Aging in place solutions do not come In a pre-determined package that has all of the ingredients that someone might need to make their home safer, more accessible, more comfortable, more convenient, or more enjoyable. We don’t know what they need until we have a conversation with them and understand how they relate to their living environment. They might need what many others have had suggested for them. On the other hand, their budget, their special needs, or the age and condition of their home might suggest something completely different than what often is used or recommended.
The important part of creating and installing aging in place solutions – whether we have the ability to do this ourselves or we collaborate with other professionals in a strategic partnership to get the job done – is that it can’t be determined in advance. We must evaluate their current living space for a potential remodeling or renovation solution – particularly for an aging-in-place approach to help them continue to remain living in their home – we need to learn about how they use their home now and what their home needs to allow them to do.
We must determine what they want to do that they can’t in their home at present, what limitations they might be facing physically, how they use various aspects of their home, what constraints their home might place on them in terms of its design or layout, which areas of the home are the most important to them in terms of where they want to spend the majority of their waking hours, which parts of the home are already satisfactory for them, and how making modifications will enhance their overall quality of life in their home and the general enjoyment of living there. Of course, ascertaining their budget is a huge part of the process because ultimately this will control what gets done and how it is approached.
It’s important to learn what their home will not allow them to do that they feel is necessary. It might be constructing an additional room or rooms, reconfiguring or reallocating existing space, or enlarging a particular space such as a kitchen, porch, bathroom, or family room by taking space from adjacent rooms or removing built-ins that restrict how the space can be used. Perhaps there is a hobby that cannot be pursued or enjoyed as much as they would like due to the way the current space is designed. Maybe the hallway or entrance isn’t large enough or safe enough to use at present.
There might be general lighting issues, where the space that they want to use for a specific activity is too dark or insufficiently lit to allow them to use it effectively. Maybe there is not enough natural light available because the windows are not large enough or plentiful enough. It could be a wiring issue where the additional lighting that is needed or required cannot be supported or added without more circuits or outlets. Maybe there is a lack or an inadequate number of GFCI or AFCI circuits in the home that needs to be rectified.
We need to get people to reveal what they are interested in doing in their home that they presently cannot do at all or cannot do to the extent they desire – or perform it safely. Then, our challenge is to help them determine how this can be done and to gain agreement on doing it.
It might be that there are rather simple ways to accommodate their interests, such as clearing out storage items, moving furniture, or removing cabinets that might be infringing on a particular space. We might observe or detect other ways a space can be enlarged or improved by moving activities from one room to another or by installing pull-out or pull-down shelving, tables, or beds to be available when needed but essentially removed from the floor space when they are not needed or required by returning them to their storage positions.
Depending on the current layout of the home, their budget, and the characteristics of their homesite, adding a garage or auxiliary structure in the backyard – or enlarging or reconfiguring existing buildings – might provide the space they are seeking as well for their activities.
The point is that there is no way to know for sure what is needed to accommodate our clients, their needs, and interests – and to renovate the home they are in to permit additional activities or provide more safety and comfort. We must observe, ask questions, and mesh what we observe with what they express. This takes away any notion of having a pre-determined plan for them.