There has been much in the recent news about the growing belief that older people though finding themselves in inappropriate homes as some of their powers decline would far prefer to stay independent of a care home environment.
Perhaps not surprisingly a high number, 9 in 10 over 50s, according to the recent Daily Telegraph report of people surveyed about where they would prefer to live and be cared for, opted for staying put in their own homes. It seems though that most of us leave it far too late even to start any sort of conversation with anyone, including close family. We will discuss finance for older age, even funeral arrangements but not the long term living space we need or desire to maximise enjoyment of later life.
In the case of staying home and independent,planning for our living space in older age is of course not a new concept although there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to deal with the many requirements of individuals with different levels of health and abilities, as well as preferences for a particular lifestyle. There is a range of ‘fixes’ that can be considered to help maintain good quality of life, from small to medium ‘tweaks’ like adjusting the height of work surfaces ,installing better handle design for easier opening of doors and windows; also making more open living spaces for wheelchair access, for instance.At the other end of the range, there is the complete design-build always ‘fit for purpose’ living space. This looks to provide a living place in which to age, with practical comfort and aesthetics in mind.
Such a space should be able to function so as to enable both the able in mind and body and the disabled to co-habit in comfort and style.This latter of course is the holy grail,as it were, of planning for later life, and is often referred to as Universal (accessible )design which produces a broad range of practical ideas to incorporate in buildings and environments making them inherently accessible to people regardless of age. This helps at a social level so that the more elderly do not find themselves marginalised in their own homes and they can continue to enjoy the society of younger people.
Universal design was the brainchild of an architect who was himself confined to a wheelchair.His idea is a place to start a conversation about future living.It is a wide subject. You can start your own conversation with a quick start guide to learning how to live comfortably and with independence. Startling statistics from AgeUK tell us that the number of people over 65 in community-based care and support at home is falling rapidly in the UK. This is seen to be a trend working entirely against our wishes.It is time we all prepared better for our care in old age if we wish to be where we want to be and not allow ourselves to end up in places not of our choosing. Aging in a Palace is a slim volume but a good read. It may be laced with many questions and few specific and detailed solutions, but it is thought provoking.