People want to age in place. There is no denying this fact. However, there is no typical home that everyone owns. Even if this were the case, each person lives in and uses their home to suit their personal style and needs.
It’s safe to say that no two homes are identical in every respect and that no two people have exactly the same needs, interests, desires, and requirements in the way they use their homes. Even in homes occupied by couples, there often is a difference of opinion on colors, styles, accessorization, and decor.
When it comes to the homes themselves, they come in a variety of ages from relatively new to over a century old. Still, regardless of their age, some homes have been much better maintained over the years than others. Some have had improvements and renovations done to them, while others have had little work completed.
Obviously, homes come in a variety of sizes and layouts as well from single-level (also known as ranch, one-story, or rambler) to multiple stories, with and without basements, and with a range of bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s impossible to make a pronouncement on what homes, in general, should have to accommodate people as they are aging in place except to state that many universal design principles may be desirable. Beyond that, it’s going to depend on the needs of the client in each instance.
A client’s needs for aging in place strategies in their homes is going to depend on the condition of their home, their age, their ability, their budget, and many other factors. In short, there is no standard set of improvements or treatments that we would recommend to someone irrespective of their needs. It is totally dependent on the client and what they want – not what we want them to have.
Another consideration with aging in place is that there is no particular age group involved. While the “senior” market is often thought to be the focus of aging in place solutions, aging in place is not just for seniors. It truly begins at birth and runs throughout our lifetime. Obviously, we have changing needs as we age. This is why aging in place solutions, except when they can be accomplished through universal or visitable design, cannot be defined in advance and must be tailored to the needs and the specific dwelling of the client on a case-by-case basis.
True, many of the aging in place assessments and renovations are done for seniors, but there is no rule that this needs to be the case. People much younger are getting homes that they want to remain living in long-term, and they want their homes to be safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible for them. We can serve people of any age or ability.
Speaking of ability, some octogenarians are going to be quite fit – not just for their age but in general. They exercise and can handle stairs in their homes with no issue. Some people half their age are going to have progressive conditions that seriously limits their mobility, and these concerns would need to be addressed and accommodated in our aging in place treatments. Some children are going to need accommodations to their living space in their parents’ homes.
There just is no rule that we can apply to someone’s age or their home as to what type or degree of modifications or improvements they might need without making a specific needs determination for each client. Even at that, they may not want everything we suggest – even when budgetary concerns are not an issue. There certainly can be a difference of opinion on what is necessary or how something looks once it is installed.
Generally, we want people to be able to pass through doorways and use hallways and other passageways in their home without restriction. We want them to have sufficient lighting to eliminate shadows and light their way for safety. We want them to be able to turn on faucets and light switches and open doors and drawers easily. These types of improvements fall into the universal design realm in that they apply across the board. Still, the client has to be willing to accept our recommendations. There always is the possibility that something more urgent needs to be addressed, and these items would take precedence.
Aging in place solutions are not a one-size-fits-all approach to home modifications. The client must be considered, and the actual improvements that are suggested and implemented must be for their benefit, according to their desires, preferences, and budget.