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What does “aging in place” really mean?

By Bill Lusk, CSA

I remember as a child my family’s frequent visits to “Grandma’s house”. Actually it was my aunts’ house, but Grandma lived there for as long as I can remember. When we arrived we all went to the den where Grandma would always be sitting in her rocking chair…always. I knew of course Grandma went to bed, the bathroom, the kitchen, just never when we were there. But I often wondered how many hours she sat in that same room? And did she ever leave the house? As the years passed and nothing changed it was apparent Grandma was quite content with living out her remaining time on this earth doing just that.

Now there is a term associated with that – aging in place. Wow! Grandma was actually way ahead of her time. How did she know how to do that?

Was Grandma happy aging in place? Well now that I think about it and memories return, No, she was not happy at all. Arthritis and advancing age had taken away her prided gift to the family, her baking ability. She once told me “grandma isn’t good for nothin’ anymore”. Along with “grandma has seen too many birthdays”. Hearing failure caused her to miss much of what was discussed during family visits, and the pained frustration showed on her face. That lost and useless expression you may have noticed on your elderly loved one. My aunts’ dutifully cared for her, but she did not age happily.

“Aging in place” is a commonly used term in today’s senior living conversations.  What is the exact definition? One would assume the goal of “aging in place” is quite literarily for a senior to continue to live in the same home they have lived in for the past 30 years until she or he passes, keeping everything as constant as possible, being frozen in time.

But just how realistic is hoping and pretending nothing will ever change? And if nothing ever does change, is that really good? Sounds like a plan destined to fail.

Hence the definition of “aging in place” has evolved to not only include a private home but also retirement villages, assisted living communities and adult residential care homes. Seniors can age happily and healthy in place in assisted living or age in place in an isolated and declining manner in the home they have occupied for decades. Many seniors default to the latter because they are not familiar with other options or feel they no longer have a choice.

Better senior living choices are becoming greater in number and as such more complex. CarePatrol was created specifically to inform the senior community of the safest care options, and there is never a charge for our services. We can help seniors age gracefully in place, wherever that place ends up being.

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