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What should YOU do to Age in Place?

by Louis on January 31, 2011

I was recently in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada giving presentations to the Nova Scotia Home Builder’s Association and for a collaboration of the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors and an innovative local business, Home Safe Living. A question asked at the Nova Scotia Seniors program prompted this entry.

“What do you want us to do?”

My reply is better formulated after rolling the question around for a few weeks.

1. Take care of yourself FIRST.

a. Remodel your home to preserve independence and create a caregiver safe environment. Preparing your home results in reduced falls, allows earlier returns from hospitalizations and rehabs and safer and easier assistance from paid and informal caregivers.  This is all win-win because the benefits you appreciate also save healthcare dollars. Currently you have to make this investment in YOUR future. I hope subsidies and incentives will help out soon. Grab bars and railings are modest investments. Removing throw rugs costs nothing. More extensive remodeling also enhances your lifestyle and increases property value when done attractively and well. Maybe I should say win-win win!

b. Exercise. Wellness – combined cardio, strength and flexibility training is the single most important factor you control about your own future. Exercise is the key to falls prevention and falls steal dreams. The evidence is mounting but there is already enough. If you are not exercising 30 minutes three times a week get started. There is also good, but less clear evidence that brain exercise helps avoid the scourge of dementia.  Most communities help with training, testing and social exercise opportunities to get you started and keep you on course. But IT IS UP TO YOU!

2. Be active in your community. Two basic examples of community programing are:

a. The Village Movement. The village movement is sweeping the nation with good reason. It is exciting because it is intentional and grass roots. People are taking the reins of their own lives and concerns and acting.  Your home remodeling demonstration will help tip the balance from ‘vital aging’ to preparations for the hard push comes to shove part when health problems become difficulties.

b. Sometimes combined with the village movement, volunteer banking provides service to your self and others. Similar to babysitting coops of an earlier lifestage, modern technology allows hours banked in one locale to be used somewhere else. This is community multiplied and maximized in every way. Two examples among many are Partners in Care and the Independent Transportation Network.

3. Support local business and organizations that provide services in your community. Nothing speaks louder than dollars to sustain what works and provides value.

4. Participate in democracy. Push the dialogue in your community. Democracy means taking an active role in important conversations.

a. Community dialogue helps flesh out the issues and increase the numbers of citizens who are paying attention. Two ongoing programs help communities discuss Aging in Place, The Advantage Initiative and Partners for Livable Communities.

Another approach is the design charrette. By focusing on a property and the community context good design charrettes are catalysts for holistic thinking. The Atlanta Regional Commission convened a huge charrette last year with national leaders looking at multiple properties. I am working with the DC Design for Aging Group planning a local charrette cosponsored by local senior issue advocates. We hope it is a model for other American Institute of Architects Design for Aging groups and communities.

b. Encourage the development of the Aging in Place 2.0 infrastructure. Government and business need to work together to approach a futuristic vision. The demographic imperatives show we need to do something big to avoid crises of housing care and medical expenses. Silos must be eliminated. Eligibility needs to be simplified. A dynamic management system needs to be employed to use resources efficiently.

The ball is in YOUR court. The best way to create the future is to live it. That is what I want You to do!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurie Orlov February 2, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Good advice, Louis!

Best, Laurie


Doug Walter February 7, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Well said! Not all solutions are architectural. Many are physical, social, and political. Let’s turn this ship around!


Dr. Gene Loeb February 12, 2011 at 5:48 am

This is good, succinct advice, simple on the surface but involving much depth. The following comments are also good. Yes, consideration of the physical environment is important but so is a thorough appraisal of the individual and family needs. Unfortunately, there is not a consistent or dependable systematic approach of social, medical and psychological coordination, though social and government factors are forcing us to seriously work on this. Yes, we all must pull together. Together!


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