We know that questions are powerful, but we must actually use questions in order for them to work for us and reveal the information we seek and that will be helpful to our design. As we attempt to understand how our clients want to age in place homes more successfully need our help to do this, we have to explore many factors with them. So, we ask questions – with our eyes and with our mouths.
There is no such thing as a silly question as long as it’s asked honestly because we want to know the information. ask away. If we are sincere about wanting the answer and are respectful in the way we ask it, any question is fine. So, we should get good at asking questions – not to show how smart we are or to cause them embarrassment but to learn what their concerns are so we can help them.
To illustrate the power of asking questions to learn what we need to know to understand how people are using their homes and what they would like for us to do to help them use their homes more effectively or more enjoyably, consider this approach. This is an exercise only to show the power of questioning.
Let’s suppose that we are being invited into a potential client’s home and that they have asked us to meet with them because they are considering having work done to enhance the accessibility, safety, comfort, or convenience aspects of their home. Here are the rules for this exercise: (1) they cannot tell us anything that is not in direct response to a question we ask, (2) they must provide a complete answer to any question we ask, but they are not allowed to volunteer any information or elaborate beyond the basic question that we ask, (3) we are not limited in the number of questions we can ask, and (4) there is no time stipulation on how long it can take to ask our questions.
With this in mind, think of what we would like to learn:
- We’d like to know why they think they need improvements done in or to their home and how they think these changes will help them live in their home easier going forward from this date,
- Do they have a budget in mind, how did they arrive at that number, do they have the money already in their bank account or do they have to apply for it or wait for it to be deposited from other accounts they have?
- How practical or realistic is their budget to achieve what they think they need or what we identify as being necessary as we look around and ask other questions?
- Are they committed to remaining in their home?
- Have they discussed among themselves or with other family members, neighbors, or close friends what changes they would like to have or think are necessary for them?
- Are we the first ones on the scene to discuss helping them or have they already had similar conversations with other contractors, designers, and therapists?
- Are they currently working with an occupational or physical therapist, and if so, what have they suggested as necessary improvements for the clients?
- Has a doctor or other health care professional suggested that they have certain medical equipment or assistive devices in their home, and if so, which ones and where?
- Are there activities that the clients would like to be able to do in their home or needs they have that are not being accommodated presently due to space or the way the rooms are configured – a larger kitchen for baking, a bigger dining room for large family get-togethers, a family room for watching movies or TV, a sitting porch (front or back, screened or open), a sauna, a pool area, more closet space, a sitting area in their master, a home office, a game or hobby area, or a bathroom makeover, for instance?
- Are they able to reach cabinets, shelves, switches, controls, appliances, and other essential items in their home without difficulty?
- When the entire project is done – whatever that turns out to be – what would they like their home to look like?
- Are there certain colors, styles, or looks they prefer or would want to capture or retain in a design?
- Are there any limitations of a physical (mobility) or sensory nature that need to be accommodated or taken into account in a design?
- How varied are the individual needs among the occupants of the home that should be addressed in a design or renovation?
In asking these questions, more will come to mind that can be asked. There is not going to be a shortage of questions to ask. This is important to remember. We must do our due diligence in preparing an aging in place solutions design that incorporates the needs and desires of our clients. We will obtain this by asking questions, noting the responses, paying attention to what we see going on, and combining all of our notes and impressions into our proposal.