What Does “Aging In Place” REALLY Mean?
Recently I read an interesting article about a study that looked at what “aging in place” means to older people.
In the study, academics went out to discuss “aging in place” with actual seniors. It seems that the term is widely used by businesses, government agencies and so on, but no one had really interviewed seniors themselves to find out what THEY wanted. Curiously the seniors were largely unfamiliar with the term “aging in place.” When asked what they THOUGHT it meant, some thought that they would be stuck somewhere forced to get old while not having any choice in where they lived. (!!!)
When seniors were asked about how important it was for them to continue to live where they live now, they all agreed that it was very, very important to them. But when the conversation got into the details, it turned out that they meant something different than what most of us think about “aging in place.” Most of the seniors weren’t so attached to the house itself, but to the area or the neighborhood. It was their friends, churches and volunteer activities that mattered. The particular building wasn’t the focus of the conversation at all.
What do seniors want?
When asked, what the seniors said that they wanted was for their neighborhoods to support their ability to continue to live in the vicinity, to offer retirement living options, places that were easy to walk to or easy to reach through some kind of ride services.
Finding the answers for yourself…
Oddly, this is what I want for myself. I don’t want to stay in this giant house alone with nothing but the radio or television for company. I like the idea of having friends within walking distance, like down the hall at a retirement community.
But it is important to me to stay in the vicinity. I’ll probably want to let go of the big house maintenance chores, like lawn mowing, leaf raking and gutter cleaning. But I know I’ll still want to enjoy the misty, evergreen, fern-filled ambiance of the Northwest outdoors. Maybe I’ll have the energy for a small garden plot or a few plants in pots, while someone else can takes care of the bigger environment.
I’ve seen the inside and had a chance to talk to of the residents of the many retirement living options in the Seattle and the Eastside area. I am impressed at how happy, active and vibrant the social community feels. I often hear the comment, “I wish I had moved here years ago.”
So when we hear someone say they want to “age in place,” that they don’t want to leave their home, maybe we need to dig a little deeper. Do they mean the very building? Or do they mean the community and culture of their neighborhood?
I guess it’s about time for someone to ask seniors what THEY want, isn’t it?
Lucky for us, we are in the business of helping seniors Move Forward, while still aging in place. 😉