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Aging in Place: What Is It and How Do You Do It?

Written by Sue Davis, PATF Program Assistant

When it comes to the places we call home, what worked so well for us when we were in our twenties and thirties can begin to present unforeseen challenges by the time we hit our sixties or seventies. Suddenly, the large garden, that washing machine in the basement and those steps up to the front door may present a problem.

It’s not news to anyone that our physical abilities change as we get older. For many of us, the changes may be incremental but real, all the same. The good news is that we live in a time of unprecedented resources. There is so much available today, from the very low-tech to the very high-tech, to make it possible to remain independent and living at home.

Protection from falls is often the first priority, and can be maximized by thinking about ways to increase lighting, decrease clutter, add railings and make other simple changes. Plenty of good ideas can be found in our blog article, There’s More to Trip on Than Area Rugs: Fall Prevention Solutions for your Home.

Simply maintaining independence around the house usually comes next. My friend Dorothy, who lived to the ripe old age of 94 in the home where she was born, swore by her jar opener and stair glide. She would be amazed to learn that today we are living in the age of so-called “smart-home technology” – there are devices that can turn your lights on, show you who is at your front door, alert a medical response unit if you’ve fallen, and more! AARP provides a helpful list of devices. And CNET has an interactive webpage to help you explore some options for smart home technology.

Physical and structural modifications to your home may also be a helpful option, and can include small changes such as levers in place of doorknobs and grab bars in the bathroom, as well as larger modifications like a curbless shower with a bench and wider door frames.

Additionally, for many people, aging in place means more than just assistive technology that can help you stay safe and independent around the house. You may also need help with chores, repairs, yardwork, transportation, affordable home care, or anything that supports you to live at home and stay involved in the community. After all, community and social interaction are just as important as health and safety. Depending on where in Pennsylvania you live, you may find some of the following articles and websites helpful to determine what resources are available in your area.

This Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article describes community transportation services, communities-without-walls, and other innovative ways to stay connected in the Pittsburgh area.

There are also Aging in Place local chapters in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh regions that provide information on and links to numerous resources.

Finally, Ralston Center serves the Philadelphia area, and offers affordable home care, transportation, repairs, chores, yardwork and more for people age 55 years and older, and membership is free.