“Thinking Like A Potential Client For Aging In Place Improvements”

All of us are consumers. Some of us are careful shoppers and do a lot of research before we buy anything other than routine daily purchases. Others of us research important purchases but are given to more spontaneous decisions based on looks, price, and availability than ratings and recommendations. Some people just buy the first thing they see that looks like it will work for what they need (sometimes they have heard of it previously and sometimes not.

We shop for groceries, cleaning supplies, office equipment, sporting goods, cars, gasoline, entertainment, shoes, clothing, vacations, hotels, and so much more. We buy something nearly every day – even if it’s just a newspaper, our morning coffee or pastry, a lunch, or a mass transit token.

Major purchases may cause us some anxiety because it is a lot of money to spend and we want to make sure that what we are purchasing is the best available at the time. Maybe if we waited a few days, we would find a better deal online. Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of waiting and must make a rather immediate decision. Many of us are frightened of making the wrong decision – what will our colleagues or those close to us (neighbors, friends, or relatives) think of our purchase, is it a wise purchase, did we pay too much, and was there a better choice for what we needed that we didn’t know about or chose not to use?

When we begin working with our aging in place clients, they may have similar thoughts about working with us. This is why working through a referral network or strategic professionals (such as designers or occupational or physical therapists for contractors and others) is so beneficial in establishing the initial relationship with the client and being able to define and interpret their needs. They will have a relationship with the client and will bring us in to assist them in creating and delivering the project. This goes a long way in getting acceptance and buy-in from the client.

Rather than showing up at the client’s door with some catalogs or product samples to show them and then have them contemplate shopping around for a better price or different ideas, trying to find the same or similar device or product online, or wanting to check with additional companies for their ideas on a solution for them – all of which normally would be likely possibilities – our relationship with the professional that brought us into the loop will be quite beneficial and will surpass the client’s need to do more research or second-guess what we are proposing for them.

Still, depending on their needs and the age, layout, and physical characteristics of their home, we are going to need to understand what needs to be done and how and why. Again, an occupational or physical therapist, a designer, or someone else known to the client or with the skill set to complete a functional evaluation like this will be leading the discussion of the project.

Even if we aren’t a healthcare professional or designer and we are contractors, consultants, or other types of professionals, a great way to acclimate ourselves to the types of improvements that we are going to want to recommend and then complete for our client to help them gain better use of their home and continue living their successfully, is to conduct a practice evaluation of assessment on our own home. Do it more than once and see how the recommendations align. Do some seem to be a higher priority for inclusion than others? Are the ones we are noticing mostly universal design or visitable design rather than an improvement or modification for a specific issue? This is good of this is the case.

We want to be able to recommend solutions for our clients that give them the access, support, balance, comfort, safety, and convenience that they need, expect, and require for their investment in us, so we need to be as experienced as possible in thinking like them. We need to imagine that our home is the subject home and that we have been retained to improve it. So, we start with the most obvious or apparent and go from there.

We look at the most necessary items and move on from there according to the overall expense, priorities, and most common needs. As we anticipate and learn about the client’s needs, specific to them or more than what our home requires, we can address them. The point is to get a first-hand insight into how someone might use their home (by first looking at ours in this way) and what it may require to make that home more functional.

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