To begin an aging in place renovation or remodeling so that we can determine what is appropriate to recommend or suggest to our potential clients – regardless of how simple or extensive the work needs to be – an evaluation or assessment is the place to start. We need to learn what is going on – in the home, in the specific space that is or could be an issue, or with the occupants of the home or apartment – and what they perceive as being necessary to make their lives better and more enjoyable in their living environment.
We have two very good, and key, tools to use for this process without bringing out anything that we don’t already carry around with us – our eyes and our ears. We could count our mouths for asking the questions, but talking is not how we learn – listening is.
So, we look around us – inside and out. What do we observe that is going on – in the neighborhood, adjacent homes, the front yard and driveway, the exterior of their home, the entrance, and then everything inside that might have an impact or bearing on how well they can live in their home?
We can, and usually do, take photos – either with a small, unobtrusive digital camera that is easily uploaded to our computer, or we can use a phone or tablet. These are extremely portable, lightweight, easy to use in front of the client without looking like we are doing a documentary of their home, and they take good pictures that be used and shared from the original device or transferred to a desktop or notebook computer.
The sharing feature is good because we may want some of our other team members who aren’t present with us (or even in the same geographic area) to see what we are observing through live streaming, a phone hookup, or as photos that we send them soon after they are taken.
So, this gives us a visual assessment of what the space looks like and what we observe as being an issue in terms of room sizes, spatial relationships between rooms, doorway sizes and how the doors open, hardware, windows, lighting, flooring, passageways, seating areas, bathrooms, kitchen, and any worn or overly used areas of the home that might suggest that improvements are required.
We can use a checklist to help guide our observations. Then we can note what we are seeing and any recommendations we want to make – as we move from room to room and space to space – either with the clients accompanying us or not.
We also want to be aware of weak contrasts that might be present between rooms or surfaces – in wall paint colors, flooring, or furnishings – or overly bright and bold colors that create strong contrasts that might be good when used alone but can become visually confusing when used as they are.
There are safety concerns that we will want to notice so they can be addressed in our action plan and scope of services. Some issues, such as loose flooring or throw rugs, can be handled relatively easily. Clutter and storage issues may require more thought and action – they could involve a very difficult and almost painful process of letting go and scaling back for our clients.
There also could be just too much stuff in a space – too much furniture or pieces that are too large for where they are, or too many books or other items even though they might be stored on shelves. Boxes, bins, and other storage devices – while intended to house items not currently being used – might be part of the larger concern also – just because of their volume or where they are kept in the home.