Aging in place happens differently for all of us. Some of our clients depend on our educated and fresh perspective to spot how their homes and themselves are interacting with each other and make suggestions and modifications as necessary to accommodate their current and projected abilities. Some projects are going to be extensive, while others are going to require minimal time and effort. The larger or more extensive the project, typically the budget represents this additional effort. Sometimes smaller projects can still have a sizeable budget if the features and treatments being used are high-end.
Regardless, not every home that we walk into will need the same type of approach even though there are commonalities that we would consider – entrances, doorways, hallways, switches type and location, cabinetry, door hardware, flooring, lighting, appliances, and bathroom layout and fixtures.
Over time, as people age and remain in their homes, there are a few different ways that people approach the inevitable changes that occur. People have birthdays, but so do their homes – in some cases, the homes are older than their occupants.
Some are going to take no action as far as keeping their homes up-to-date or current – seemingly forgetting or not caring that their homes are celebrating birthdays too. One reason could be a financial or emotional apathy (lack of funds or interest) in making any changes even though they could benefit from some upgrades or modifications. For others, they might feel that their homes always are going to be in the same condition as they were when they moved in – requiring no maintenance, renovation, or enhancements. They also are not counting on any personal changes for themselves either, such as a little slower gait, loss of reach and height, slower reflexes or reaction time, reduced vision or hearing, and other sensory or mobility changes that would be noticeable by an outsider but hardly identifiable to the people themselves.
Given the chance, we certainly would be able to spot changes that would be advantageous for them to undertake, but they have to be willing to engage us and then fund the improvements that we recommend. Thus, many people (“procrastinators”) are going to miss out on some very important updates to their homes – and not necessarily expensive ones – that would enable them to have more functional and productive lives in their homes.
Some people are going to approach aging in place in their current homes in a very responsible way by taking care of home maintenance items as they arise and doing little painting and enhancement projects as needed or desired also. Their homes might be quite different than they were when they moved into them years ago, but they meet the needs of the occupants because they have seen to it. They might have hired some handymen, carpenters, plumbers, HVAC specialists or other professionals to assist them along the way, but they likely have done much of the work to date by themselves – because they take pride in the finished product and because they have the interest level and ability to do it.
Then there’s the group of aging in place owners who recognize that their homes need various improvements and they are willing to engage occupational therapists, interior designers, and contractors (among others) to assess their situation (both their own needs and those of their homes) and have the improvements done that will facilitate their continuing to live there safely and comfortably.
There are many things we can do to help people as they age in place, and many price points as well to accomplish the work products. Whether people are aware of us and what we can provide for them or not is a function of our marketing and our networking outreach. How well they embrace what we can offer them and how receptive they might be to talking with us or hearing about what we can help them with is dependent on how attuned they have been to their homes over the years. Have they conducted reasonable maintenance and kept with the little items, or have they essentially ignored the minor issues items until now they have become more major ones? Are they at all receptive to hearing what we can do to make their lives more enjoyable and having us meet with them to discuss what can be done? Do they understand that neither their homes nor themselves have remained unchanged over the past several years and that we can help them adapt to the changes?