More and more we are hearing this phrase: Aging in Place. A national event celebrates it and both Gov. Douglas and Lt Gov. Dubie have called it a factor in healthy aging. Aging in Place is growing older where you choose to in a way that is healthy and safe. It is important to talk about because none of us can accomplish this alone.
Improvements in wellness, healthier lifestyles and, yes, all those expensive pills have transformed our expectations of what it is to be older. Every twenty-four hours, 5,000 Americans turn 65. They are not heading toward nursing homes. Vermont’s Commissioner of the Dept. of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, Patrick Flood, was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “We are never going to build another nursing home. It is an outdated model.”
But it isn’t as easy as you might think. Aging in Place doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and support.
I recently met with an 84 years young woman living in a remote farm house in the Northeast Kingdom. She was determined to remain there the rest of her life even though here sight was diminishing. I asked how she would get groceries, “My daughter will do that.” Who would take her to the doctor? “My daughter will do that.” What about cleaning such a big house? “My daughter will do that.” Finally I asked if she had talked all this over with her daughter; “My son will do that.”
Assumptions are made by both elders and their adult children. None of us like asking for help. It’s also tough to know how to offer assistance without interfering. The challenge is to engage openly, honestly and in a positive manner. Equally important is to observe what is happening in the lives of elders. This is critical to quality of life issues. When my dad gave up peanut butter it never occurred to me that he couldn’t open the jar anymore.
So, Aging in Place is about quality of life as we grow older. It embraces wellness, mobility, transportation, and issues of access. It involves each of us because it touches all of us. More than just where we live, it is how we live and who needs to be part of it.
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident.