Recently I attended a party for a colleague and was given a tour of her home. I was amazed at the thoughtfulness and forethought she had in making choices. She had moved, downsized and every aspect of her home was considered to accommodate her needs as she aged. Her desire to make this her last move was apparent.
The doors were wide enough to adapt to mobility changes. Everything was on one floor, bathrooms accessible, and it was clear she had thought through her decisions. She also shared with me that she had purchased longtime care insurance to ensure her plan to remain at home as long as possible.
I left there remembering the first inkling I had of what I might be dealing in the future with was when I had foot surgery and had to sleep downstairs. As I thought about it, I asked myself, how practical is my home, and what can be done to make it more accommodating in the future?
As I talk with people in my support groups and with friends, I’ve gained heightened awareness of how important it is to plan now. I’ve also seen first-hand what people go through. In my own family, I admire my cousins, who when confronted with a diagnosis of a debilitating genetic condition, realizing they would have to make changes to live the life they wanted to live.
Mary was an outdoor person, and she wanted to live in a situation where she could stay active. She decided to move from her home in upstate New York to a milder climate, and opted for a house and a community where she would be more comfortable to navigate in her scooter. Her brother and his wife were living in the beautiful tri-level home of their dreams, when he was diagnosed. They decided to move, choosing a home that would accommodate the ambulation challenges he faces daily.
The point is, dreams change, and times change.
What would I do if I could no longer comfortably live in my home as it is now? Most of us have a tendency to not want to consider what might happen. Sometimes people get a taste of what it might be like when they have knee or hip surgery. But we need to be real about the future. What happens when those needs are chronic, not acute? People want to age in place, and remain in their homes, but are they considering what they will have to do to make it possible to do so? It’s time to begin the conversation.
The AARP HomeFit program is a good place to start. It introduces the concept of universal design – a home that is adaptable, flexible, safe and easy to use for all residents and visitors regardless of age, size or ability. It also looks at how to assess your home for livability, and adaptations to improve safety and accessibility.. Part of that livability includes home maintenance needs, energy conservation, and how to hire a contractor to help make the changes you may need.
Learn what you can do now to make your house a home for life, at “At Home After 50,” a free public program Oct. 17 at The Friendship Centers. Carolyn Sithong, an occupational therapist certified as an Aging in Place Specialist by the National Association of Homebuilders, will share the AARP Home Fit Program providing information and tips for a comfortable safe and livable home. “How to Make Your House a Safe Zone and Prevent Dangerous Falls” will be presented by Falls Prevention Educator Penny Evenson, RN. “Preparing to Care for a Loved One at Home,” will be addressed by Friendship Centers Director of Caregiving Services Paula Falk.
“At Home After 50” will be held from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Dywer Room of the Center for Healthy Aging, 1900 Brother Geenen Way in Sarasota. The program is free and refreshments will be provided. Call 941.556.3268 for reservations.
About Paula Falk
Paula Falk is Senior Friendship Centers’ Director of Caregiving Services for Sarasota County. Caregiving services include the The Living Rooms Adult Day Services, Caregiving education and program and the Caregiver Resource Centers , a community collaboration bringing together agencies and businesses offering services and products to help caregivers through one of life’s more challenging times. . For more information on the Caregiver Resource Center, or if you would like to schedule a presentation or program on caregiving for your organization, call 941.556.3270, email email@example.com, or visit www. friendshipcenters.org