By Michelle Seitzer
Life is not lived strictly inside the four walls of your home, so a decision to age in place involves a careful, thoughtful look at every aspect of daily living, from current health needs to anticipated future ones, transportation status, home maintenance responsibilities, and more.
Before you decide where you'd install a wheelchair ramp, determining age-in-place readiness starts with a thorough evaluation of the person (or couple) who wants to stay. And sometimes, staying put is not the best move.
These conversations are the foundation on which Dr. Jill Bjerke built the Silver Spaces app—an assessment tool designed to evaluate the safety and security of a person's home as they grow older. A certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Owner/President of Cut the Clutter Company and Aging in Place With Grace, Dr. Bjerke stresses the importance of knowing the person's history and unique needs by completing the app's Resident Questionnaire before working through the room-by-room interior/exterior checklist.
"Can my husband continue to maintain the home? Will I need oxygen? How will I get to the doctor if I have to give up driving? Can I afford to pay higher property taxes in the future? Can I reach items in my kitchen cabinets if I lose mobility or have balance/gait issues?" These are among the questions Dr. Bjerke encourages families to ask and answer—particularly for those in rural areas where access to transportation or medical care can be especially challenging—before spending time, effort, and financial resources on home modifications.
"It's not [just] a decision, but a decision process," says Dr. Bjerke.
The Silver Spaces app is currently being used in 10 different countries by professionals and family caregivers alike. But to better meet the needs of its global audience, the app is undergoing changes to its features and functionality.
Dr. Bjerke is excited for the next stage of Silver Spaces as it reaches further to accomplish her mission: "Timing for this app couldn't be more perfect as the tsunami of adults try to find the most appropriate housing as they age," she says. "This app fills a huge void and has created a specific niche in providing a sound, reliable evaluation tool that will assist individuals, families, caregivers and professionals cover all aspects of aging in place, of which safety and security are primary."
For more advice on starting positive, productive aging in place discussions with older family members and friends, read our recent post, Changing the Conversation About Aging in Place.
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