“Aging in place” is a new term to describe what we all ultimately want — to live out our senior years at home, in a familiar, safe and private environment despite our inevitable decline of motor and sensory functions.
The National Aging in Place Council is made up of health care, building, legal and financial divisions working together to propose the best options for making changes within our home as we age.
Preparing for decline is not something anyone looks forward to, but it is something we need to think about before it becomes dangerous to live in our own home. The safer and more accommodating our home environment, the longer we will be able to stay there and the happier we will be.
I have recently begun to lose function. How terrible, you say, you must be quite old. Not really, 53 to be exact, but I have a bit of carpal tunnel, my vision seems to get worse every year and I fell in the bathtub the other night. I have trouble opening lids on jars. I have difficulty with the can opener and sealed plastic packaging. (Half of America is graying. Whose bright idea was it to make opening a package such a major ordeal?)
There are solutions for small difficulties like opening a can as well as for the larger problems of bathing and home access. I have started to accommodate my environment. I have a one-touch can opener, which I love. I keep a large magnifying glass for reading those really small labels, and I am looking at that steep bathtub knowing that a bath remodel is in my future.
Try and change your environment gradually as your need changes, but keep up. Put that extra hand rail in the bathroom, look to add a shower chair or a powered bath lift, or even a total bath remodel. The solutions are varied, as are the costs. The main thing is to be safe. Knowing that your physical self will change, be prepared to change your home as well.
The bathroom is the area that sees the most accidents. If you have had a fall or a close call in the bath, now is the time to research products and resources on the web and in your community. Physical and occupational therapists and medical equipment suppliers in town can offer ideas and solutions. There are also several great local care-giving organizations that assist with meal preparation, shopping or nursing care for an hourly fee. There is much information on the Internet. Here are a few websites with great information. The National Aging in Place Council, Seniorresources.com, aarp.org/families/home-design. There is no reason to think you have to leave your home as you age. We all deserve to live in a place that gives us peace and happiness. With a little thought, we can all age in place.
Stephanie Schwartz, PT, ATP practiced physical therapy for 20 years before becoming interested in home medical and custom rehab equipment. She owns Northern Rehab & Respiratory in Redding and Harmony Home Medical in San Diego. She lives in Redding, is a member of the Rotary Club of Redding, and loves hiking and travel. She has four dogs, one brave cat and two grown children. You may reach her at 221-8040 days or firstname.lastname@example.org.