“Aging in place” refers to living where you have lived for years, typically not in a health care environment, using products, services, and conveniences which allow you to remain home as circumstances change. In other words, you continue to live in the home of your choice safely and independently as you get older.
The aging in place and green movement are two seemingly unrelated concepts that are on the rise; and potentially mutually supportive.
Long Island Green Aging in Place: 4 Components
Aging in place and green construction-remodeling are two mega-trends for the 21st century which act synergistically to help older adults remain independent and healthy while supporting the environment. The 4 components of green aging in place are; Green Strategies, Universal Design, Assistive Technologies, and Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TND):
#1 Green strategies for the home generally consist of 5 elements
1. Environmentally friendly construction- Using renewable materials and recycled content, as well as home design/orientation that takes advantage of natural light.
2. Energy saving- Use of energy-efficient bulbs, appliances, windows, and water heating systems with ENERGY STAR ratings.
3. Water conservation- Replacing old (or buying new), faucets, showerheads, and toilets with low-flow fixtures, tankless water heaters, low-volume irrigation systems, rain water collection systems, and hot water recirculation systems.
4. Healthy indoor quality- Use of low-VOC paints, finishes, and wall papers, heating & AC ventilation systems sized for efficient and properly vented home, bathroom-kitchen fans to cycle fresh air.
5. Outside the house- Preserving trees and other native vegetation, landscaping with plants appropriate for the climate-and grouping according to water needs, limit solid surfaces like concrete in exchange for permeable surfaces life gravel whenever possible.
#2 Universal Design
Universal design is the creation of environments and products which are meant to usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialization.
Universal design is the legacy of the late Ron Mace, FAIA, and founder of The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. His vision of a world accessible to everyone regardless of abilities is realized through a set of 7 design principles:
1. Equitable Use – The design does not disadvantage or stigmatize any group of users and is marketable to people with diverse abilities.
2. Flexibility in Use – The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences (i.e., L/R handed) and abilities; provides choice in methods of use.
3. Simple and Intuitive Use – Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level; eliminates unnecessary complexity.
4. Perceptible Information – The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities; uses pictures, audible, or tactical methods.
5. Tolerance for Error – The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended fatigue; elements most used should be most accessible, or fail-safe features included.
6. Low Physical Effort – The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
7. Appropriate Size and Space – The appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use, regardless of the user’s body size, posture, or mobility.
Universal Design ranges from the built environment (i.e., ramps & rails) to personal items (i.e., OXO utensils).
#3 Assistive Technologies
Computerized ubiquitous monitoring systems (“tele”); as well as other assistive devices which facilitate aging in place. Telemonitoring systems use a recorded voice which greets the senior in the comfort of their own home environment and instructs them to automatically take readings for blood pressure, pulse, oxygen level, weight, temperature and even blood glucose measurements. These vital signs are crucial in monitoring patient’s health conditions. The information is then sent to nurses and doctors to evaluate
(saves car trips to the office or hospital).
#4. Traditional Neighborhood Developments
Neo-traditional neighborhoods, or what have been termed “Traditional Neighborhood Developments,” are another piece of the green aging in place puzzle. A TND contains some of the following elements:
-Town centers and shops within walking distance
-Housing of different types to accommodate families of varying sizes/circumstances
-Porches on homes
-Narrow pedestrian-friendly streets
-Locations on transit/bus lines
-Mix-use (commerce & residential)
TNDs are an alternative to urban sprawl and auto dependency. This preserves country side and farm land while decreasing suburban-isolation of older adults aging in place.
Aging in place is green and supports sustainability by remodeling verses tearing down to rebuild. Further, green includes living in a healthy environment which is essential as older adults face increasing infirmities.
The blending of aging in place with green elements, universal design, assistive technologies, and traditional neighborhood developments, results in homes (and neighborhoods) which are safer, healthier, beautiful, comfortable, more valuable, and support the environment.
“The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.”
-Native American Proverb
Aging in place & Green are here to stay.
Patrick J. Roden RN PhD is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist with three decades of experience caring for the elderly. He lives in Vancouver, Washington, and his web site is aginginplace.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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