This experience is not unlike what we face when we talk with someone about the aging in place improvements for their home. At the outset, there are a few parameters – budget, design objective, age and condition of the home, layout of the floor plan, and the physical needs and requirements of the occupants of the home. Each of these factors into the ultimate design, but there are many ways to consider and approach each of these segments.
If the client is more interested in aesthetics and how the design looks – with no major physical or medical concerns that need to be addressed in a design – that provides one direction for us to consider. If solving a very apparent physical condition (mobility, for instance), that can take us in another direction. There can be vision or hearing issues that need to be addressed. There are many possibilities for designs and solutions depending on so many factors. To even suggest that there are “standard” approaches is to miss the point of aging in place solutions which are tailored to each client’s needs, abilities, physical size, budget, lifestyle, and other factors.
Each area of the home is up for consideration – entrance, hallways, bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, closets, and other living areas. Each area has multiple ways of addressing the client’s concerns and needs. Some areas will need more immediate attention than others so we’ll start filling up our plate with those issues and begin working our way through them.
In addressing the work that needs done, we also are going to be seeing mobility, sensory, and perhaps cognitive issues that need to be factored into any design considerations or approach. Then, within any of the areas that are going to be receiving help from us, there is a determination of just how much to do, in what order, and how they will relate to the overall budget.
Regardless of what work ultimately is selected, it’s safe to figure that improved lighting is going to be part of any design. Even though there likely is some lighting in a space now – it’s rare for there to be a complete absence of light fixtures – it’s likely to be inadequate for the activities that need to be conducted safely in that area. Supplementing lighting with more fixtures, increased lumens, more appropriate color temperatures – and the elimination of shadows and glare – to enrich enjoyment and enhance safety, would be a great starting point for most remodeling projects.
Flooring is another important ingredient in a remodeling project to create safe and accessible environments. The style, color, pattern, type, and other details are partially at the discretion of the client (with our recommendation being offered), but flooring contributes to safe footing, balance, and other important aspects of living in the home over time.
There are many other aspects of the design that need to be chosen based on what needs to be addressed to meet the needs of the clients, their personal preferences, the amount of product within each category that can be selected, the general budget or funding sources available, and anything needed to bring the dwelling up to current code requirements.
Effective aging in place solutions require planning, the participation of several professionals to assist the client in translating their desires, needs, preferences, timing, and budget into a workable solution that appeals to them.