Aging in place

0712_retirement_2Mike Pope recently received two calls from Hilton Head Plantation residents looking to remodel their bathrooms. Both wanted to extend their stay in their homes, seeking a way to age in place, a movement that has increasingly gained popularity with retirees as a way to maintain independence longer in a safe and comfortable manner.

The average cost for nursing home care is more than $50,000 a year and climbing, according to the AARP.
Pope, who is a Hilton Head remodeling contractor, put the estimate higher and said many of his clients prefer to stay in their own homes and remodeling is one way to do just that. It’s also a one-time cost versus a monthly fee that can rapidly deplete a person’s assets, he said.
That cost difference is just part of why people are staying where they are, according to Ashley Feaster of the Hilton Head Home Builder’s Association.
“Aging in place has been a huge initiative the last 10 years,” she said. “Most of the people who move here for their retirement will purchase the last home that they will live in and they want that house to last. That might include having a home that is handicap-accessible, or perhaps that has doorknobs that are low enough to reach or maybe completely doing away with stairs.”
Pope added to the list: Wider doorways, nonskid flooring, zero-base showers that allow for someone to walk or roll into and lower vanities are all additions and improvements helping people live at home longer.
“Dignity is very important and being able to bathe and take care of yourself is a big part of that,” Pope said.
Feaster said aging in place is more than just physical accommodations though, it can include your surrounding community.
A symposium that in-part touched on aging in place was held June 12 at the Sea Pines Community Center.
Organized by the Lowcountry Senior Services Association, an informal referral group comprised of both local businesses and nonprofits, the symposium focused on senior living, a subject whose importance is only expected to grow, evolve, and expand in coming years.
In 2010, according to the most recent census, South Carolina had 914,000 seniors. That number is expected to double by 2030. Nationwide, there are expected to be 6.6 million Americans age 85 or older by 2030, statistics show.
Pope was among the panel members, and so was Debbie Morris, co-owner of Home Helpers of the Lowcountry, an in-home care agency that provides help with such tasks as bathing, dressing, light housekeeping, cooking, or running errands.
“The ability to maintain independence longer has really grown in recent years with supportive technologies, services, community and family support,” Morris said.
Personal emergency response systems and automated pill dispensers are just a few of the things that help seniors maintain their independence, she said. 
“Aging in place has really become a cultural phenomenon, and it’s our responsibility as we age to assess what we really need,” Morris said. “Whether you live in your own home, an apartment, or you decide an assisted living community is right for you, or something in between, aging in place is about being the master of your own destiny.”