There’s no place like home. That’s why, in the not-too-distant future, many older people will be able to access medical care and services for chronic and acute health conditions from the comfort and convenience of their own residences.
Advancements in medical care and quality of life in the last few decades alone have helped vast numbers of people live longer and healthier lives. But the medical community hasn’t stopped there; they are continuing to develop new, more flexible models of care and treatment so people can remain in their homes even as they age.
Let’s face it. Most people would prefer to age at home rather than being treated in a sterile hospital setting or nursing home as their health begins to decline. But it’s more than patient preferences driving the shift toward aging at home. As concerns grow about hospital-acquired infections and antibiotic resistance, many public health experts believe the longer people can stay out of the hospital setting, the better off they will be—both mentally and physically. This has led the medical community to look toward providing more tools and methods of care that patients can access safely right from home.
Facility managers and designers are turning to the latest advancements in technology and other innovations to shape their vision of healthcare facilities of the future, always seeking new ways to extend the reach of treatment beyond the walls of the built environment. This will enable easier access to many types of care at people’s homes and other places in the community—and at a lower cost than in the hospital setting, without sacrificing quality or best outcomes.
To support this form of healthcare delivery, some experts stress that homes of the future will need to be laid out strategically to address an array of aging needs. First and foremost, this means creating open, adaptable design plans with everything on one level. More homes will also be incorporating features like wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers, grab bars in the bathroom, lower cabinet heights, and remote monitoring and communication systems located in living spaces so people can have instant access to medical care and other resources when, and if, they should need it.
In addition, designers are already beginning to broaden their vision beyond the walls of residential settings, creating neighborhoods—and even entire communities—with easy access to stores, healthcare services, and public transportation to support healthy living for all generations. While these multi-use configurations are considered innovative today, they will most likely become the norm for future generations. This will allow people to age at home in the healthiest and safest way possible as their health status and daily needs change.