With the interest in aging in place and people being able to remain in their current homes, there is a much larger need than in recent years to help people prepare for those additional years of living in their homes by performing some safety, accessibility, and convenience improvements for them.
As we know, not everyone will need the same approach because there is such a range of interests, needs, desires, and housing styles. Floor plans, layouts, spaces, and other characteristics of each dwelling is going to be different than the next one – sometimes just a little and sometimes quite varied. There are going to be ranch or single-level homes and multi-story homes, both with and without basements.
If all homes were the same or nearly so – even if it was just within a neighborhood or subdivision – and if everyone occupying those homes used them in the same way, had them decorated and accessorized the same, and had the same personal physical requirements, we could come up with a template approach. However, this would make our work too routine and automatic, and we would soon tire of it. As it is, each case is different to keep our work and perspective fresh.
Because each home is different from each other, the way each home is used varies, and the other characteristics about each home make them truly unique properties for us to consider and plan improvements for, we have a very important and creative role to play. We must evaluate each home in terms of its age, physical characteristics, and how what it includes meets current minimum building code requirements.
Then we can analyze and interpret the abilities and needs of the residents of those homes to suggest the improvements which we feel are necessary to accommodate their situation and give them a more enjoyable home in which to remain for the foreseeable future.
That said, we are going to come up with an action plan for each home that we are invited to inspect to assess the physical structure and individual needs of those living there with the intent of addressing current shortcomings in the home as far as the way it allows the owners and their guests to use and navigate the home and to eliminate weaknesses in basic features of the home. Sometimes we are going to focus on the way the home is built and designed. Other times, we will look at accommodating the physical needs or requirements of the residents of the dwelling. There will times also when it a combined design that incorporates needs of both the living space and the individuals living there.
One of the places to begin our discussion with our clients is with a budget. They may have identified some things they want done and will have contacted us to discuss their ideas. We might ask them about what they are comfortable investing in a project such as they describe or we outline for them.
Depending on the budget they provide, and in some cases they will be reluctant to provide a number or just won’t have a frame of reference to even provide a project estimate, we can outline how we would approach addressing their needs. The budget may or may not be sufficient to cover everything we identify or even what they present as their most pressing needs. Some people are going to be retired with fixed monthly incomes. Others are going to have more financial means. Some are going to have the ability to fund the projects they need or desire but would rather not spend so much money on them.
However, we are quite creative and may be able to come up with appropriate solutions for what they need or a scaled-back concept to meet their most urgent priorities. In planning for and designing our renovations and modifications, it’s not how large the client’s budget is or what they are prepared to invest in a project that determines whether they get a home that is safer and easier to access than when we started. It what we do with the budget we are given.
While we may not be able to put in luxury appliances, flooring, and other touches in a home due to budget constraints, we can still do something. If the amount of work that can be done commensurate with the budget does not match our business model, we can refer the work to a strategic partner of ours such a handyman or trade contractor. The client’s safety in their home and enjoyment of it should not be a function of their income or what they can afford to spend. We should be sensitive to various ways to approach a situation with a range of price points and solutions (including products, brands, colors, styles, finishes, and sizes) so the client can have a more enjoyable space in which to live as they age in place.