“Using Checklists For Aging In Place Evaluations”

Observing the client’s living space and then noting what we see or hear on a checklist or longhand, on a pad or computer, will help us prepare an appropriate job scope to present and review with our clients.


Looking for answers or direction

Many of us like help when we approach a project. We may read books on the subject or watch instructional videos from the manufacturer or people who have faced similar issues as us in the past. YouTube is a frequently accessed resource for finding the experiences of others in a step-by-step approach or as a review of what we are about to undertake.

We might ask friends, colleagues, or family for their advice or experiences. We might search the internet for help. We might try to find some checklists or guidelines to give us direction on how to approach construction, implementation, or use of a project.

When it comes to modifying someone’s home to make it safer or to create a more comfortable, convenient, or accessible living space, we often look for checklists to help us determine what to look for or evaluate.

Finding a checklist to use

Depending on what we want to observe and note about someone’s home and the way they use it, a checklist will provide a way to note various observations and to incorporate standards, recommendations, design criteria, or requirements into our evaluation.

Unlike a checklist which guides us through the process of undertaking or completing a task (one that we’ve done before or new at it), which can apply to assembling a piece of furniture, installing technology equipment, repairing a car, changing the oil, replacing appliances or installing filters, and other items for which we seek information and answers in a step-by-step explanatory way, a checklist for an aging in place approach may not be as available or useful.

Unfortunately, aging in place doesn’t work this way, and neither do aging in place renovations.

There are guidelines we can follow, but finding a helpful checklist to use may be more difficult since everyone has different needs and abilities. It would be extremely hard to accommodate everyone’s requirements in a single checklist. While many safety requirements and best practices can be detailed in a list, other aspects of how a person uses their space, their specific approaches to items in their space, or what their dwelling provides is more difficult to designate.

We all age differently

One of the issues in trying to find and use a checklist for evaluating how well a person is using their living space or what needs to be included in it is that we all age differently. We have different requirements and needs. What someone requires in their thirties, someone else will need in their seventies, and perhaps someone else won’t experience these issues at all.

While declining vision and hearing goes along with the aging process, and often lower degrees of coordination and balance, there is no formula or timetable that can be applied. Therefore, prescribing treatments to assist people using a schedule or checklist may miss as often as it connects. It totally depends on the individual.

While there are general safety features and design elements we can employ – more lighting, no steps, and handles and controls that are easy to use, for instance – most of what we are going to recommend for people is going to depend on what they need, want, and desire to spend to have them.

Universal design is a great strategy

Instead of trying to match what a checklist suggests that a home should have included, irrespective of its size or layout or the needs of the actual occupants of the space, a universal design approach might be a better strategy to use. It assumes that everyone needs certain aspects of their home created for safety, comfort, convenience, and accessibility without specifying a specific user.

Universal design stipulates accessible passageways, no barriers to movement, controls at reachable heights, lighting to see what a person is attempting to use without any shadows to contend with, and the use of otherwise heavy objects in a way that makes them easier to use.

Rather than a checklist that asks us to provide an adequate amount of lighting (or enough or sufficient lighting) – all being subject to interpretation – universal design asks us to afford anyone the ability to use the space. Proper lighting, without casting heavy shadows, for the activities in that space would be a given.

Similarly, a precept of universal design is sufficient space (without specifying what that physically needs to be) for accessing and using any item in the home. If we deem that someone would have difficulty in approaching or getting close enough to an object in question to use it as intended, then the spacing issue will have been identified without the need for a checklist. The same is true for many other features in the home.

Checklists have their place

Checklists can guide our observations and review of a space, but so can our knowledge of what we know to be good design and accessibility. The more we are knowledgeable of how a person might use a space – regardless of their abilities or needs – the better we can comment on what we see (or fail to see).

Rather than a checklist that guides our observations – which may be good for some of us in the early going – becoming comfortable in general with what to look for will serve us better than a sometimes-cumbersome checklist with multiple pages of entries.

Keep it simple, go for the most obvious safety issues first, and remember that whatever we note as being an issue (on a checklist or just in our observations) will need to be resolved or addressed by someone – the owner, a contractor, or us. The more we note, the more extensive will be the resolution.

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