Aging in place is a very popular concept today – one that has now taken a major place in the design and residency realm in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere around the globe. On the one hand, this is a very old concept that has existed for centuries with no such name or label attached to it. On the other hand, just within the last few years has the term taken on a mainstream importance that is tracking online and in conversation circles.
The fact that we now have a name for the aging in place phenomenon does not make it any more or less important than in former times, but it does mean that we can focus on it more. People are interested in discussing and promoting it; whereas, in past times, it was just something that was done – often without much additional care or attention.
People simply stayed with their families when maintaining their own homes became too much for them, or they continued to exist the best way they could on their own. There weren’t the level of caregivers, social agencies, support systems, products, strategies, and professionals like us to assist them or intervene.
So now that aging in place is something that we as a society are embracing – with many communities creating actual agencies or citizens groups to address the aging in place issues as they see them or to provide a sounding board for concerns – the demand for those of us who are attuned to providing services in this area is high and growing.
That said, it is easy to overthink the solutions that people might need or want – or those that we would like to see implemented. Ideally, we would have a list of twenty or some improvements that we would like to install or include in every home that we enter – to the extent that they don’t already have some of them. Most won’t, however.
We know what we would like to see in our clients homes – easier to use hardware, slip-resistant hard surface flooring, level transitions throughout the home or a uniform flooring type, cabinet and controls that are accessible (especially those in excess of countertop height), bath fixtures that are easy to use, adequate lighting to illuminate all areas of the home, and storage space to allow items to be put away, among other improvements or areas to tackle.
We need to remember that just because we know that something can be done and we know how the client might benefit from having it, that there are personal preference, budgetary, and space considerations to factor into what we recommend. Even though each home is a blank slate so-to-speak when we approach it, many of them will allow for very little additional activity because of already exists. We don’t always get to do or recommend everything that we would like to see accomplished in a home.
When we enter a client’s home, we have a more global perspective of what can be done and what is advantageous for safe, comfortable, and accessible living within their space. However, they are approaching anything we might suggest from how much it will cost, what it will look like, and most importantly, how it differs from what they have now. Even though their current situation might not be very effective for their daily activities, it is something they are used to using this way.
Unless the clients specifically tell us that something in their home is not working for them, not working as they would like, doesn’t allow the access they seek or need, or they express some other concern, the status quo is going to be a major factor to overcome as we suggest our design renovations.
Just because we can do something in the client’s home does not mean that we need to or should. There are so many factors to take into account. It’s easy to overthink or overprescribe our solutions for them because we have so much that we want to do with them and so much that we know they can benefit from having included that it’s hard to use some restraint.
We should ask ourselves what the most pressing issues are (in terms of safety or accessibility) – regardless of cost or complexity to accomplish them – and then approach those first. We can also include some easy, less expense solutions along the way, but we should address the really important concerns first – even if we scale back on the solution to still deal with the issue effectively but perhaps not as comprehensively or elaborately as we might have liked to do. We just don’t need to do everything that we can [possibly think of – they may not want it, have the time for us to complete them, or have the budget.