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Aging In Place

Aging In Place

It used to be that getting older meant moving in with family or heading to a nursing home. No longer! The idea of “Aging in Place” has gained traction nationwide. Gerontologists have said that as 77 million baby boomers reach retirement age, staffing at senior facilities will become a critical issue. If homes can be made suitable for seniors, Aging in Place will likely be the most pleasant alternative for aging Americans.

What is it?

Aging in Place is not having to move from your present residence in response to the changing needs associated with aging.

The Aging in Place trend refers to living where you have lived for many years, or to living in a non-healthcare environment and using products, services and conveniences to enable you to not have to move as circumstances change.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC’s) tend to use the term in marketing to reference the multi-stage continuity of their campuses. Of course you have to move there first. Aging in Place can also mean the modifying of your long-term home to accommodate your changing needs. It often references a longer term strategy for readying your home for retirement.

Why do it?

A recent AARP survey found that most American seniors desire to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives – 80% in fact. Reasons cited for the Aging in Place preference are:

  • Comfortable environs
  • Familiarity and memories
  • Convenience to known services
  • Feelings of independence
  • Safety and security
  • Proximity to family and friends

What is a NORC?

A Naturally Occurring Retirement Community is a neighborhood where residents remain for years and age as neighbors. It might be a specific apartment building or a particular street where residents have just stayed put. About 27% of seniors live in a NORC.

It’s possible to band together and develop access to (and perhaps preferential pricing for) services such as:

  • Social and recreational programs
  • Information and counseling
  • Continuing education programs
  • Outside maintenance and referral services
  • Heavy cleaning
  • Homecare
  • Emergency and preventive health care programs
  • Meal programs
  • Transportation


Successful aging in place requires identifying and correcting any safety pitfalls. The major safety issues are:

  • Preventing falls
  • Fires and Emergency situations
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Limited reach
  • Limited vision
  • Limited strength
  • Wheelchair accommodation

Most purpose-built senior communities are designed with these accommodations in mind, but it’s usually possible to modify your current home to suit your particular needs.

Home Remodeling

Even if you’re years away from retirement, any remodeling projects should be designed with consideration of possible senior needs. Even if you don’t end up staying there, you’re most likely broadening the net for potential buyers. You may wish to consult a professional early in your evaluation process. “CAPS” are contractors who are recognized by the National Association of Home Builders as being Certified Aging in Place Specialists. Some home remodeling considerations:


  • Adapt ground floors for one-level living
  • Better lighting and task lighting especially in bedrooms, baths, closets & hallways
  • Easy garage/parking access
  • Good lighting in transition areas
  • At least one entry without steps
  • Doorways 36” wide with off-set door hinges
  • Levers instead of knobs
  • Electrical outlets at 18/24” instead of 12”
  • Easy open/lock patio doors
  • Light switches at 42” instead of 48”
  • Rocker light switches
  • Lower window sills, especially for windows on the street
  • Contrast colors between floor and walls
  • Rounded counter edges
  • Color borders around floor and counter-top edges
  • Non-skid and smooth flooring
  • Low-pile and firm pad carpeting
  • Non-glare surfaces and glass
  • Strobe light or vibrator assisted smoke and burglar alarms
  • Automatic garage doors


  • Lever faucets and mixers with anti-scald valves
  • Stall shower with a low threshold and shower seat
  • Hand-held shower
  • Grab bars for shower/tub/toilet (or wall reinforcement for later installation)
  • Turn-around and transfer space for walker or wheelchair (36” x 36”)
  • Higher bathroom counters
  • Elevated toilet seats
  • Telephone jack or medical response device


  • Cabinets with pullout shelves and lazy susans
  • Shelves no more than 10” deep
  • Easy to grasp pulls
  • Sink controls on the side
  • Under-counter task lighting
  • Cooktop with front controls
  • Side by side refrigerator
  • Variety in counter height – some as low as table height (30”)
  • Gas sensor near gas cooking (as well as gas heaters)
  • Color or pattern borders at counter edges
  • Ultra-quiet dishwashers to reduce background noise

Living Room

  • Seating at least 18” off the floor
  • Chairs with sturdy arms

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