As much as some our clients, especially the older ones, desire or need to have improvements in their homes, it could be a real challenge for us to communicate with them and set the proper level of expectations. For many of them, other than some painting or some small design updates they may have done over the years, this may be the first (and possibly only) time they have ever had a professional come into their home to make improvements – regardless of the scope of those changes.
Because this is such a new experience for those undertaking it at a later stage of their lives, they don’t have the same frame of reference as those who have completed remodeling projects previously. This means they are not accustomed to having crews in their home dismantling walls, flooring, cabinets, and such. They likely have had technicians in their home to repairs heating or air conditioning issues, and plumbers to fix clogged drains, broken water heaters, or to install a new toilet. They may have had appliance repair done and telephone or cable TV repair or installation professionals in their home, but remodeling is a new activity.
They have not experienced the number of people in their home at one time or collectively over the length of the job, the amount of activity, the dust, the noise, the commotion, the disruption, or the amount of building materials waiting to be used. This is totally new to them and possibly a little unnerving and bothersome – bordering on frightening. Does this happen to everyone? No, but for those who have gone through life until their senior years being self-sufficient in terms of making little improvements to their home as necessary – painting, small repairs, light decorating, installations – this is quite different for them. They are not in charge. This, in itself, could be enough to create a feeling of loss of control.
The more the repairs or renovations are necessary because of a physical condition that needs to be addressed or accommodated, the more they are willing to accept the work being done, but also the more they could feel vulnerable. They are aware of their life circumstances changing, and they had to reach outside themselves for assistance – at the suggestion of a caregiver, family member, friend, neighbor, attorney, insurance agent, occupational therapist, rehab specialist, case manager, or other professional who is looking out for their general welfare.
It’s one thing to have a room addition done to accommodate a growing family or a loved one moving into the home. People look forward to having a basement finished with a game room or TV or media area as well as a kitchen and possibly a bedroom area with a full bath. People welcome enclosing a carport or patio or finishing out a garage. A kitchen remodel to add new lighting, appliances, flooring, cabinetry, and a more functional or stylish layout generally is welcomed. A bathroom makeover to add more features or update it is seen as a positive.
However, when the remodeling to the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, entrance, or other areas of the homes is done because of decreased mobility, reach, balance, vision, hearing, or cognition, this affects how enthusiastic the clients are about the project and likely they are to be looking forward to having the work done.
In addition to this perhaps being the first major remodeling project they have ever had done in their home, and all of the issues and considerations that go along with it (including being without the use of their kitchen or bathroom for a few days), they may not be doing it voluntarily – more out of a need than as an elective.
Some people who are undertaking their first major remodeling project may have had work done in or on their homes in the past, but not by contractors, handymen, or remodelers. Their children might have done the work for them over the years, but now the job is larger than the children can handle, or they don’t live nearby anymore. Perhaps the owners did anything around the home that they wanted done, but this job is beyond their ability to handle it. Perhaps co-workers (at an earlier time), neighbors, friends, or people from church or a club they are part of pitched in to help.
Regardless of any projects that have been done over the years – to this home or to others they have lived in – our clients may be undertaking a major project with a professional for the first time at a rather advanced age in life. We need to be very sensitive to this and take extra steps to ensure their comfort with the process.