3 Myths Holding Back Aging in Place

The majority of the aging population in America, which is responsible for at least $7.1 trillion in annual economic activity, has the desire to stay in their homes, but many are hesitant to call themselves “old” or even have conversations about aging in place.

The myths and stigmas that surround these conversations are why many people are hesitant to even bring up the idea, so debunking them is the first step in opening a dialogue, according to HomeAdvisor’s Aging in Place Report 2016.

Based in Golden, Colorado, HomeAdvisor is a provider in digital home services with tools and resources for home repair, maintenance and improvement projects. The 2016 Aging in Place Report is based on the results form a survey conducted between August 10, 2016 and August 23, 2016 to 279 professional respondents and 586 homeowners 55 years and older.

A top myth among the older generation is that aging in place is about aging, the report said. This assumption can easily be debunked because aging in place is really just about livability.

Even for homeowners who are 55 and older, 40% say that they aren’t completing aging-related renovations because they don’t have physical disabilities. Though aging-related renovations are not just for homeowners with physical disabilities, Marianne Cusato, author of the report and HomeAdvisor’s housing expert, explained.

“Making homes safe and accessible for seniors is an important and primary objective of aging-in-place projects,” Cusato wrote. “Thriving in place, however, is about much more than adding grab bars and wheelchair ramps. In fact, many popular aging-in-place improvements—wider doorways, open floor plans, zero-step entrances, remote-controlled window coverings and motions-tenor lights, just to name a few—can enhance the quality of life in a home even as they make the home safer.”

Another myth believed by the 55 and older population is that aging in place is only practical in the suburbs. Among older homeowners, suburban/rural homeowners are less likely than urban homeowners to have completed or considered an aging-in-place renovation, the report said.

But what many of those homeowners may not know are the benefits of aging in place in cities. Larger cities often have better public transportation systems and increased social opportunities, which can be ideal for aging adults who may not want to drive anymore but want to maintain a social life.

Technology also brings up mixed feelings when it comes to homeowners 55 and older. Of those surveyed, 67% think smart home technology could be useful as they age, but just 19% say they have considered installing smart home technology. This could be because technology is still considered a luxury convenience instead of a necessity, Cusato pointed out.

“Older homeowners’ reluctance to adopt smart-home technology for aging in place is not surprising,” she wrote. “Older adults are less likely than younger adults to be familiar with technology in general, and smart home technology in particular is still coming into existence—and, therefore, still expensive.”

No matter what age someone is, many aging in place upgrades—such as seating in the shower, or lower cabinets—can improve quality of life, the report stresses.

“Looking at aging in place through a new lens that acknowledges how we live—not just show long we live—will usher in a new generation of home-improvement project that benefit the young, the young at heart and everyone in between,” Cusato said.

Written by Alana Stramowski