Aging can be hard, and it’s not just a matter of fighting crow’s feet or dealing with the disturbing effects of gravity. There’s often a more pressing concern, one that’s so simple and basic it should be a foregone conclusion. For older adults, losing their sense of independence — and as a byproduct, their dignity — can be the biggest challenge that comes with age.

This feeling is often exacerbated when seniors are sent to live in retirement homes or assisted living facilities. And while this choice is often necessary, Ridley Wills of The Wills Company specializes in ensuring that aging adults have the option to spend their final years in a more comfortable and personal environment — their home.

The phrase “aging in place” has been coined to describe the ability of seniors to live in the residence of their choosing — whether it’s their own home of that of a loved one — and to still have a high quality of life and necessary support.

Ridley hesitates to use the phrase “aging in place,” noting that “it’s a sensitive subject, and some people are often offended by the term.” And, indeed, making people feel comfortable, not offended, is the focus of helping someone age in place.

Ridley Wills owns The Wills Company and Wills Handyman, two companies that operate separately but whose services complement one another. The Wills Company is a design-build firm, and Wills Handyman offers home maintenance solutions.

This often involves renovation projects of varying degrees and difficulty, and can include:

  • Replacing door knobs with levers to make them easier to open for those with limited strength or who are suffering from arthritis
  • Installing grab bars in showers and next to toilets to increase safety and stability for adults with mobility issues
  • Replacing standard toilets with taller ones (called “comfort height”) to make them easier to use
  • Building outdoor ramps for wheelchair accessibility
  • Installing chair lifts or elevators to creates wheelchair accessibility within a home

But, Ridley says, these projects are only a small part of what aging in place is really about. Often, the draw of assisted living facilities is not just the around-the-clock care from nurses and other staffers. It’s also the fact that those residences create a completely maintenance-free experience for older adults who can no longer do the necessary activities to maintain their own home.

BEFORE: A narrow, set of average-size steps may seem easy to navigate, but as the homeowner ages, they may find the steps challenging, and there's not enough room for a person to assist.

BEFORE: A narrow, set of average-size steps may seem easy to navigate, but as the homeowner ages, they may find the steps challenging, and there’s not enough room for a person to assist.

AFTER: The front steps have been widened and are more shallow making them not only easier to navigate, but roomy enough for someone to assist a loved one in climbing them.

AFTER: The front steps have been widened and are more shallow making them not only easier to navigate, but roomy enough for someone to assist a loved one in climbing them.

With two distinct legs of his company — design, build, and renovation services offered by The Wills Company, and maintenance services offered by Wills Handyman — Ridley can dispatch staffers to handle maintenance requests ranging from leaky toilets to clogged gutters.

“Aging in place is also about helping people maintain their home and do the things that they previously did but can no longer do,” he says. “Even if someone was used to cleaning his owner gutters on a regular basis, if he’s getting up in age and dealing with some health concerns, there’s no way he should be up on a ladder cleaning gutters anymore.”

Home maintenance also becomes an issue when aging adults, due to decreased mobility, begin to spend most of their time in one or two rooms in their home, while neglecting the others.

“If a home has three bathrooms and only one is being used regularly, someone needs to go to the other bathrooms and make sure they’re not leaking,” Ridley says. “Someone should be getting debris off the roof and changing the filter in the HVAC. These things seem minor, but they can become big problems when they’re not handled.”

This bathroom features a "curbless shower." That is, a shower that requires no step to enter, thereby reducing any tripping hazard.

This bathroom features a “curbless shower.” That is, a shower that requires no step to enter, thereby reducing any tripping hazard.

This curbless shower features a door for added privacy.

This curbless shower features a door for added privacy.

As people age and basic tasks become difficult or impossible to complete, even asking for help may be hard for those who want to maintain a sense of independence. For this reason, Ridley notes that working with clients is often a family affair.

He may help a daughter who wants to prepare her home so that her aging parent(s) can move in. Or he may be collaborating with that daughter so that she understands all of the factors involved in making a home conducive for senior living.

This help may be as simple as advising a client to get rid of a throw rug that could become a tripping hazard. But, in some cases, even making all of the recommended changes may not present the best option for children assisting their aging parents. For some people, staying in their home may not be the best option after all.

Ultimately, whether someone is aging in place or moving to an assisted living facility, the goal is to help people make the best long-term decisions for both their dignity and safety. Adds Ridley, “Aging is as much emotional as it is physical, and we’re helping children help their parents.”

To learn more about services offered by The Wills Company, visit willscompany.com.

This article is sponsored by The Wills Company.