Guest Columnist: Louis Tenenbaum, Independent Living Strategist
I don’t want to give the impression I think homemods are the whole enchilada when it comes to Filling the Gap for Aging in Place. Home Modifications are one element of a multifaceted strategy. Tools, high tech and services fill out the mix.
Tools are a way to think of an expanded category of products called assistive technology. Think eyeglasses. If you wear them they fill the gap between what you can see on your own and what you need to see to be functional. Hearing aids are the same. How about a reacher? This simple tool fills the gap between what you can and need to reach.
Of course High Tech is changing and developing faster than we can grasp the potential. Some high tech will monitor changes in health and condition. Some will report incidents. Some will coordinate and manage. Some will record results. Some will enhance communication changing the very nature of physical isolation. CAST is the leading place to keep current.
Services run the gamut of traditional and novel agencies and business serving and involving older members of the community. Meals on Wheels has been around since World war II. Transportation is highly visible right now as we figure out how to deal with the impact of the suburbs on older folks and driving. Friendly visitors, in home rehabilitation, deliveries, home health, chore services and financial planning and others are part of the mix. The range of services is sometimes referred to as the continuum. Every community has an Area Agency on Aging. Variations abound. Aging services is one of the oldest networks recognized to work in communities around the country. A good way to track the history of modern services is from passage of the Older Americans Act on Lyndon Johnson’s watch.
Though my entry to this field and primary experience is with home modifications I recognize that that all elements play significant roles in any strategy. I know that planning a strategy is critical to increasing the chances of success. Those who do not plan for Aging in Place have little chance of pulling it off. The gap gets too large too quickly if plans are not made.
One more thing: Strategy cannot be static. It must be dynamic to meet unexpected and changing needs. The system that monitors, manages and coordinates the techniques must be integrated and comprehensive. It must be pliable so the ever changing gap is filled without cracks. This system will make good use of medical, financial and human resources. Aging in Place is not only about resource efficiency. It is also about dignity choice and independence for older Americans.