What is ageing in place?

Ageing in place is a term used to describe a person living in the’ residence of their choice’, for as long as they both wish to; and are able to. This includes being able to access (and afford) any support that they may require, as their needs change, and their ability to live independently diminishes. To be clear: the act of ageing-in-place takes place during a period in an elderly person’s life where their ability to cope with the activities of daily living (ADL), including both their needs and wants, starts becoming a little more difficult i.e. their ability to maintain their desired quality of life, starts to reduce. Some people are under the illusion that ageing-in-place is a panacea for all ills; that it will fix all the problems that they have accumulated in their lives. However this is sadly not true; while AIP may solve certain basic living and elemental healthcare type problems; and could allow them to continue living in their final chosen accommodation, thus avoiding the trauma (and for some the indignity!), of having to relocate to a facility such as a frail care centre, at a time in their lives when any change can be traumatic, it does have potential risks and may not last forever!


Preferences of retirees?

Most adults would prefer to remain in their family home for as long as possible One-third of American households are home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older. And concerns in respect of ageing-in-place, can normally be divided into two levels: Firstly, the oft times traumatic decision as to whether to relocate from a family home – resplendent with its space, treasures and most importantly memories, into specialized retirement accommodation (such as a retirement village or residential care home), often occurs once the brood have flown the nest, or is dictated by failing health.


And secondly, even though one may have made the leap; may for example have moved into an independent cottage in a retirement village, deteriorating health may result in some of us (approximately 5% to 10%), even being called upon to relocate a second time – this time into a frail care centre, normally in the precincts of the village.



The following may assist elderly people to remain in their own abodes and comfort zones longer – may for some delay the inevitable decision:


Structural modifications

While some seniors will require a level of care which only assisted living or frail care facilities can provide – with a few modifications to their homes, others may be able to continue living independently in their own

homes for a long time. In order to minimize the impact of physical limitations, under which many of us will labour; all that may be needed are modifications to their home environment   – some of which are as follows:

  • Better illumination of steps, doorways and walkways.
  • The conversion of steps to ramps.
  • Appropriately positioned “Grab-rails” in showers, bathrooms and toilets.
  • Handrails along passageways.
  • The installation of non-slip floor surfaces.
  • Phones with large keypads to compensate for vision impairment.
  • Phones and doorbells equipped with warning lights to compensate for hearing impediments.
  • In some extreme cases the installation of chairlifts and the widening of doorways to accommodate wheelchair users.


Practical considerations

  • Avoid isolated locations, where both safety considerations and social interaction, may suffer.
  • Your chosen accommodation should ideally have a first-floor bedroom; or should, at the very least, include a room which, if a need arose, could be converted into a bedroom.
  • Move to a smaller apartment closer to amenities such as shopping malls and medical centres.
  • Arrange for home deliveries of essentials such as groceries and medications.
  • Ensure that simple sensors capable of summoning assistance in an emergency are on hand. (And don’t lock them away for safe-keeping – Keep them on your person).
  • Hire someone to help with tasks of daily living which you find difficult.
  • Consider co-housing starting from the early stages.  While privacy is important, living alone, and in isolation, often proves to be impractical from emotional, financial, logistical and especially social and medical aspects.


Medical and general considerations

  • In situations where medical administration becomes difficult e.g. You forget to take your medication or need assistance, with certain regular, specialised treatment, it may be worth employing a regular caregiver.
  • Bathing care. If you’re in danger of falling in the tub or shower, you may need help with personal hygiene.
  • A companion-carer may provide both assistance with the tasks of daily living, as well as companionship. They may even be able to act as your chauffeur and drive you around. However be cautioned that the ‘fit’ between carer and employer is vital, as many find the presence of in-house carers intrusive.



In a Country like South Africa, the cost of frail care and even assisted living, is so daunting that it has become one of the major reasons why elderly people resist moving out of their own abodes – however, be warned – ageing-in-place may not work forever. Simple tasks such as home maintenance and house cleaning can eventually present major challenges! And it is up to individuals and their loved ones to know for certain whether their current home, will allow them to age-in-place? Seniors must ask themselves … Will I be able to age-in-place… in this place? The decision is theirs alone!


The original article was written by Henry Spencer