“Aging In Place Makeovers Don’t Happen Without A Thorough Understanding Of Needs”

For anyone who likes sports at any level, from youth baseball, hockey, or basketball all the way through professional sports or even international events like the Olympics, we often know before the game or contest is played who the stronger or better team is. We can look at won-loss records, margins of victory over their opponents, respected players at their position, handicapping that is done by professionals, and other indications that suggest which team should prevail in a particular contest. We all know, however, that the “best” team or player doesn’t always win. That’s why the game is played.

If the team with the strongest winning percentage, the one that averages winning by the most points, the one with the most experienced coach, and the one that seems like they just need to show up in order to win over a less-experienced or physically smaller team really did win every time, we wouldn’t need to plays any matches or games. Once the schedule was announced, a group of judges could decide who was the most likely to win any particular contest and award it to that team without ever needing to play.

So why do we continue to play games even when it looks like one team is so much better or stronger than the other? Upsets happen. It’s possible for the weaker team to have an outstanding game and outexecute the stronger or more experienced team and put a mark in the win column for themselves. It doesn’t happen every time, of course, but it happens enough that we need to actually play the game to make sure who has the highest score (or lowest in the case of golf). In addition to depriving the athletes of the opportunity to play the sport they have trained for, the fans of the team miss out as well.

The game is played, in short, because the outcome is never known. It might be anticipated or forecast. It is, however, not guaranteed. On those rare occasions when the game is fixed by the players, coaches, or official to influence or determine who win the contest (most likely for some type of financial gain on their part), the public feels cheated, and rightly so. We expect to watch a game and not know for sure who will win until the very end – even when one side has a substantial points advantage over their opponent.

Applying this same approach to aging in place makeovers or designs, why don’t we just show up at someone’s home with everything we need to make improvements because we know the character of the neighborhood, the construction methods used to build the home, the general layout of the home, the general condition that we can observe from the outside, and what we may have done in terms of improvements with similar age homes.

The answer, like the reason we play athletic contests even when we think the outcome should be easy to ascertain ahead of time, is that we never know what we will see once inside this particular home – as much as we may have been in similar ones previously – and we don’t know what the physical needs and requirements are going to be of the individuals living in the home.

Trying to anticipate what to create based on our notions of what likely will be necessary for this age, style, location, or condition of home may get us close, but three major factors are going to come into play that will affect what gets done: (1) the physical needs of the individuals living in the home with respect to their mobility, vision, hearing, cognition, rach, and other factors relating to how well they can use their home and what needs to happen to improve that basic function, (2) what the clients might want to have provided in their home and the types and degree of modifciations they will approve, and (3) the budget for the project and just what can and cannot be done even when its seems necessary or appropriate to do.

Our job is to help people live safely, comfortably, and enjoyably in their home by creating as much access and function as they and their budget will allow or permit – as voiced by them, strategic team members such as occupational therapists, any caregivers who might be involved, and relatives and close friends who might be advising or influencing the decision.

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