People want a home that represents them. That’s why they purchase their own style of furniture and add their own artwork and accessories. One person likes earth tones, another uses pastels, and yet another favors bold primary colors. None of these is wrong or out-of-line – depending on how they are used. The personalization of a home is a good thing. That’s one of the major underlying precepts behind aging in place design – making a person’s living environment right for them.
Whenever we purchase something, we generally have a choice of styles, sizes, and colors. Unfortunately for us as the consumer, the colors or styles that we want or prefer aren’t always available. Maybe they have been discontinued or are out-of-stock.
Even when there is only one model of a particular product from which to select, we usually get to choose from more than one color. Sometimes the color we prefer is only available in a model or style that we don’t want or that is no longer available. In the case of clothing, we may find something we like but it’s not available in our size or the color we like is considerably more money than another less desirable color.
While we like being able to pick a color we prefer, sometimes we set that aside and go with the item that is available in a color that is not objectionable but not our first choice. Take a cell phone, for instance. We may desire the new color is being shown in, but black or white is all that is currently available. So, we must decide if we want the phone now because we really want to start using the phone, or if we want to wait several weeks until more of what we desire is available. Just how important is that color choice versus getting the item we want and being able to use it now?
Fortunately, there are many effective safety products that we can get and install in our own homes or those of our clients that offer some great design and more color choices than what traditionally has been offered historically. If we think of grab bars – also known as safety bars, safety assists, assist bars, handrails, shower rails, shower assists, or other similar terms – they originally were available for home use in a finish and appearance that resembled what one would see in a hospital. Thus, there was a tremendous mental hurdle to overcome. People did not want to have a product in their homes that reminded them of an institutional use – especially a hospital. However, those who really needed or required such a device had it installed anyway.
As time has gone by, those same devices are available in several different colors, finishes, lengths, shapes, and styles. Many even combine a functional use such as towel bars, toilet paper holders, soap dishes, shelves, or other designs integrated into the grab bars – disguising or softening their appearance.
Interestingly, chrome, stainless steel, and polished nickel are making a comeback and are resurging as popular choices. Whether people are beginning to finally accept the traditional look and are Ok with having it, or they are recognizing that safety is more important than how the items looks and what really counts is having the device available when it is needed rather than being fashionable, a contemporary design isn’t always what is selected.
The real key is designing for aging needs is picking items that are functional. There is no reason for them to be boring, but neither do they need to flashy. Function is more important than appearance, but often we can achieve both. It may be that our clients are more comfortable with a traditional design or something simple that they can understand and accept. When they have a specific need, we want to address it with a product or design that accommodates them. If they don’t accept it or want it because it is too basic looking or boring to them, or conversely because it looks complicated or too advanced, it’s not going to serve the desired purpose.
The point is that a solution does not need to be state-of-the-art in appearance or particularly fancy to accomplish its desired purpose. Often there are many serviceable products that have been around for years in one form or another that we can use that the client will like just as much as something more contemporary. We have many new and innovative products and solutions available to us to help our clients, but a basic solution may serve there needs just as well as something more elaborate.