When someone calls us in to help them make their home safer or more accessible because their needs have changed or the home just doesn’t work as well for them as they thought it would, we get the opportunity to transform their home from what it isn’t doing to meet their needs into what it should be for them to live there comfortably long-term – subject to budgetary parameters that they set and their willingness to have us do what we think needs to be done.
Of course, each home and the individual needs of the client are going to be different, with some renovations requiring less work than others. Even when there is no immediate sensory or mobility needs of the clients that we would address in our design, many safety considerations can be incorporated into improving the space to give them years of enjoyment in their home.
Their home could have fewer electrical circuits than they now require, older-style wiring, door hardware that is harder for them and their guests to use, flooring that is worn, inadequate lighting, dated appliances and kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures that need to be updated also. They either knew this when they purchased the home (and figured that they could make changes at a later date) or the shortcomings of their home due to its age of some of its systems and features have now become apparent to them. Either way, the time has come for us to help them have a more safe, accessible, comfortable, and enjoyable home.
We won’t know what needs to be done or how extensive it needs to be until we meet with our clients to determine their wishes and desires for using the space (including limitations they see there now) and find out what we have to work with in terms of the home itself and how it has been built. If little to nothing has been over the years to update it – even before they moved into this home – making the improvements necessary for them to live successfully in this home for many years can be aggressive, expensive, and even disruptive. There is no way to tell something like this without seeing the space and meeting with the clients.
Nevertheless, we don’t expect their needs today to be the same as they were a decade or more ago when they may have purchased the home. If they recently acquired it, they became aware of changes that they would need – even without accommodating any sensory or mobility concerns that aging may have produced (such as vision or hearing, some arthritis, balance and coordination, or physical strength).
When people are growing up and living at home or even in college or their first apartment, their rooms look like what we would expect from someone of this age. In addition to furnishings such as posters and makeshift bookcase, desks, and other furniture, they may have books, sporting goods, bicycles, skateboards, clothing, outerwear, and much more there as well. Somehow, they find room for themselves.
We might find that living environment challenging or even dangerous, yet, they will have adapted to their living space and made it work for themselves. As they moved along into another apartment or their first home, it likely was still far less organized than any of us would be comfortable living in, but it worked for them.
As people move through life, from one apartment to another, or home to home, or city to city, they find a living space that fits their budget that is located where they want it to be and that is laid out the way they like for their lifestyle. As that lifestyle changes due to maturation, changes in employment or relationships, new interests, more income, or different hobbies, the furniture, the flooring, the lighting, the cabinets, the shelves, the posters and wall art, the colors, and the general flow from room-to-room changes as well. They are – without any direction from outsiders – aging in place by conforming their living environment into what they need at the time.
That brings us to their current home and why we have been requested to help them transform their current home into one that will meet their needs going forward. They have the home they want to remain in, and now we can help that home provide a safe, comfortable lifestyle for them. Their needs may continue to evolve, but we can create doorways, hallways, controls, and other aspects of the home that are going to be accessible for them and their guests no matter what age they are or what abilities they might have in the future.