Read about AARP’s BankSafe program in the Colorado Banker, and learn more about how you can get involved in the State of Colorado to help protect our seniors from financial fraud and exploitation!
It may take a village to raise a child, but what does it take to make sure that we maintain a high quality of life as we age? Across the country, hundreds of communities have enthusiastically stood up and declared that they have the capacity and willingness to extend the idea of a caring village to vulnerable community members not just in their earliest days, but in their later days as well. However, unlike children, older adults give invaluable insight on what kind of help they need to live their best life. That is the beauty of the village movement. With a member-focused approach, neighbors can come together and provide the right kind of support for community members. This means they can age in their community with dignity, meaning, and belonging.
We all need a home
In survey after survey, seniors indicate that they want to stay in their homes for as long as physically possible. That preference makes sense because humans thrive in community. Why would we want to live out the end of our lives separated from the networks we have spent our whole lives constructing? That is a core problem with the modern conception of senior living. We think that our elders will be happier if they are in assisted living because they will be safer or that moving into a home closer to family would be infinitely better than staying where they have been for years. “Home” is so much more than a place to live. “Home” is built from the network of relationships and memories that surround and connect us to our community.
Growing older and growing community
As we grow older, our social circles grow smaller, our commitments less time consuming, and our days quieter. Those are natural changes that come with a long life. However, it is easy to become isolated as it becomes more difficult to leave home to participate in the social and physical activates that were once easy and integral parts of daily life.
Being part of a village can be an opportunity to maintain an active, social lifestyle to whatever extent you desire as well as get a little bit of help when you need it. The natural byproduct of taking advantage of these opportunities is the strengthening of both old and new connections. You can call and ask for some help getting to the grocery store and end up strolling and chatting with a new friend as you browse through the produce. How wonderful is it to know that you have people that care for you and are also part of a network that can care for others as well? This is the village concept.
“I’m not there yet”
When discussing the village concept this is the typical response: “That is a great idea, but I don’t think I need that just yet.” It is important to ask this question in response: how do you ensure that it will be there for you when you do need it? Networks of care take investment because building relationships takes time. Investing time and other resources into the care of vulnerable community members means that you are building a precedent that will be strongly established when you are “that age” as well.
What if we could make the Village idea a mainstream concept and a completely viable option for everyone as they age? We think it is a real possibility here in Colorado Springs. While looking to the models of successful villages across the country we are getting started in the Old North End Neighborhood and already have a handful of members as well as trained volunteers.
Interested in learning more? Call Nancy, the Program Coordinator for the ONEN iVillage at 719-332-5528 or send an e-mail to Nj.email@example.com
A new Advisor on Aging for the Governor
This month, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynn announced the new position of a Senior Advisor on Aging in the Governor’s Office. The creation of this position was the first of nine key recommendations made by the Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging (which includes our Executive Director, Claire Anderson) in November 2016. This group was established for actions to be taken to address a sizeable demographic shift that will see Colorado’s population aged 65 and over rise by more than 508,000 — an increase of 68 percent — by 2030. This will result in more than 1.2 million residents in this age group, nearly one out of every five Coloradans. Recognizing the need to have vision and oversight over an issue that will cross sectors and policy areas, the Planning Group prioritized a governor’s office position as the first of its nine recommendations. Support for the position was provided by The NextFifty Initiative, which will fund the position for three years.
“We are pleased that the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and The NextFifty Initiative took action to address the first recommendation of the action plan we approved just 10 months ago,” says Jim Riesberg, chair of the Planning Group. “Having a government office at a high level is critical to shine light on the issues that are important to address Colorado’s changing demographics.”
The Planning Group, created by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor in 2015, is charged with examining the impact of the shifting aging demographic on the economy, workforce, businesses, state and local revenue budgets and fiscal policies, family caregiving and public and private options for long-term care, services and support and several other issues.
The November action plan called for the Governor to “create a permanent, high-level office or position within the executive branch to be accountable for and lead the state government’s work on aging issues.” It further recommended the office to set consistent statewide policy priorities, coordinate the aging-related work of state agencies and workgroups, identify gaps and unmet needs, drive public education efforts concerning the effects of aging in Colorado, and to collect, analyze, and share data across agencies to improve decision-making related to workforce development and participation, health and wellness, and other key areas related to aging policy.
According to Chairman Riesberg, the Planning Group will continue to push its other recommendations, which, in part includes:
- Providing an in-depth assessment of the demographic changes that will affect our state workforce, economy, budget, and public sectors serving the aging;
- Investing in research and data to determine system gaps and barriers by studying health, caregivers, jobs, retirement savings, transportation, housing, and the work of individual Colorado communities to meet the growing needs;
- Building public awareness about the impact of the potential crisis on Colorado families;
- Protecting seniors from abuse, neglect, exploitation, fraud and crime; and
- Mapping unforeseen vulnerabilities, such as changes in federally allocated program dollars, health care coverage, and state budget restrictions.
The Planning Group continues to work on a requested update of the strategic plan scheduled for release in 2018, while also focusing on implementation around the state to help realize all nine recommendations. The Planning Group meets on the second Monday of each month, from noon until 3 pm at 1290 Broadway, First Floor Independence Pass Conference Room, in Denver. Coloradans are welcome to attend, or may participate by conference call, 515-739-1034 and use the access code: 216470#
Sharing in the digital age
In the digital age, we share so much more of our personal lives with one another than was typical or even acceptable in the past. Whether it is a direct effect of the shrinking space between us or the rise of the ever-revolutionary baby boomers (10,000 of which turn 65 every day), a major shift is occurring in how we approach the conversation around living life well to the very end. Increasingly, people are disregarding the norms of silence and the avoidance of uncomfortable conversation in favor of the catharsis and healing that comes from tactfully exposing and honoring the truth. As humans, we will inevitably die, but we do have a choice in how we structure our lives to live in the best possible way to the very end.
A different approach
In a conversation with Elizabeth Alexander, author of the memoir The Light of the World, Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal, discusses the hundreds of interviews that he conducted for his book saying, “In the process of talking about dying and even talking about a good death, they were really talking about living and the fact that people got to live all the way to the very end.” Atul Gawanade is perhaps the most famous advocate for the thorough discussion of what truly matters to people as they approach the end of their lives and allowing that to be the guide in their care even when it contrasts the cultural norm of doing everything and anything to avoid danger or death. Through thoughtful and honest conversation, we can ascertain the needs and desires of ourselves and our family members which allows us to more effectively achieve the life we want and help others do the same.
For the whole conversation between Atul Gawande and Elizabeth Alexander, here is the recording from the New York Public Library.
Here is a collection of some of our favorite resources for stimulating conversation around life and death.
The Conversation Project provides free guides in several languages to help you through each step of figuring out what really matters to your loved ones in end-of-life care.
Death Over Dinner helps you plan a dinner for a variety of potential groups to gather and transform the difficult conversation into a substantial experience of insight and empowerment.
Death Cafe connects discussion groups around the world that gather to drink tea, eat cake, and discuss death.
By MARGARET M. GILBERT, AIA
Where we live and how we live can have a profound effect on our health and happiness as we age.
There are a multitude of questions to ask when making the decision of Aging in Place. What does aging in place mean? Aging: “to become old” and place: “the particular portion of space occupied by or allocated to a person…” (The American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd addition)
Yet Aging in Place is more than just the definition. Do you want to stay in your current home, move to a new home, or move in with family? It is best to think about how to spend those “Golden Years” earlier rather than later. This article focuses on the physical elements of place common to building an accessible new home that allows aging to be safe and happy. Friends living in their current home have said “I wish I had added features to grow old in this home.” Neighbors who have just moved into a new home have said “I wish I had thought of elements helpful to growing older.” In my thirty-five years of experience practicing architecture in the housing and the healthcare fields, I’ve seen how individuals interact with their environment as they grow older and their needs change and have designed solutions to meet those specific needs.
Where is place for you? The home that you moved into to raise your children? The downsized new home where there is less house and yard to take care of? The neighborhood where you know everyone on the block? The new neighborhood where there are activities, amenities and people who want to be active like you? An article from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development reported “A 2010 AARP survey found that 88% of respondents over age 65 wanted to remain in their homes for as long as possible and 92% said they wanted to remain in their communities.” (HUD.gov, Aging in Place: Facilitating Choice and Independence, Fall 2013)
Some common design improvements for older adults relate to balance and strength, reaching and bending, stiff joints, and using a cane, crutches or walker. A design professional’s assistance helps with safety and access concerns that are important. The designer will ask questions of the homeowner about their needs and suggest elements that provide the most comprehensive approach to growing old gracefully in a new home. A 2008 study found that “Since half of falls happen at home, keeping paths free of clutter and well lit goes a long way toward reducing the potential for devastating falls…” (“The Hidden Dangers of Falling” by gerencherk, June 23, 2008)
The two areas of concentration are discussed: 1. the bathroom and 2. storage. The bathroom presents a multitude of safety issues related to balance (falls) and strength (moving from a seated to standing position). The various storage areas of a home provide focus to access, reaching and bending.
Truisms and statistics
- Every bar is a grab bar.
- Floors get wet.
- Rugs move.
- Tripping can occur with as little as 1 inch of height change.
- “About 35% of people over age 65 fall in their homes at least once a year. That figure increases to 50% for those ages 75 and over.” (Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Feb 2009)
- Every bar in the bathroom; towel bar, toilet roll dispenser, slider for hand-held shower wand or even a hook should be firmly anchored to reinforcement in the wall. Horizontal and vertical grab bars should be firmly anchored to reinforcement in the wall and placed in the following locations: the wall at the side and back of the toilet, the control end and side wall of a tub, and the three walls of a shower. A tubular grab bar should have an outside diameter between one and one-quarter to two inches and a length depending on location. (Adapted from Chapter 6, ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003)
- A vanity cabinet with a sink, the faucets and storage in the cabinet present reaching, bending, strength and safety issues. Place the sink off-center from the cabinet allows for workspace and a place to set-down toiletries. Faucet handles are difficult to use when hand strength lessens or arthritis affects joints. Faucets with a lever style control are easier to use when gripping is a challenge. A hands-free faucet that turns the water on and off at a pre-set temperature is another possibility. A hands-free faucet requires a power outlet. A power outlet inside the cabinet allows grooming appliances to be out of sight and not take space on the countertop when not in use.
- When a shower is chosen in lieu of a tub, a trench drain between the shower pan and the bathroom floor is recommended. This type of drain provides a smooth transition into the shower to avoid tripping and allows a walker to roll in. To maintain safety and aid with balance the shower needs a sturdy seat. The design of a built in seat should allow water to run off. A decline of one-eighth inch per foot will suffice. There are also many sturdy portable seats available. Shower dimensions of thirty inches deep by sixty inches wide match the space needed for a standard bathtub or the new walk-in tubs. If shower or walk-in tub modifications are planned for later the shower pan should be located to accommodate the location of the future tub drain. A shower with a low threshold and an offset drain can also replace a standard bathtub.
- Toilet clearances should be sixty inches wide and fifty-six inches front to back. From an adjacent wall, the centerline of a toilet should be no more than nineteen inches nor closer than seventeen inches. The height to the top of the toilet seat should be between seventeen inches and nineteen inches. This height has been found to make sitting and getting up from the toilet easier. (Adapted from portions of Chapter 6, ICC/ANSI A117.1-2003) These clearances allow another person to aid an aging adult in sitting down and getting up from the toilet and provide adequate room for a walking aid to be placed at their side.
The potential for accidents or injury in the bathroom are many. Slipping and falling, grabbing something that is handy but not securely fastened to the wall, burning your hands or body on water that is too hot or difficulty maneuvering in a bathroom even if you are young and on crutches are just a few of the accidents that frequently occur in a bathroom. There are varied design solutions for a bathroom that are aesthetically pleasing, not age specific and function well.
Truisms and statistics
- There is never enough storage.
- “I can reach that with my stool.” (from a seventy-plus-year-old, five-foot, four-inch tall woman)
- “Among older people, men are more likely to die from a fall but women are more than twice as likely to suffer a fracture-especially a hip fracture which often results in long-term impairment and nursing home admission.” (Harvard Healthbeat, Oct 28, 2008)
- Not all stools are created equal.
- The best design of storage, cabinets, closets, and shelves eliminates bending and reaching and does not require a stool to access every day needs. A person’s vertical reach is proportional to their height. A five-foot, four-inch tall woman can normally reach the top edge of a refrigerator (approximately six feet tall) but not the items in the cabinet above without the aid of a stool. A safe stool or ladder will not require the user to stand on the top step and has a vertical extension beyond the top step to hold onto.
- Storage should be designed to include an easy reach into a shelf, drawer or cabinet. The target range for every day storage (dishes, food stuffs, cooking pots and pans) in cabinets or a pantry is between twenty-four inches and seventy-two inches above the floor. Reaching for these items does not require bending down or climbing on a stool. When this storage is limited to this forty-eight inch range the storage depth should be increased so as not to lose storage space. Pull-out shelves and drawers inside a cabinet that are twenty-four inches deep and eye level fixed shelves that are sixteen inch deep allow visibility to the back of the shelves and drawers.
- The key to storage, whether it is a closet, pantry, kitchen or bath cabinet, or in the garage is the flexibility to customize to the individual needs of the homeowner and easily reconfigure. Ideally the design reflects a mix of full height storage with countertops in the kitchen and bath, folding space in the laundry and shelving that is unobstructed by a counter, washer/dryer or appliances.
Focusing on the bathroom and storage makes a real difference a safe place to live and maintain mobility. How to solve these concerns will depend on the physical elements or constraints of the design of the home.
In any setting; moving to a new home, staying in your existing home, or moving in with family, the goal for Aging in Place is the ability to remain in the home of your choice. Having control over the choices in housing is important to the health and well-being of any adult growing older.
The goal of Aging in Place is to take away the danger of living in the home of your choice not take away the home.
(Editor’s Note: Margaret Gilbert has practiced architecture for more than 35 years in the specialties of healthcare facility design and housing. She resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado.)
One year ago, on March 8th 2016, Colorado Springs officially joined the Network of Age Friendly Communities! This day, marking our commitment to becoming a city that welcomes and supports people of all ages, was just the beginning.
Here’s a look back at that day as we accepted our certification:
In the last year we have made so much progress toward building a safer, healthier, and happier community for our residents, whether they are eight or eighty. Here are a few of our accomplishments:
Our City is more Age Friendly than it was a year ago, but we still have a lot of work to do. Thank you so much for your support so far- we couldn’t have done it without you! We look forward to working with you more as we implement the rest of the Age Friendly Action Plan!