Life Lessons & How Tos

Renovations to Enable Aging in Place

Renovations to Enable Aging in Place

The handbook, ‘Renovations to Enable Aging in Place,’ was created in the hope that it will become a valuable resource, for both their caregivers and those in our existing homes, beginning to face health issues that will make it difficult to enter, use, and leave those homes.

Renovations to Enable Aging in Place

The Beginning of the Project

The Beginning of the Project

My once very active mother was making every excuse in the world not to leave the house in which I had grown up. Her reasons were totally out of character and implausible. Though initially baffled, I finally realized what was going on.

A year before, she had slipped on ice. Falling on steps, she had broken a kneecap. Given her advanced age, it was slow to heal. Favoring the other leg had put undue stress on the opposite side hip, now severely deteriorating. Now, though it seemed her knee had mended, she would not leave home for any reason.

My mother was literally afraid of her steps. The memory of her past pain, coupled with the weakness in her hip, left her afraid and unsure of her ability to successfully climb them. The fear of more pain had made her a prisoner in her partially elevated home.

Related: Guide to Choosing Senior Helpers (Best Options Checklist)

I drove to a nearby home improvement store to buy all the components I would need. Then I installed sturdy railings leading down from her front and back steps. Suddenly, my mother was once again free. But the year she spent in captivity burned into my mind. My stupidity. I had no clue because I had never known that kind of pain. And she was too proud to admit she was afraid or to ask for help.

My mother is not remotely an isolated case.

My Experience

In over four decades of experience as an architect, I have designed many commercial facilities which are ADA-compliant. This time, I researched renovations that might allow aging in place to safely occur in residences.

The goal is to make this data available to the many millions of aging Americans, who in the next ten years, will find themselves unable to safely occupy their existing homes.

The Coming Crisis

The Coming Crisis

Numerous couples of child-bearing age are foregoing having children. There are many factors; careers that would be more difficult with parental responsibilities, better access to birth control, easy access to abortion, a societal shift toward self-centeredness, less confidence in a committed spouse to help with child-rearing, and even simple decisions to just remain single. The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is fewer children being born.

On the other hand, our ability to prolong life and treat health issues just keeps improving. Reasons include preventative measures, screenings for early detection, early treatment capabilities, and successful treatments of ailments, once considered death sentences. The bottom line is more aging adults.

US Population in 2060

The two trends are creating an upward shift in the average age in our national population.

An Aging Nation

American Demographics

American Demographics

A friend who has frequently visited the Philippines, reported they have almost no nursing homes. Parents stay with children in their homes, and in extended families, till they pass away. Failing to so provide for parents would be terribly shameful. That is not the case in America.

‘Rugged individualism’ is seen as a positive American character trait. I have heard innumerable times, “I don’t want to be a burden on my children.” The children have heard it often enough to believe that caring for their parents will simply not be their concern.

Related: Senior Citizen Facts, Figures, and Statistics

We live in a mobile society. Career opportunities arise, but they usually involve a lateral transfer to a new company, to a new location, or away from family. As parents, we want the best for our children. Everyone attains to this, so it may also be the parents who move away.

As we get older though, we lack the strength, ability, and desire to follow our children from job location to location or make frequent visits to see them. So, connections and relationships are not only weakened and lost between parents and children but also between grandchildren and grandparents. 

The entire traditional family structure is badly weakened by the evolution of our society, in which improvement must usually be lateral and relocation is easily accomplished.

History is not on Our Side

History is not on our side

Known problems faced by our aging population can best be explained by the potential loss of our ability to:

  • climb up and down stairs with confidence;
  • stand and sit down again on chairs, beds, toilets, etc.;
  • get into, bathe, and safely exit bathtubs and showers;
  • drive and return from destinations, from a standpoint of both physical and cognitive capability;
  • bend down and pick up items from the floor or lower shelves;
  • easily carry items like grocery bags and laundry baskets;
  • successfully use public transportation;
  • keep our home and property clean;
  • properly use all appliances;
  • and manage our personal health.

We absolutely know these problems are coming. But discussing them with those we love seems somewhat forbidden.

Expect Resistance

Expect Resistance

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