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Collaborations to Make Aging in Place Possible 

Aging in place refers to an older adult’s desire to stay in their own home or community as they grow older. However, a number of issues associated with growing older make it difficult for many senior adults to age in place. Organizations in Buncombe and Forsyth counties collaborate to make it possible for more senior adults to age in place.  

The Problem 

Thanks to advances in medical technologies and the “baby boom” of the 1940s and 1950s, there are more adults over the age of 65 than ever before. This number, currently 54.1 million, is expected to continue growing in the future, topping 80 million by 2040. Such a growing population comes with a myriad of challenges, but one of the most prominent is their desire to age in place. Aging in place refers to an older adult’s desire to stay in their own home or community as they grow older. However, a number of issues associated with growing older make it difficult for many senior adults to age in place.  

 For one, they may not have access to the medical care and treatments they will need. This problem is acute in rural areas located away from medical centers that can offer specialized care. Moreover, aging in place in a home they lived in for decades may not be an option due to its size or architecture. Upstairs bedrooms can cause challenges for senior adults who have mobility issues. Larger homes may represent too much maintenance and property taxes for a senior adult to manage. With a majority of adults over age 50 saying they would prefer to remain in their homes or communities as they age, solutions are needed to help them live healthy, safe, and enriching lives. 


The Solution  

Like many others, senior adults struggle to find affordable homes where they want to live. For this reason, they may live in housing that poses danger for them, such as a location that require climbing multiple flights of stairs. These environments are both physically dangerous and unsustainable as senior adults continue to age.  

 One solution, from the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, involves building townhomes specifically designed for seniors to age in place. These townhomes contain built-in features designed to make living easier and safer for seniors, like walk-in showers fitted with seats. Architecture, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. The townhomes are part of a larger neighborhood in west Asheville that features 98 households with residents of diverse backgrounds and ages. Prior to moving into the New Heights neighborhood, residents become acquainted through various classes and working on homes together, strengthening social relationships that are vital for seniors living on their own. 


The Players 

In many communities, providing care and services for older adults is a collaborative effort. Forsyth County is no exception. Senior Services, Inc., is the primary organization responsible for programming and assistance for older adults in the county. Representing a collaboration between many different partner organizations, Senior Services offers a number of resources for improving the quality of life for older adults, including Meals-on-Wheels, the Elizabeth and Tab Williams Adult Day Center, and Living-at-Home.  

 Another recent program, born out of the Age Friendly Forsyth Coalition, seeks to give seniors an opportunity to socialize with others. Kindermusik, a program typically designed to help young children develop social and motor skills by learning about musical concepts, involves older adults and gives them a chance to socialize and enjoy the activities. Classes became available at the Adult Day Center after Kindermusik teachers noticed how older adults with cognitive decline lit up and became active playing music and instruments like the children. Now, these older adults are in the room with the children, helping to teach the classes and enjoy themselves. This community-based approach helps prevent seniors from suffering from the loneliness and isolation that typically comes from living alone, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


The Promise 

Many other groups collaborate with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity to provide better infrastructure for seniors to age in place. Asheville Housing Options for Aging in Place is a working group that convenes several organizations in the community with the shared goal of enabling seniors to age in place. Targeting materials about aging in place to adults in their 30s and 40s helps bring the issue to their attention. As they look to buy a home, organizers hope they will consider the needs of their older selves and prepare for when they grow older. One example of doing so is purchasing a home with a bedroom on the main floor, so the person can live on one-level when climbing stairs becomes too much of a challenge.  

 Another organization involved with the working group is the Institute for Preventative Healthcare and Advocacy. They work to develop a community nursing model in Buncombe County. Many seniors rely on community support to help them age in place and making sure their healthcare needs are covered is vital to helping them to remain in place safely.  

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