Aging in place solutions are very much in demand – fortunately for us since we are so involved in creating and implementing them – but some of what passes for good design seems to be missing the mark for effectiveness.
Design just for the sake of design is not what we are all about. There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate about having the latest styles, color, finishes, or fabrics in a design – or in someone redesigning or remodeling frequently. It’s just that for aging-in-place solutions, where we typically are working with needs-specific clients, the function of the design is more important than the way it looks. It’s not that aesthetics are unimportant. It’s that the design needs to work first and foremost. Then it can look as attractive, colorful, and modern as it can to still do the job intended or required – and within the budget.
Whether we are working with people who have apparent physical and mobility needs or just those brought on by advancing years – or no admitted mobility or sensory concerns at all – we can help them get the enjoyment from their homes they need. We can create solutions to satisfy what they are looking for and help to make their homes and living spaces more comfortable, enjoyable, safer, and maneuverable.
This just requires good design elements and does not require anything revolutionary or out-of-the-box to be effective. Creativity is fine, but likely there are budgetary concerns (the client is paying directly or insurance proceeds or something similar is being used) that keep the project somewhat in check. While more severe modifications might be desired by us, we need to remember that the design is being done for the client and not for any third-party review or appreciation.
The key to good design is to assess what the space utilization needs are currently for the occupants of the home, determine what they can’t do currently that they would like to do or need to do in the space, create a useful solution for them, and then present it with a couple of alternatives that allow for incorporation of their individual tastes within the budget parameters agreed to at the outset.
It’s very important to remember that our role and purposes, as designers, contractors, or consultants, is to offer and create effective solutions for our clients and not to do something to please ourselves. They don’t have to be potentially award-winning or photo-essay-worthy creations to serve the needs of our clients and be successful.
Whether we would do a similar treatment in our own homes is not the point because we likely have different physical needs and requirements from our clients, a different budget, different likes in terms of colors and finishes, and a different ability to rely on the outcome. Therefore, the design needs to be effective for our clients and not for us. As long as we devote our top energies and best work to creating the solution, we should be happy with the results.
Keeping the needs and abilities of our clients in focus as we approach their renovation will keep us on track toward creating an effective solution for them that is just for them. It may be comparable to something we already completed for other clients with similar needs, or it may be quite different. Each situation is going to be unique even though on there may be parts of it that align with other projects.
We need to size up the challenge in front of us with each client and then approach it as creatively as we can to provide an effective solution in a timely manner that respects their budget and gives them the best solution possible – for what we have identified as their needs and requirements.