The question is often asked about how much money a person should plan on investing for aging in place improvements, or conversely, stating that they don’t have the money to do anything with their home even though they think they would like to have some enhancements done.
While we may not be the ones to help them because our business model is designed around larger projects, the fact is that very simple, modest fixes with a correspondingly low price tag can be done. If not us to undertake such a project, someone can do this, and we need to think creatively about what can be done so that we are prepared to have a conversation with people in need when they contact us. Even if we refer this to someone better prepared to handle it, we need to be prepared to discuss reasonable alternatives with the potential client and assure them that they can participate in having aging in place improvements done for them – especially ones involving safety or convenience.
As is true with many products in the marketplace – from computers to autos to household items – there is a tremendous range of product offerings in a category at a range of price points. Of course, they provide different features, but they are essentially the same product.
This means that someone with a limited budget can still have a modest lever door handle for their front door and for other doors in their home at an entry-level price – providing comfort, convenience, and safety for them as well as enhancing accessibility. Higher budgets can choose from an array of styles and finishes and pick something that suits their design tastes, but the basic product is what counts in this case.
The same is true with lever faucets. There is a range of prices and features including ones with spray attachments that pull out and sensors that turn the water on when desired. A simple lever faucet is all that is required for enhanced comfort, convenience, and accessibility. Features are not as important as the basic design.
As for light switches or digital thermostats, these can be switched out to create a universal design that is appealing and functional for those living in the home and anyone else who enters. Older style toggle light switches (controls) that have the little protrusion that must be pushed up or down to control the lights are not easy for everyone to use and have been replaced in many homes and businesses with the rocker style switch. This is a very easy, low-budget fix that can be down throughout the client’s home to make those switches easier to use and reduce the amount of effort required to use them. If budget really is limited to the point that the entire home cannot be done at one time, do a few of the most used areas in the home (living room, kitchen, bath, and bedroom, for instance). Then the others can be added later as the budget allows.
The newer digital thermostats, which come in a range of styles, designs, and features, make it easier than before to adjust and control the inside temperature (heating or cooling). Regardless of someone’s eyesight, height, or manual dexterity, digital thermostats are so much easier to use and safer to have in the home than the older mercury-style controls. Most of them are lit as well, but again, the number of features is less important than just the basic design and function.
Another easy fix that is relatively inexpensive to do is lighting. The LED bulbs have dropped in price, but again there are various grades available. Still, it’s possible to replace older-style incandescent bulbs or CFLs with much safer and tremendously more efficient LED bulbs. Some of these bulbs are rated to over 20 years life expectancy which, in many cases, means giving someone a lifetime bulb that never needs to be replaced by them.
There are so many styles of LED lighting available that we can brighten the living environment of any home, even if we aren’t able to complete the entire home due to budgetary constraints. There are disks, strips, ropes, cans, bulbs, and other styles for use inside cabinets, under them, on top of them, in ceilings, in toe-kick recesses, and along baseboards. They can be switched, motion-activated, or photosensitive to come on when it’s dark enough to need them.
Aging in place renovations, solutions, and improvements definitely are not limited to sizeable budgets and do not exclude people with only a little to spend on such projects. The amount of work that can be done and the type of it may be somewhat limited with a modest budget, but there is no reason to suggest that fixed or lower income households cannot have their homes made safer and more accessible in some way.