We purchase computers, cars, toys, appliances (small hand-held and operated ones and the more major ones), games, furniture that needs to be assembled, and so many other items for our homes and businesses, and the thing they all have in common is a list or booklet of instructions – how to assemble them, the parts we are supposed to have in the package, how to order or procure replacement parts and batteries, a picture guide to assembling the item (when it doesn’t come ready to use), general maintenance guidelines, safety rules, troubleshooting tips, and warranty information.
We have become so accustomed to having them. Even we go maverick and skip the assembly instructions and try to figure out how the pieces go together, in what order, and where all of the fasteners go, it’s still nice to have an owner’s manual or set of operating instructions as a fall-back or for future reference.
One of the common observations from new parents is that children do not come with instruction books. So true! It’s a lot of trial and error, watching YouTube videos, reading posts and books, and asking friends and relatives about what should or should not be happening at various times. Young parents want to do a good job with their infants, but short of being mentored by their parents, there are no guidelines for them to follow on a day-to-day basis.
Experience is a great teacher, as the saying goes, so by the time young parents (but not as young as they were when their first child was born) have their second child, they are old hands at child-raising. They know what to expect, what to ignore, and what is cause for concern. Issues that would have resulted in a late night or early morning call to the doctor’s answering service or a trip to the emergency room are just handled in the home without much ado.
That brings us to how we work with people who are remaining in their forever homes, regardless of how long they have lived in them, their current age, or the level of the abilities. While they are many opinions and several articles about selecting a forever, permanent, or long-term home, there is no official guide or instructional manual on how to do so, when to do it, at what age a person should be ideally, or any of the other details that a person might consider.
Because people have different requirements to address their physical abilities and needs, their sensory limitations or strengths, and any cognitive concerns, there is no way a comprehensive guide could apply to everyone. This is good for us.
While an instructional book of some type on how to live, at what age to expect certain changes in ability, what to expect at various stages of life, how to adjust to adult children remaining in the home of the parents or moving back in after college, how to have aging parents move into their middle-aged adult children’s home, when to make adjustments in lifestyle, how long to keep working, when to change careers or employers, how to maintain optimal health (physical and cognitive), what to eat, and more would take so much of the guesswork out of life and normalize it to a certain extent. However, even with such a manual, not everyone would read it, use it, or adhere to it. Some would for a while, some would off-and-on, some would be major adopters of it, and some would ignore it and do life on their own.
If people knew when certain lifestyle changes were likely to occur based on their abilities or changing family dynamics, we would be ready to assist them with aging in place design solutions. We could even advertise our services as being the answer for various life events that are discussed and predicted in the manual.
Creating design accommodations for our clients as they age, as their needs change, as the ability of their home to adapt and provide for the changes that are occurring, would be a lot easier if there was a schedule of events that people might expect to happen or a predictor or schedule of when their needs might be changing. At the same time, this would take our skill out of the picture – our ability to assess the client’s home, their abilities, their needs, their budget, and their priorities, and to create a solution that addresses their immediate needs as well as devise a plan for meeting longer-term objectives.