Once you fall, it’s TOO LATE to “plan” for Aging-In-Place

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Yesterday morning, at the first Kitsap county Urban Land Institute (ULI) Conference, as I ascended the two steps to the stage and podium, I CRASHED and FELL. I was the last of four panel expert speakers for the event, and I think this “shook off” any breakfast food coma that may have been settling in the audience! My handful of notes and pen flew skyward, fluttering to the ground in a scattered mess. I’ve done this “act” before, but this time I didn’t plan it quite right. I split my chin open on a chair in the vicinity, and I wasn’t aware of it until I saw the blood dripping on my tie, shirt, and the laptop with my PowerPoint presentation cued up. There were gasps in the “doubly sold-out” audience of 220 (the goal was 100-120 attending) including city mayors, jurisdictional permitting staff & planners, county commissioners, developers, builders, contractors, and real estate industry professionals. I was able to brush it off, make a joke of it, and continue with my 10 minute speech. I’d gotten their attention, and it was time to get into the presentation. It starts like this:

“Were you scared? You don’t even KNOW me. What if that was your MOTHER who fell today, while you were at work? Guess what… RIGHT THEN, it’s TOO LATE to hire me. We can’t design, permit, and do construction at her house (or yours if she lives there) to make the modifications she’ll need when she returns home from the hospital and the live-in rehab with her occupational therapist and/or physical therapist. Her physical needs will be different if she (for example) broke her hip, or had a seizure or stroke, or hit her head and has an alteration to her mental faculties. PLEASE PLAN AHEAD!

Next question in the presentation – “Raise your hand if you are a parent.” (about 80% of the room raise their hand). “Okay, now raise your hand if you are a child.” (rhetorical of course, and almost everyone raises their hand). Finally I ask, for humor’s sake “Now if you didn’t raise you hand just then, raise your hand to admit you’re not listening, and your in the wrong room!”, followed by “My point? If you are a child (and you all are) this topic applies to EVERYONE. We ALL have parents, or are a parent. And whether you have your head in the sand (hiding from these facts) or not, the last poll taken that I found concluded that 10 out of 10 people are AGING every day. We ARE getting older, whether we want to talk about it or not… that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m taking the time to share this message publicly as often as possible. the truth is that 10,000 people started turning 65 EVERY DAY in January 2011. The Baby Boomers are here, they are flipping the age/population triangle on its head for the first time in our existence, where there are MORE OLDER PEOPLE than younger people.

This is our reality for the next 30 years or so. The next THREE DECADES will be driven by this age group. They have more money, spend more money, and will make more consumer decisions as an age group than we’ve ever dealt with in our history to date as a nation. In 1950, only 0.5% of the population was over 80 years old. In 2040 that will increase by 10 times, to 5% if forecasting is correct for age and longevity increases due to medical advances. What are you doing in your industry to adjust and prepare?

For me, I got “CAPS” certified through the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) to be a “Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist”, to be educated in the specific housing and design needs of this bulging population demographic. I am passionate about the topic, and I want to share the information and help as many people as I can with this upcoming challenge of the “Silver Tsunami” as they’re calling it. I watched my grandmother go from a masters level bridge player traveling the world, to someone 7″ shorter, laying in a hospital bed in her living room with 24 hour care, that didn’t know her husband’s (my grandfather’s) name or who he was. Their house was broken, as almost all are. Their split-level house had the laundry downstairs, and the bedrooms and bathrooms with bathing upstairs. She couldn’t get to either as she deteriorated from osteoporosis and alzheimer’s disease.

Except for the 50’s era “ranch style” house (still up a step or two for crawlspace ventilation) there wasn’t any home that really considers accessibility in the design and layout of the home. “Master on the main floor” wasn’t a concept phrase in our industry until about 2003. So we have 90+ years worth of housing currently standing, that is broken in their relationship to the largest growth percentage of our population over the next 30 years.

I know what I’m doing to plan and prepare for it. What are you doing – personally, professionally, financially – to be aware, prepare, and PLAN AHEAD for what’s coming? Please, be pro-active. Plan ahead. Once they fall, you’re already TOO LATE to make timely preparations to have them return home, where 90% of those polled want to stay and live. Work in preparation, not in a PANIC.

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2 thoughts on “Once you fall, it’s TOO LATE to “plan” for Aging-In-Place
  • Excellent points here Aaron. Why is it we wait until there is an emergency to think or deal with home issues? I even see it with my parents who ARE seniors! My 86 year old father refuses to let me pick up the throw rugs in their hallway- he is convinced they need to remain right where they are to protect the floor. Thanks for taking the time to bring these issues to the forefront.

    • admin says:

      Hi Alesha,
      Happy to share, I think it’s important. I watched my grandmother (while I was in college) go through the many phases of osteo-arthritis and alzhiemers in their 70’s split level home, with the laundry room downstairs and all the bedrooms and full bathrooms upstairs. The house was BROKEN for the age group and their changing levels of ability. It was frustrating to watch then, and it’s stuck with me and is part of my passion and inspiration to start speaking on “Aging In Place” regularly, to get the message out before it’s TOO LATE. Thanks for paying attention, and for caring about your folks enough to be out educating yourself and others as well! Keep up the good work. Thank you.

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