‘Aging in place’ offers benefits for aging population and for job-seekers

By Peggy Novotny

East Carolina University researchers are calling for more awareness and more dedicated professionals who will develop options to allow aging Americans to spend their later years in their own homes.

In the article, “Innovative and Complementary Approaches to Aging in Place,” published in the Journal of Family and Consumer sciences, the researchers recommend “aging in place,” as opposed to aging in a long-term care facility.

“There are both health and financial benefits in having older adults age in their own homes,” said author Sharon Ballard, a professor in ECU’s Department of Child  Development and Family Relations.

Ballard, along with NSCU researchers and ECU faculty Carol Jenkins (Social Work), N. Yaprak Savut (Interior Design and Merchandising), Hunt McKinnon (Interior Design and Merchandising), Sylvia Escott-Stump (Nutrition Science) and Katherine Carroll (Interior Design and Merchandising), discuss the need for options that promote aging in place as a viable choice. The authors call for a holistic or ecosystem approach to care management that may help make it possible for older adults to stay in their homes. The approach would include modifications to living spaces, safe and healthy eating and innovative clothing design.

The authors also cite a growing need for care management professionals who possess a broad range of knowledge in human growth and development, housing and design, nutrition and exercise, clothing, family resources management and family dynamics.

These skill sets are a good fit for family and consumer sciences professionals and professionals in the family life education field, the authors noted. They called for greater visibility of these professions and their certifications relative to the field of gerontology.

“Family and consumer sciences professionals and family life educators have the right education to take the lead in a movement toward successful aging in place,” Ballard said.

Growth in the professions related to aging in place is critical because the population is aging rapidly. By the year 2050, the number of Americans 85 and older will be five times higher than it is today, the authors said. This could lead to shortages of services for aging adults who need care.

“Educational institutions, including our own, need to be sure they are telling people about these professions and the opportunities they provide,” Ballard said.

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To obtain a pdf version of the article, contact Peggy Novotny at novotnym@ecu.edu. For additional information about the research, contact Sharon Ballard at ballards@ecu.edu or Carol Jenkins at jenkinsca@ecu.edu.