Aging in the Wrong Place

aging in place

Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen.

~ Amy Winehouse


Aging in Place

I have been a nurse since 1985 (25 years in acute/coronary/trauma/Neuro ICU, and post-surgical recovery currently). As well as a nursing home aide before that while I was earning my undergraduate degree. This kind of life experience is hard-hitting reality and you either learn coping mechanisms–or you find some other line of work.

I have been in the arena, not theoretically, but in the flesh, working with all kinds of people in all kinds of scenarios (many unimaginable by the general public). I mention this because I also have invested many years in educational pursuits in the field of aging (gerontology) studying theory. So, I feel uniquely qualified to speak to the notion of “aging in the right place” vs. “aging in place.” I have some hands-on experience working with older adults and extensive theoretical scaffolding built over decades researching theories. One foot on the ground, one foot in the clouds, if you will.

Aging in Place by the Numbers

When I read about “aging in the right place” the theoretical me thinks it’s pretty to think so (thank you Earnest Hemmingway). Wouldn’t it be lovely if everyone could pull up stakes, leave their un-age-friendly homes and neighborhoods just before the fall (real and theoretical). With perfect pre-planning and timing, they all escape to sunny greener pastures of 20-minute neighborhoods that are safe, walkable, well lighted, green spaces, shopping, entertainment, no crime, universal design environments with health clubs and Starbucks on the corner.

As FORBES Health describes: (having all your ducks in an aging-in-place-row)

Aging in place successfully requires careful planning, and oftentimes, a caregiver, social support system and consideration of potential future health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes and cognitive decline.

Wouldn’t it be lovely, making the future a part of one’s current philosophy with careful planning.  Setting up a social support network ahead of time, caregivers (formal and informal), getting into accessible built environment remodeling before needing it, and having the savings to afford moving or modifications.

Yes, living independently in the perfect setting (the right place) into the sunset…

Those Pesky Reality Numbers

As many as 77% of people aged 50 and older want to stay in their own home as they age, but only 49% think that they will be able to do so, according to AARP. This is an often-cited number, other data sources report even higher numbers. For example, a U.S. News and World Report Aging in Place Technology Survey stated:

Although the majority of survey respondents (93%) say aging in place is an important goal for them, 59% feel their home is at least somewhat ready, and only 19% feel that their current home setup is completely prepared for the years ahead. Meanwhile, 41% feel their current setup is minimally ready to not ready at all because their home is lacking components such as no-step entry, a voice- or remote-controlled thermostat, virtual assistant devices, and/or height-adjustable products.

Yet, In an FORBES Health online article recently these statistics were Provided:

The Number of Homes Suitable for Aging-in-Place

  • A 2020 report by the U.S. Census Bureau estimates only 10% of American homes are “aging ready,” meaning they feature a step-free entryway, a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor and at least one bathroom accessibility feature.
  • One-third of all poll participants in a 2021 AARP survey said modifications would be necessary in their current residence so they or a loved one could continue to live there should physical limitations occur.
  • 79% said bathroom modifications like grab bars or no-step showers would be necessary, 71% noted indoor and outdoor accessibility issues, 61% said they would need an emergency response system and 48% said they would need smart-home devices, such as a voice-activated home assistant or a doorbell camera.
  • Aging-in-place home modifications can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000.

This has always been the aging-in-place paradox, the majority of older adults say they overwhelmingly favor aging in place—but very few are doing anything about it. This is the REALTIY of the situation. Further, nearly half of baby boomers have no retirement savings—which equates to limited options for running off to the “right” place.


So, the aging in place Paradox is real—at least these are the folks I am in contact with. They don’t preplan, they do have multiple chronic conditions, they have very limited savings, living in homes that require home modifications they desperately need.

So often none of this is addressed until the adult children get “the call” that mom fell—and now the crisis-buy of aging in place is set in motion. Few are prepared, few know where to access help, few can afford it. I know this because I have been answering questions for individuals in this situation from my website for decades now.

Bottom-line is not everyone can experience aging in the right place, for those who can I’m delighted for them, and I Hope their ranks grow. But my in-the-trenches experience tells me the inescapable realities. I’ve had to work where people are, in crisis, needing help like a drowning person needs oxygen.

This is where the challenge lies, working where folks are—not where they theoretically should be. I’m all for that “right” place, but in the meantime so many will be aging in less an optimal place (especially minorities for historical social systems reasons), and that’s where the vast majority of the help will be required.

Like Amy once said, Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen. Don’t let it happen to you…


Census Bureau: ‘Aging-ready homes’ may be in short supply

Aging in Place With Assistive Technology

Here are some forward-thinking individuals working to be part of the solution: NUUAGE CoLiving  Budget Friendly Shared Housing for Older Adults

Author Note: I never use the term “Independent” or “Independently” concerning aging in place. The correct term is “Inter-dependently” because It is not optimized alone (from personal Informal care experience with my own family members I know this to be a hard earned fact).

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