“Aging in Place” is a simple term but a big idea! At its simplest it means staying where you are most comfortable! It also means having the choice to remain in your chosen residence for as long as possible and accessing various services to assist you.
In my role as a Long Term Care Specialist over the past twenty-four years, clients have expressed over and over again the strong desire to stay independent and in their residence. The AARP and many other organizations have documented this fact with various studies about attitudes of older adults. My husband, Paul, and I - along with other senior service professionals - recognized years ago that there was a need for collaboration and community resources to support this desire and that’s what led to the initiation of the South Carolina Aging in Place Coalition (www.scaipc.org) in 2003.
For a family involved in caregiving or an individual trying to age in place, sometimes all that’s needed is the right connection to a resource. The Coalition - now with 100+ members - brings together for-profit companies, non-profit organizations, academic institutions and government agencies under one mission. The goal is to offer education and referrals to a wide ranging of resources that are generally associated with healthcare, housing, finance, transportation and various community and supportive services.
To me, aging in place acknowledges that we can’t do it on our own and we need each other. In past generations families lived together and took care of each other but in our mobile society – with families often living far apart – it’s no longer practical. It’s unlikely that we will go back to the “way it used to be” and more likely that we will depend on personal and professional service to assist us. In some areas virtual “Villages” are emerging as self-governing, grassroots, community- based organizations that enable neighbors to help one another to live as long as possible in their neighborhood.
It’s also true that aging in place doesn’t happen by accident – it takes planning! Waiting for a “crisis” can severely limit the options for aging in place. That’s why Paul and I decided to put our own plan in place five years ago by moving to a downtown condominium with an elevator and renovating it with wide doorways, walk in showers, grab bars in the bathroom, special lighting and all the features we might need to stay there safely and comfortably as long as possible. Being in the City means that we can depend less on our cars and walk to grocery stores, shopping, restaurants and in general experience a more healthy life style.
While none of us can be fully prepared for all the contingencies in life, having an “aging in place” plan brings peace of mind and satisfaction that we can - in all likelihood - stay where we are most comfortable.