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Aging in Place- What’s in a Name?

by Louis on July 13, 2010

Names are important. Most of us have experience trying to name rock bands, committees, conferences, restaurants, businesses, kids and many other things. It is just not easy to start and made harder by a desire for consensus among sometimes wide ranging points of view and taste. What we now call ‘branding’ is a whole consulting sector that takes the issue (among other more subtle topics) to its seemingly ridiculous but actually realistic extreme. Aging in Place is one of these controversial terms.

1. I first heard Aging in Place in the early 90’s. I was starting to focus my design/build remodeling business on ‘remodeling for older clients who wanted to remain in their homes’, and was relieved to find there was a name at all. No sooner did my relief feel a little comfortable than someone said she hated “the word aging in there, nobody wants to be reminded of that”. She was probably right. Aging in Place is a social worker type term, okay for the clinical or academic, pretty descriptive, but as a ‘brand’ – probably not so much.

Now, finally, as it becomes well used it is probably too late to change it and find something better. But, well used is not the same as popular or ‘good’. Aging in Place is loaded with negative…and who picks something like that to get the word out?

2. Too often new terms become co-opted before they get established, their meaning forever clouded. Unfortunately this has already started for Aging in Place. Some people think it means anyplace that is not a nursing home. Here is a line in a news story that make me concerned about the confusion:

….”will oversee a Catholic health system that owns seven hospitals in Ohio and Texas, two social services in Ohio and more than a dozen ”aging-in-place” and nursing facilities in several states.”

I can just bet this hospital system does not own individual homes where people have control and dignity throughout their lives. So what does Aging in Place mean in that context? And then the larger question becomes, What is Aging in Place?

My definition: Aging in Place is more desirable housing and care using design, tools and technologies through a comprehensive and dynamic management system integrating all resources more efficiently for the lifestyle and dignity of older citizens in the home of their choice.

Now if that is what I mean, what is it ‘they’ mean?

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