“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”
—Charles John Huffman Dickens (1812-1870),
At one time, caring for the elderly members of a society was considered an honor and an accepted part of life. As times changed, communities and family units dissolved or became parted by distance. The aged often became displaced and forgotten, or were shuffled off to nursing homes to live out their last years. Now, times are changing again, and there is a new wave of aging Americans on the scene—the iconic Baby Boomers, the first of whom began turning 65 at the beginning of this year. This group will number more than 70 million by 2030. Now that they are officially becoming senior citizens, how will the rock ‘n’ roll generation redefine old age and manage their last chapter?
Apparently, they have already set the stage. An AARP survey determined that 89% individuals in this demographic are adamantly determined to live out their lives independently in the comfort of their own homes among family and friends, and not in nursing homes. What happens as inevitable age-related conditions make aging at home a physical challenge? The principles of universal design and accessible living solutions can assist aging individuals and their families prepare their homes and make this goal more achievable now than ever before.
From installing ramps and widening doorways for smooth transitioning in and around a home, to incorporating safety features in bathrooms, to implementing nonskid surfaces, homeowners are working together with professionals who specialize in accessible living accommodations (certified aging-in-place specialists [CAPS]—occupational and physical therapists, architects, and contractors). These individuals help to adapt existing living spaces, or design new home environments, to assist aging individuals (or those living with disabilities) to safely, conveniently, comfortably navigate and continue to live in their homes. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders predicts that aging will be the second biggest influence affecting home building and design over the next few years (www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?sectionID=717&genericContentID=87872). By signing up for CAPS courses, rehabilitation professionals can broaden their practices by becoming certified in designing adapted living environments for those who wish to age at home.*
Baby Boomers have never been a generation to sit on the sidelines, waiting for something to happen. They have been at the hub of developing most of the technologies and innovations that currently benefit society. And thanks to these technologies and innovations—as well as a rising consciousness, compassion, and awareness of human need—they will be able to maximize their independence in the comforts of their accessible homes, modified to suit their individual needs.
Once again, the Boomers are at the heart of a revolution. Right on.
—Rogena Schuyler Silverman
*Read more about home modification and accessibility protocols in the article “Creating an Accessible Home Environment” in this issue.