The vast majority of people age 50 and older want to stay in their homes and communities for as long as possible. AARP has expanded the definition of aging in place to include people either remaining in their own home or staying in the same community in other possible housing options.
“Aging in place” is a popular term in current aging policy, defined as “remaining living in the community, with some level of independence, rather than in residential care”. Claims that people prefer to “age in place” abound because it is seen as enabling older people to maintain independence, autonomy, and connection to social support, including friends and family.
Having people remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible also avoids the costly option of institutional care. There is a strong focus on housing and support or care for aging-in-place. Changes at home (such as removing obstacles or introducing mobility aids) can enhance independence.
However, there is also growing concern about the quality and appropriateness of family homes for aging in place, in terms of insulation, heating/cooling, housing size, and design. Housing options enable links to family and friends to continue. Social support is independently related to mortality, and quality of social contacts has been shown to ameliorate the negative impacts of past and immediate environments.
Some argue that adequate and appropriate housing should be a foundation for good community care, including health services and care support. Much research has explored the relative costs and outcomes of providing health and support services at home or in residential care. Many older people, thinking about what might enable them to successfully age in place, also emphasize service provision, including health, care, and home maintenance. Yet the term “aging in place” is ambiguous.
Although most discussions on aging in place focus on home, there is growing recognition, that beyond the home, neighborhoods and communities are crucial factors in people’s ability to stay put. To assist aging in place, consideration needs to be given not only to housing options but also to transportation, recreational opportunities, and amenities that facilitate physical activity, social interaction, cultural engagement, and ongoing education.
Excerpts from a study by aarp.org