Study: Older Americans Aim To Stay Independent In Their Homes

A study from Georgetown and Philips Inc. finds that the vast majority of Americans want to age in their homes, but that they have taken no steps to make their homes suitable for aging in place.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Given a choice, most older Americans would rather stay home as they age. That's what about 90 percent would prefer according to a study by Georgetown University and technology giant, Philips. But staying at home may require home renovations which few people are considering. NPR's Ina Jaffe covers aging.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: If older adults already know what they want, which is to stay in their own homes as the age, why wouldn't they do what's necessary to make that more likely?

BILL NOVELLI: They're not quite sure where to start. They're not sure what's involved. They're not sure what they can afford. And it's human nature to kind of put things off.

JAFFE: That's Bill Novelli. He's a professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business and the co-founder of the Georgetown Social Enterprise Initiative. He co-sponsored the study with Philips which makes products for older adults. Among the questions they asked, what products or services do older consumers want to help ensure their health, safety and independence?

NOVELLI: For example, people are worried about leaving the stove on or the oven on. So they'd be interested in a technology that automatically shuts that off. They're interested, if they can figure it out, in a single kind of a button or a remote control that might manage everything in the house.

JAFFE: Like lights, the heat, the alarm system.

NOVELLI: And then one of the real surprises I thought was interesting was about 40 percent of the respondents said hey, we'd like a driverless car.

JAFFE: Google, which is developing a driverless car, would probably find that result less surprising. But it wasn't just potential technological solutions that older adults were ignoring. About 60 percent said they had no plans to physically retrofit their homes with things like grab bars in the shower. Many believe that upgrades, technological or otherwise, would be too expensive. And some of the things that older adults wanted weren't necessarily things that could easily be turned into products says Novelli.

NOVELLI: Like being near a supermarket, being near a pharmacy, access to hospitals and medical centers.

JAFFE: Which could mean that the homes older Americans want to age in aren't necessarily the ones they're living in now. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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