There is No Place Like Home

What is the definition of “home”?  Well, in most dictionaries home is where you live at a particular time, a dwelling, an environment offering affection, safety and security, a haven.  But it also goes beyond the confines of four walls and a roof over our heads.  Home is also used in a broader sense relating to or being where one lives or where one’s roots are; as in “my home town,” a place where something began and flourished and even possibly the country or state or city where you live.  So when we talk about Aging-in-Place, eventually we need to also address the importance and impacts of the built environments beyond our houses.  We need to evaluate if our neighborhoods and communities will enable successful aging and livability; You see, “our homes” contribute to the basis of our individual and common identities. They hold our memories and they give us a sense of place.

The year 2011 is seen by many as the beginning of the “Changing Face of Aging” in America.  It is when the first wave of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) will start to turn 65; that is less than 2 years from now! How well will our communities as they are currently configured deal with this paradigm shift based on age? Their ability to adapt to the changing needs of an aging nation should factor into every planning decision that the community is considering.  How projects, developments and urban planning might impact older active adults can no longer be an afterthought if our communities are to retain their appeal and remain not only habitable but also profitable in every meaning of the word.

AARP has done extensive research on the baby boomers in recent years and has found that “Boomers” are:

  • More ethnically diverse than prior generations.
  • Tend to be more highly educated than prior generations.
  • Do not plan to retire  in the traditional sense.
  • Plan to continue to work during their “retirement years.”
  • Live in the same State…a state of denial!
  • Wanting to remain in their own homes as they age or as long as possible.

In fact when asked where they want to live as they age, 90 percent of Boomers say, “in my home.”  They do not want to live with relatives, in a nursing home, or at an assisted care facility. They want to live at home independently and without loss of comfort, security and the freedom to continue to engage in community life.

But given the nature and configuration of most communities across the United States, can Boomers realize those expectations?

Unfortunately most of the country, if not the world, is likely to find itself unprepared for the coming tidal wave of Boomers known as the Silver Tsunami. As we look ahead, we find that the 65+ population is projected to grow faster than the population at-large in all 50 states, with some states finding themselves in the challenging situation of having more Medicare-eligible seniors than school-age children. It is expected too that this population will double over the next 30 years, to over 70 million; a third of America’s current population!

As you can imagine, these age-based population changes will come with many challenges including how to make our communities more “livable.”

Often people, local governments and even States don’t think about this until they suddenly find themselves trapped in towns with poor public transportation and not enough medical services. Simple services like grocery or drug stores, may become too hard to reach without the help of a neighbor or friend – especially as seniors give up their driver’s licenses for safety reasons.  Even walking, if there are no sidewalks, become a major challenge. Without addressing some of these basics we risk ending up with an aging population prone to isolation, social disconnect and despair.

What are Livable Communities?

In AARP’s study, A Report to the Nation on Livable Communities: Creating Environments for Successful Aging, livable communities are defined as those with “affordable and appropriate housing, supportive community features and services, and adequate mobility options, which together facilitate personal independence and the engagement of residents in civic and social life.”

Livability under those parameters means asking questions such as, does your home town have one-story dwellings? Or are most homes built to accommodate the raising of families? Is there a Visit-ability initiative in place that encourages or insists on no-step entries, sidewalks you can actually walk on, bus stops with benches and overhead shading or shelters, libraries and parks that are easily if not even universally accessible and much more.  Most communities these days find themselves blindsided by the changing needs based on aging and playing catch up or even in some cases don’t even realize what’s hit or about to hit them until it’s too late!

We’re all responsible, as individuals, members of local government, city planners, or simply as voters to think about these issues in the days to come so that we can not only safeguard ourselves but also to increase our chances to age well in the future by making the right decisions now.

Livability is not just an aging and elderly issue.  Striving and insisting on nothing short of livable communities is not an impossible goal and in fact in many ways is the right thing to do to continue to empower people as they age and to prolong their quality of life. Such communities make life more comfortable and convenient for active and able citizens regardless of age as well as those with disabilities.

Yet in order to meet theses most obvious of things we will need a wholesale overhaul in the way we think about our homes and our built environments. After all, embracing the principles of livable communities honors those core foundations of American life: dignity, equality, independence, and the freedom and right to choose….and we will need to start doing so now!

About the Author: Raad Ghantous is the principal of Raad Ghantous & Associates and is an expert in luxury hospitality, wellness centers, and medical & day spa developments.  He is also the owner of Your Home For A Lifetime, an A.D.A/ Barrier-free/ Universal design/Aging in place, full service design/build firm with over 15 years of experience  specializing in developing integrating elegant and seamless designs/modifications to new or existing structures

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  • raad_ghantous (raad_ghantous)

    Raad ‘s new article “There is No Place Like Home” @

  • Brady smucker

    Great article. There are so many aspects of livability that the silver tsunami need to be informed for there own safety. Not just those adds for bathtubs. I constantly say when I doing something at home “don’t hurt yourself”. Let’s meet for crepes and hopefully I can help you. Brady.

  • Brady smucker

    Wrong email.

  • raad_ghantous (raad_ghantous)

    Raad ‘s new article “There is No Place Like Home” @

  • Abbie Sladick (Stylish Safety)

    Thanks for the great article! In the past we have seen that luxury hospitality design has inspired luxury residential design. It is great to see that you are now taking your expertise in hospitality and inspiring Aging in Place residential design.

  • raad_ghantous (raad_ghantous)

    Raad ‘s new article “There is No Place Like Home” >>

  • RaySwatzell (rayswatzell)

    RT @raad_ghantous: Raad ‘s new article “There is No Place Like Home” >>

  • PropertiesUnLTD (Properties Unlimited)

    RT @raad_ghantous: Raad ‘s new article “There is No Place Like Home” >>

  • Joseph Coughlin

    Very good article and summarizes the key characteristics of livability well. Often the focus is on the 'home' alone, but connectivity to activity centers, alternative transportation from walking, biking, transit and alternatives to the car are all part of livability and the vision drawn by many in the 'new urbanism' school of planning.

  • Sailesh Mishra

    Excellent article , we at Silver Inning Foundation promote Aging in Pace

  • anncatlin

    For twenty years I helped elders return to their homes following an illness or disabilty. I never met one who had a desire to live anywhere else. To recognize that older adults want to age in the place they call home is acknowledging an essential human need- a sense of belonging. Our homes are expressions of who we are. I'm glad to know that there is increasing efforts to help us stay home in old age.

  • ryanmalone

    Hi Ann,

    There is a natural attachment to the home that just cannot be replicated in other places. So if you are in a position to be able to take care of yourself, and “home” is surrounded by friends and family, it is a preferred option. The problem is that many folks don't have the luxury of the care and the social outlet to make it be non-isolating. There are a number of alternative care models that seek to keep people at home–PACE being one of them. And much of the legislation is pushing to keep people at home. Combine that with some of the developments in telemedicine and you have some great potential. Thanks for your comment.

  • Eric Schubert

    Livability and aging is so huge. You can start to see communities and states beginning to get that. Minnesota passed a Communities for a Lifetime legislation last year that begins to provide criteria for cities to get such designation. In fact, one of the key legislators on that, Rep. Paul Thissen, is now running for Governor in Minnesota and has made aging one of the key parts of his platform. Communities that empower their residents to age in place should have a competitive advantage over their peers.

    Eric Schubert

  • ryanmalone

    Hi Eric,

    Your team is doing some good work in Minnesota. I am not familiar with Rep. Thissen's platforms, but I know there are many alternative models that involve aging in place. You should read Howard Gleckman's bookCaring for Our Parents. He shares some details of some really interested things with community-based approaches to aging in place. Also, my interview with Chuck Gould of Volunteers of America discusses some of these models.

    It's really interesting so see these different approaches competing and showing results. The winner in the end are the aging Americans and their families.

    Keep up the great work and thanks for visiting.


  • Raad Ghantous

    WOW! 23 comments in 3 months :) I am both humbled and flattered more than I can tell you…I want to express my most heartfelt thanks to each and everyone of you for you supportive and kind words. I have been a little busy this last 60 days ever since I signed up as a volunteer member of a pilot AmeriCorp program called WECARE (Working to Enhance Care and Resources for our Elders) out of California State University Fullerton. I have been assigned to a team that is helping develop new and enhance, via recruitment of drivers, existing transportation programs in Orange County California.

    I have also been busy initializing a community case study and dialog here in San Clemente, CA called “The Livable San Clemente Project” ( more on this later); suffice it to say the City here is undergoing a General Plan updating and I felt it important to add to the public debate of how we consider development, urban planning, zoning etc for the next 20-30 years by filtering the decision we make so that the results also meet the needs of Boomers locally too. I gave a presentation this week to a handful of folks down at the local senior center in fact about how fostering “livable” communities is going to be key in the years to come as more of the national and local population faces changing needs, especially as Baby Boomers continue reaching the age of 65.

    Here in San Clemente we are fortunate to have the beginning of a very solid base of services and resources to help our aging community spend more time living independently and yet there is more to do in the way we design our homes, facilities and community to further positively impact on our citizens’ social, physical, and economic well being and to accommodate these new preferences..ensuring a continuing and enhanced Spanish Village quality of life.

    So, looking back on this article and some of the comments shared here I realize now even more the sever lack of established services out there today that would allow Boomers to age in place. The current services if they are there in a large part are limited in many regions to non-emergency medical trips! Please don't think I am picking on the valiant efforts of Service agencies that work so very hard, stretching every penny they have to even make these types f trips available to seniors its just that we as a nation truly are in need to refresh our approaches and how we look at Active Adults and Seniors and their needs and how we meet them in the years to come….its definitely time for us to start thinking outside the box and get creative and that includes in how we fund the services and amenities needed for incoming Boomers to maintain and enhance their quality of life and independence as long as possible.

    Thanks you all again for such a selfless exchange of your thought and feeling on this so very important of issues we all will be facing either via our parents, family members, friends or even our selves sooner rather than later!

  • Raad Ghantous

    Thank you Brady for sharing your thoughts…one day I will have to share with you all my “feelings” about those tubs!


  • Raad Ghantous

    Indeed Abbie and as especially as we go forward given the demanding nature of Boomers when compared to their parents who are known as the “Silent Generation” for their lack of being demanding

    By the way I have to take a minute and plug Abbie's business ” Great Grabz “. If you have not seen their line of beautiful safety grab bars yet you need to go check them out at

  • Raad Ghantous

    Joe thank you so very much. I am flattered that you would take the time to comment here!

    It is through exposure to the visionary work of pioneers such as your self in this industry that my believe in that we are entering an era of possibilities is strengthened!

  • Raad Ghantous

    Thank you Sailesh…I checked out your foundations website and was very impressed by the ambitious objectives you have undertaken to advocate for Seniors in India and elsewhere. It brought a joyous smile to my face when upon reviewing the composition of your board of directors I realized that none are in fact more than in their mid-40's….just goes to show you how multi-generational and cross cultural these issues we are all facing are and the diversity of the champions it has working on it!

    Keep up the good work :)

  • Raad Ghantous

    Ann You are so right and it is true to say that our homes also have a direct effect on how well we heal or recover as well. In fact a long time expert in the field of medical facility design, Jain Malkin, once commented that there is no doubt that the quality of the environment can enhance or retard healing. When we are faced by changes in our mobility or independence which we have no choice but to face, having the familiar, comforting and soothing sanctuary and haven of our home to do so in only increases our chances to successfully transition, adapt and “heal”.

    Thank you for your comments :)

  • Raad Ghantous

    so true…in fact the mission/vision for 2010 , advocated by many including the Minnesota Board on Aging to make Minnesota a place where all individuals live well, age well and help others in their communities to do the same not only will have a human benefit but will also poise the state to attract Boomers looking for a place that better fulfills their “vision” on how they want to age well! I will have to familiarize my self with Rep. Thissen's platform and see how it might help engage some of our own local politicians running for office here this year…

    Sincere regards,


  • Raad Ghantous

    Here Here! :)

  • J__Steele (J Steele)
  • Used Transmission

    I'm not finished read this yet, but it's so fabulous 'n I'll back again when I was finished my job :D

  • Hctannerjr

    Come on people, what does it take for our “baby bommer” group to see that, “aging in place” is what we need to plan ahead for in our lives. I don't know about you, but I don't have $6,000 amonth to put myself in a “Senior Living” facility! How about you?