But it remains a vague idea. Those familiar with the term would most likely define aging in place as remaining in your home for as long as you would like to as opposed to relocating to a care facility. This is a comforting notion. Rather than envisioning spending later life cooped up in a nearly bare room amidst ailing people with that medicinal smell in the air, you can anticipate maintaining your active lifestyle amongst friends and the smell of your garden. But is it a false promise? As we age, we all tend to need assistance. It may be medical attention, caregiving to help us with daily activities, home modification, financial advice, or access to transportation. Over time, our children move on to their own family responsibilities and we may lose friends, so we might need help finding the social interaction that always brings joy to our lives. Some solutions to each of these needs may be conveniently available at home or on devices in this digital age. But as we develop cognitive, mobility and confidence issues, they are no longer as convenient. As Teresa Lee of the Alliance for Quality Home Health and Innovation says, “We have a gap between the healthcare system and so many critical long-term services, support and infrastructure that really are needed for people to stay healthy and age in place.” What aging in place needs to become (and to become commonly known as) is an in-home service delivery system. This is a big idea and a big task and I can’t think of anything similar that exists to offer as an example. But two images come to mind that may make this idea easier to grasp. One is a department store in which each visitor has a personal shopper. Imagine such a store in which one counter is options for making your home easier to navigate, the next counter offers a choice of caregivers, another offers transportation services, still another provides food delivery, and you are accompanied by an expert in all of this who can help evaluate what you need and provide suggestions. The other image is an Amazon for Aging. Amazon began as a website that sold books. Now it sells everything. It’s a one-stop shop that you access from your desk or phone.
The National Aging in Place Council is in the process of building this department store, establishing both phone and digital access and training the personal shoppers. NAIPC is an alliance of in-home aging service providers all across the country. It is a national organization that functions on a local level. Currently operatingin 25 cities and expanding rapidly, people from many different service businesses, senior-focused organizations and government agencies unite in a community as the local chapter to educate residents about aging in place and make their services available via the chapter. In Atlanta or Charleston, for example, the local chapter offers more than 50 different in-home services that can be accessed at ageinplace.org. Eventually, we hope the local NAIPC chapter will be the one-stop shop in each community. It will save agingadults from having to search individually for the assistance they need to be able to age in place. It will also eliminate the trust issue. All of us are skittish about inviting strangers into our homes—and as we age this reluctance intensifies. But all members of the NAIPC chapter in your town have had background checks, been screened and interviewed by local chapter leadership, signed a Code of Conduct in which they pledge to put clients’ needs first, and, perhaps most significantly, have interacted over time with other chapter members who have observed their professional behavior.
Planning to age in place
At a summit of aging thought leaders convened by NAIPC, the main takeaway was that we have a habit as a society of waiting for an emergency before we take any action. As an organization, we concluded that we needed to try to shift the aging conversation from simply explaining aging in place to helping people plan to age in place. To support this effort, NAIPC members from around the country collaborated to create a planning tool called Act III: Your Plan for Aging in Place that is available on our website. Act III provides a method for aging adults to assess their own circumstances. What do we have and what do we need? It is divided into five categories—home, health and wellness, personal finance, transportation and social engagement. In each category, users are asked a series of questions that leads to an evaluation of their current situation and provides a view of the assistance, services, and costs they will face as they age.
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