There are many types of improvements that can be made to our homes and those of our clients to make them safer and more habitable as we get older. Whether a person chooses to do these improvements – to the extent that they can – by themselves, or they select a qualified contractor (builder, carpenter, handyman, or other construction professional) to help them or do the entire project, or they do essentially nothing but continue to live in their homes, there is nothing that specifies, outlines, or mandates what amount of work needs to be done.
Some people want to do everything they can. Others want to do as little as possible but still improve their quality of life. However, when it comes to home renovation and remodeling, there often is a tendency for people to want to go all-in and do everything at one time, if they can afford to do it this way. While this approach is fine, it may not be necessary or advisable.
Each situation and need is different, but consider the possibility of doing a little bit at a time spread out over a few months – especially for people doing their own work or when we, as the aging in place professionals elect to schedule it this way to create less less disruption, noise, and mess for our clients.
Sometimes there is an urgency, particularly when we are working with traumatic injuries or when safety needs to be addressed in an immediate way. People returning to their homes from a rehab facility often need improvements done as soon as they return or even waiting for them upon their return to their homes. Otherwise, we may be able to take a more strategic approach and accomplish what we need to in a more budget-friendly, less intrusive way for our clients.
As aging in place professionals, we may want to begin with our own homes to gain a perspective on what is involved so we can relate this to our clients and to experience what it takes to complete the jobs. We also can take pictures of the before and after that we can share and use for illustration purposes, and we can honestly tell our clients that we have such improvements (such as the ones we are recommending) installed in our own homes. This would apply to universal design and visitability type improvements rather than something involving a special need unless that applied to our household as well.
Some of the work that we are going to recommend is going to be relatively simple and straightforward to complete. It can be done by the occupant of the home if they are capable and knowledgeable of how to complete the work. Otherwise, it can be scheduled as the first phase to be completed by us or our contractor or handyman team member.
Items that fall into this first phase of relatively minor – but important work would be swapping out all of the toggle-style light switches for rocker ones. Switches that use dimmer switches or pre-selected timers also are fine to install at this time. This requires only a simple knowledge of electricity.
Replacing lightbulbs throughout the home – and it can be done over a few weeks if budget is a concern – with LED bulbs and fixtures to create more even, dependable, and longer lasting lighting. The color output and the amount of lumens vary by the bulb selected. The main thing is to offer as much light as possible in a space and eliminate shadows or areas of low illumination.
Replacing all door handles that currently are the round knobs or something other than levers with those of the lever handle design. Of course, these come in a choice of colors and finishes to suit the tastes of the occupants. If this already has been done, move onto the kitchen cabinets and drawers and replace the handles and pulls with something relatively easy to grasp and use. Be careful of sharp or extending edges on the handles that might catch on skin or clothing if someone brushes against them.
There are many other smaller projects such as these that can be undertaken by the owners or the contractors to begin making a huge difference in the quality of the home and the way it lives.
Larger scale projects involving the kitchen (cabinets, islands, counterspace, appliances, and flooring) and bath (shower, drains, other fixtures, and flooring), as well as other parts of the home including windows, flooring, and general layout can be planned and undertaken later – even in stages if necessary for budget reasons or to keep the disruption to a minimum – if the needs are not immediate.
There is no arbitrary deadline assigned for completion of the improvements. Budget, needs and desires of the clients, and other factors will determine how much work can be done and the timing of it.