“Aging In Place Design Is Not Something We Can Observe”

This couple looks comfortable and happy in their home, but we can’t tell just by looking at them, or what we see immediately, if they have unmet needs or modifications have already been done for them.


Addressing the client’s needs

Aging in place design is often referred to as something finite that can be observed and recognized for what it is. However, as an entity, it can’t be purchased, seen online, or viewed in a retail store. It is created for the client on an individual needs and requirements basis.

There is no standard aging in place design. It is created one at a time for each individual. Yes, there can be similarities in approach and even outcomes There are many aging needs that several people experience, but each person’s home and the way they function within that space is going to be different.

There just isn’t an aging in place design. We won’t instantly recognize an aging in place renovation because we won’t know what has been done or why without the client telling us what they had in mind, what their concerns were, and how they approached dealing with them.

Specific modifications rather than a template

When we engage a client, we learn what their needs are and how we can help them have a safer, more enjoyable experience in their home. We certainly don’t apply result A, B, or C because we know that anyone experiencing what we see going on with them needs that formulated approach.

When we walk into someone’s home, we won’t necessarily know without being told what has been done to help the occupants. Grab bars are rather obvious, but what is not so apparent is why they were installed, why that number of them was used, or why those locations were selected.

Existing modifications

Over the years of occupying a home, people make little tweaks and updates to their property. They personalize it and add their own stamp to the design. It might be furnishings or accessories. Maybe it’s art displayed on a table, mantle, or wall. It could be wall finishes or flooring. None of them comes in an aging in place kit that someone can obtain.

While many people, if not most, are going to make those changes in their home to personalize it to their needs and likes, it is not a requirement that must be observed. Some people will move out of their home years later with it looking essentially the same as the day they moved into it. Others will have made extensive modifications in colors, textures, furniture, cabinets, lighting, and other aspects of their home that it would be hard to spot if anything was the same as the day they moved in.

People make modifications and renovations for a variety of reasons – some aesthetic and some functional. People might want a certain paint color for a wall. They may have swapped out less effective and functional door pulls and doorknobs for the ones we recommend for long-term use.

What has already been done in a home – from a lot to essentially nothing – has no bearing on moving forward except that some of the changes may still be applicable or serviceable. Otherwise, we assess the home and the client’s needs and move forward from there.

Determining what’s needed

As we survey a client’s home and interview them about how they use their home and what they would like to see happen to improve their situation, we are not introducing them to a few standard approaches that we keep in stock or carry on our truck.

If we do a hundred renovations for people over a period of time, there likely will be some of the same elements implemented, but it would be an unreasonable stretch to state that we had used a standardized approach. Even though we have certain, proven (and favorite) ways of dealing with needs that people have, each person is different and requires a varied approach.

Other than looking at a bathroom and noting that there are one or more grab bars, that there is a generous amount of turning space in front of the sink or toilet, and that there is a flush access shower with no doors on it, we would not know why those changes had been made or if they were there from the previous occupants of the home.

We can’t make assumptions as to what someone needs and treat everyone alike. Each person has their own set of requirements and budget. Even when two people want essentially the same approach, there are differences in colors and finishes as well as the physical location of those features within the space – a factor of their physical size and ability as well as the physical constraints of the space itself.

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