to fit their needs.

Furthermore, not every home modification requires major renovations to fit the needs of the homeowner.

Still, initiating the home modification process is often overlooked.

There are 3 major concerns that keep these homeowners from exploring options to adapt their homes:

1. Fear of losing their home to an “institutionalized” look and feel

2. Cost

3. Feeling unprepared to think about and plan for future life changes

So, let’s take a look at these concerns a little bit further:

1. Fear of losing their home to an “institutionalized” look and feel

We can be honest- accessible design has gotten a bad rap. But fear not, the institutionalized look of accessible design is a thing of the past! With the introduction of Universal Design concepts, innovations in smart technology and advancements in design for accessibility, accessible home design is now beautiful, sleek and inspirational to home design as a whole!

*Checkout one of my favorite accessible designers @fine_and_able or to view the true beauty and potential of accessible design!

2. Cost

It’s true, home renovations are not cheap. BUT neither are progressive health conditions, physical decline, increasing caregiver costs or institutionalized living. With smart design and future planning, renovating your home SHOULD always result in better usability and function, not just a pretty facelift for outdated spaces.

Far too often, homeowners are eager to invest in the aesthetics of their home during renovations but forget to consider planning and preparing for their future in their home. Planning and designing for both aesthetics AND future needs can be done simultaneously…saving LOTS of $$ and stress in the future.

The average cost for BASIC assisted living in the state of PA is nearly $45,000+ (more in the Philadelphia region) with many of the more desirable accommodations costing far more. With these costs increasing each year, planning and investing in your future within your home can be well worth your while.

3. Feeling unprepared to think about and plan for future life changes

What can we say, it’s not always easy to picture the future of the unknown. And for many, when it comes to aging, the future is not something we want to think about at all. But the old saying rings true, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Just like in financial planning, considering your future goals when it comes to your living arrangements and setup will make those goals that much more achievable. The luxury of choice is only possible when crisis planning is avoided. Crisis planning can only be avoided with foresight and planning. So be savvy about your future, create goals, make a plan, envision your golden years fearlessly!

And if you are having difficulty envisioning the realities of your future or feel overwhelmed by the planning process, seek out an occupational therapist who is certified in home modifications. They can educate you on many future considerations, discuss the details that really matter when it comes to your future, and walk you through the planning process to prioritize your future. It’s not as scary as it may first seem!

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