Aging at Home: older living made easy

6 minutes

Worldwide

In the modern world there is a desire to return to traditional living arrangements, where older people remained in their own homes – aging at home. People start the new chapter in their lives with energy, high demands of quality and convenience, and surprising digital dexterity. These are the best prerequisites for aging at home.

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Having several generations under one roof used to be quite common, but extended family living is in decline today. This is prompting people to think about where they would like to live in old age. Most people are keen to stay in their homes as long as possible.

Opportunities and challenges

Having roots is important for body and soul. Aging at home means staying in a familiar environment and continuing to belong to the community and social network. Ideally, there will be strong relationships with the family – this will give adult children the assurance that their parents have everything they need. Depending on physical fitness, it might be necessary to do some remodelling to make everyday life easier – for example, in the kitchen or bathroom. However, with a bit of understanding, acceptance and advance planning, the transition will be easy.

Adaptable homes

When you’re young it’s difficult to imagine the challenges that come with old age. Age can, for example, affect your sense of touch. Movements that used to be easy become hard. Homes and furnishings have to be adapted to these age-related changes. ‘Most people don’t realise that their current homes don’t meet the requirements of independent living in old age until it’s too late,’ says Lothar Marx, architect of housing and social real estate. ‘The thing is that you should really consider accessibility right from the start of the construction process.’ Lothar Marx’s specialist field is accessibility in building construction for disabled and elderly people. He is an Honorary Professor at the Technical University of Munich.

‘Functionality is top priority when you build and furnish an apartment or a house. You can change the design if required. But it’s difficult to replace missing functionality later on.’

Design for all

The design for all concept (universal design) is gaining traction. The idea is to create accessible layouts and interiors that are appealing and accommodating for everyone. After all, ease of use and convenience are benefits for everyone. The trend is also having a positive impact on residential construction but there are some limitations. ‘It’s presumptuous to think that we can build a home that fits everyone. We’re all individuals. What’s more, we all change throughout our lives – and so do our needs. So one home can’t fully meet the needs of everyone at all times,’ explains Lothar Marx.

Nice and smart

Many senior citizens today are familiar with computers, smartphones and tablets and are open to technological advancements. They are no strangers to apps, voice command systems and online shopping. And they attach increasing importance to security, convenience and entertainment. So it’s not surprising that the concept of smart homes is particularly suited to aging at home. Mobility furniture and electronic devices that enhance quality of living in all stages of life are generally very popular. Be it riser recliner chairs, adjustable beds or opening support systems for doors, wall cabinets and pull-outs. These assistance devices might merely be a smart feature for young people but they are greatly appreciated in old age.

The forgotten target group

The needs and wishes of elderly people have long been neglected. Product developers and marketing specialists preferred to focus on the younger generation. But manufacturers are coming to realise that the older generation often has immense buying power. Their children have left the nest so they can now invest the wealth they have earned and saved in leisure time activities and enhanced convenience for their homes.

Living in old age: what do people invest in?

House owners want to make provisions for the future:

72% intend to invest in their own homes.

51% accessibility

30% modernisation

19% burglary protection

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What does the future hold?

Life expectancy is on the rise. In 2010, the number of people over 65 was 524 million worldwide. According to forecasts, the figure should rise to 1.5 billion by the year 2050. In other words, more and more people are likely to opt for aging at home so that they can continue to live in their familiar environment. Thanks to technical advancements, intelligent assistance systems and a change in social attitude, this model is becoming ever more attractive and easier to implement.

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