When it comes to making accessibility improvements for our aging in place clients, we look for things that can make a major impact on their quality of life and ability to remain in their homes the rest of their lives. We examine the entrance, hallways, kitchen, bathroom, flooring, lighting, and anything else that we think will help them to have a better, safer, more enjoyable life. We often attempt to find one or two major areas of the home that we could suggest for improvement that would make a significant difference for them.
When we narrow our focus to a specific area, we determine what is needed to make that part of the home safer and more functional for the client if they are free of any mobility impairments. If there are issues that have been suggested to us by healthcare professionals on our team or by referring medical professionals, we would focus on those areas first. Otherwise, we would look at general aging areas that might involve sensory deterioration such as weaker eyesight, depth perception, general visual acuity, lessened hearing, or balance or stamina issues.
We might decide, based on our own assessment or from the input of the client, that redoing the kitchen or bath, widening the hallway, enlarging doorway openings, or other relatively major improvements might be warranted. However, as necessary or recommended as such improvements might be, the clients may not have the funds to undertake such a project or projects, may have the money but does not want to spend what it would take to complete what has been identified, or may not want the disruption in their daily routine that would be required or to commit to the amount of time it would take to do such work.
While we know that the client definitely would benefit from having the work done that we are recommending, they may have what they feel are valid reasons for not agreeing to the project we are suggesting. It might be just too large or aggressive for them. They are not opposed to having minor improvements completed to allow them to enjoy the forever home more and to eliminate any obvious concerns that might be present, but they draw the line at anything major or elective at this point.
So where does that leave us? We want to help them. We are ready to help them. We know they can benefit from a rather comprehensive approach to renovating their home – including lighting and appliance upgrades, new cabinetry and hardware, better flooring, newer and larger windows, easier to use and access bathroom fixtures, and home technology features (wifi and bluetooth enabled devices, for instance) – but there is a general pushback from them. Do we walk away or do what we think they will accept?
Aging in place projects don’t have to be a five-figure kitchen or bathroom renovation. They certainly can be, and the clients that allow us to do this for them will be very happy with the results. Still, there are many homes that benefit and many clients that can be just as happy with a few minor safety and convenience tweaks to their living space.
Beginning at the entry door, adding a welcome station – outside for sure but possibly inside as well – to accept temporarily the items they are bringing in from the car, bus, or a walk to the market. They also can leave items there conveniently for friends and neighbors who are coming by to retrieve or pick up something. If there is an entry mat on either side of the door, replacing it with something of a lower profile, anchoring it more securely, or finding a different way to transition into the home would be a huge safety and convenience improvement.
Adding more light by increasing the lumens or the number or style of fixtures in the foyer, hallway, living room, and other areas where people gather will improve safety and accommodate weaker or changing vision. An LED bulb that is rated at more than 10 years of service (which most of them are and some are even double that amount) means that the client does not need to be concerned about bulbs burning out or needing to be replaced for a significant amount of time – possibly never.
Where there are carpet runners in hallways, area rugs, or carpeted stair treads, inspecting them, replacing them with a tighter pile, securing them to the floor better, or providing an alternative will enhance safety in the home. The clients may not allow their removal so an alternative solution needs to be offered.
Adjusting or eliminating shiny surfaces or adding window coverings to mask or block light that can create glare and potentially cause an accident are simple, low-cost improvements we can make.
There are many minor adjustments, tweaks, additions, and improvements we can make in any home – regardless of the budget that someone may or may not have that will enhance their quality of life and enable them to age in place more successfully. Major projects are fine, but so are the little ones. We need to be sensitive to providing them when they are called for or appropriate.