While this initially seems like a great idea – to afford everyone the most protection, accessibility, mobility, comfort, and independence – it simply can’t work. There are dozens of reasons why such a concept is flawed.
As desirable as it may sound to have a set of aging in place solutions that could be recommended and installed in every home we walk into, it simply cannot be. Even the simplest of solutions that we all would agree are beneficial may not be recommended in favor of something more pressing and necessary for health and safety reasons when the budget is quite limited.
Remember that aging in place is a specific approach to individual needs – that while there may be similarities among people – are based on their age, mobility, sensory perception, and cognition, as well as the layout, age, value, and other characteristics of their home.
While swapping out old-style toggle light switches for rocker switches, hard-to-use thumb latch entry door handles for single lever styles, twin-faucet handles in the kitchen for a single lever model, or an old-style dial or slide control thermostat for a digital one, all have merit and normally would be a great place to start with any home makeover, there could be serious safety issues (flooring, lighting, or passageways, for instance) that are much higher priority and would take precedence when the budget is tight or nearly non-existent. Not everyone is set to accommodate such a client, but for those whose business models align with this type of situation, there are plenty of people who need our help.
There are many important features (such as oven controls, lighting, door locks, water thermostats, and video doorbells, for example) that we would recommend freely when other areas of the home are reasonably sound, but for an older client who has no computer experience, these just don’t work. Without a tablet, computer, or smartphone – and the knowledge and ability to use them, as well as the financial commitment to have and keep a plan active – technology solutions just aren’t indicated. These might be high on the list of what we would want to recommend in many cases, but, for people without computer experience – who are distrustful of technology in general – they cannot be suggested as appropriate and thus are not anything we would consider as a standardized approach to aging in place solutions.
Age of the home has a lot to do with what can be suggested also. Many older homes are going to require additional electrical service and new circuits before anything else can be done. If there is rot, mold, lead paint, or other issues in the home, these will need to be addressed along with or before anything else can be undertaken. Widening hallways and doorways, improving flooring, bolstering the heating and air conditioning, adding exhaust fans, and completing other tasks dealing with the health and safety components of the home may be more extensive in older homes.
The entrance – including a proper stoop or entry porch, good lighting, and weather protection – would be recommended if they aren’t already present. Even when these elements exist, they might require some modifications or improvements.
There are so many improvements that we can identify, suggest, and complete – subject to so many other concerns, including priorities and budgets – to make homes more livable, and no standardized approach is going to accomplish this or meet individual needs.