I’ve done a great deal of consulting work in the senior living industry, everything from skilled nursing and assisted living to independent and active aging communities. Each of these senior living products have very different environments but one thing they have in common is their number one competitor – home!
The vast majority of older adults report wanting to age in place. They want to stay in their homes living as independently as possible for as long as possible, and if they need assistance, they want to receive it at home.
Making Aging in Place an Option
If you truly want to age in place then step one is to do what’s necessary to retain the highest level of function possible. It’s time to take stock of what you’re doing to either support or sabotage your ability to stay at home through your full lifespan.
Have you made a commitment to well-being? Are you eating nutritious foods – most of the time – ones that support rather than sabotage your health? Do you consistently get regular physical activity that prepares your body to accomplish the activities of daily living necessary for you to live independently?
Are you cultivating a positive attitude and enriching social connections? Here you will find resources and strategies to help optimize your well-being.
Embracing New Technology and Services
Gratefully, aging in place is more possible than ever before with new technology and services. Things like home delivery and ride-share apps make it possible to receive goods and services right to your door and secure a ride right from your door.
However, taking advantage of these services requires that you embrace this new technology-driven service model even if it may mean stretching out of your comfort zone!
Embracing Adaptive Strategies
The same thing applies to embracing adaptive strategies that help you overcome functional challenges. Young people with disabilities embrace assistive devices and other adaptive strategies with enthusiasm and gratitude! By contrast, older adults often actively avoid using both assistive devices and adaptive strategies despite the benefits to independence.
I believe the reason lies in mindset and expectations. Young people with disabilities are given resources, tools, and encouragement to live fully in-spite of challenges. They’ve been given a steady diet of resilience training from day one, and resilience training encourages aggressively pursuing adaptive strategies to expand possibilities and live fully.
It’s very different for many older adults who, when faced with functional challenges, are more commonly given resources and tools to cope with – rather than overcome – those challenges.
Coping is a very different mindset than overcoming! It results in making one’s world smaller and more manageable rather than envisioning how to accomplish things in new ways and expanding possibilities. I think the resistance to using an assistive device like a cane or a wheelchair stems from feeling diminished rather than empowered by this mindset of coping versus overcoming.
Consider what you would advise a young person to do when faced with a functional limitation. Would you encourage them to make their world smaller or expand as fully as possible using whatever means possible! Start building a mindset of focusing on possibilities rather than disabilities long before faced with challenges.
Fortunately, your positive mindset can be bolstered by the boom in assistive device technology. Initially, many devices were simply “jazzed up” – like artfully decorated canes – to make them more attractive to the “Boomer Generation.” However, now there’s a movement to carefully engineer assistive devices to function better with the human body and fit better into one’s life.
The clearest example is the walker. We can all likely picture a frail older person hunched over a walker with wheels on the front and legs on the back. These legs are often adorned with tennis balls to help them move more easily across different surfaces!
Why has it taken so long to re-design walkers? Their design directly leads to or severely aggravates poor posture, often causing lasting alignment and mobility issues.
Newly engineered upright walkers empower users to walk upright in good posture and facilitate easier engagement with others – rather than being hunched over looking at the ground! Canes have also been re-designed. For example, Hurry Cane is designed with an articulating “joint” that functions more like the ankle joint to provide better mobility and stability.
Other companies demonstrate that assistive devices don’t have to have the “hospital ward” look. For example, the usually antiseptic looking shower chairs have gotten a much-needed makeover, both in look and functional design by a company called Bue.
Their colorful shower chairs are stable, comfortable, and attractive; plus, they’re adjustable to body size and are foldable for easy storage. It’s about time!
Don’t Let a Health Set-Back Become a New Health Set-Point
If you envision aging in place in your own home, then now is the time to evaluate lifestyle options and empower possibilities. Make choices (most of the time) that support well-being.
When faced with a challenge, don’t let a health set-back become a new health set-point – just because of age! Instead, consider what you would have done if faced with this same challenge at age 30 or 40?
Embrace adaptive tools and strategies with a mindset of empowerment in order to continue doing the things you love and expanding possibilities. Far from “magical thinking,” research shows that older adults with this type of positive aging mindset were 44% more likely to recover from a severe disability than those with a negative aging mindset.
Give yourself the best change of living where you choose through your full lifespan by making a commitment to well-being in body, mind, and spirit, engaging a positive aging mindset and expectations, and embracing adaptive strategies that allow you to expand possibilities regardless of challenges!
Are your expectations for recovering from an illness or injury defined by age? Do you think of assistive devices as diminishing or empowering? Have you ever let a health set-back become a new health set-point?