Seeing what’s ahead of us
Each person experiences life differently, and the pace at which it happens can vary tremendously. As much as some people might like to pursue it more slowly or cautiously, life often does not wait for us or comply with what we would like to have happen. We must be ready to respond to what is happening as it is occurring.
A roller coaster at an amusement park serves as a good illustration of the way we go through life and the way our aging in place needs occur as our situations change with age. We begin fresh, ready for what is coming, and even anticipating the journey, as we start off slow and climb at a steady pace – representing the way that we learn in our early years. In the beginning, it’s an uphill climb for most of us, but it’s something we face. Many people get past this while some continue an uphill challenge much longer.
Unless we have had similar situations that we have seen or encountered in our past that we can use for reference as we move through life, we won’t know what’s coming, how it might impact us, or how we want to prepare a response to it. This is similar to the roller coaster moving along at a very fast speed, going around corners, moving up and down, and generally keeping us from adjusting to what is happening. While this makes a roller coaster ride thrilling and provides much of the excitement in the experience, it’s not that good for an intentional and deliberate life that we want to live.
The future is unknown
Like the amusement ride with its undulating twists and turns which sometimes send us in one direction and then another or even upside down, life does not have a predictable direction. We don’t get to see what’s coming until we are actually there. Sometimes we might be moving so fast that is hard to get our bearings. Life does this as well – it can come at us very fast and take us by surprise.
As we are adjusting to what is coming our way and what we are experiencing, our physical needs to be met as well. This is why aging in place solutions and renovations are based on what we are experiencing now rather than or what might be. We don’t get a script to follow as to what is coming in the days, months, or years ahead. We might have some idea of what is coming next or how we might want to respond to it, based on other people we have worked with in similar situations, but each person is different with a corresponding set of differing needs.
Their dwelling spaces differ as well, both inside and out. What may have been easy to use a few years ago or only slightly bothersome might turn into a major challenge, such as entry steps, narrow doorways, heavy doors that hard to open or keep that way, windows that don’t respond well to our attempts to open them, bath fixtures that are tricky to use, and many other aspects of a person’s home that likely were considered functional at one time but may not be so any longer as the years have passed and their abilities have changed.
Finding a crystal ball
If we could know the future for ourselves or our clients, we could design now or could have done so years ago for what people would need years from now. There would be no need to continually evaluate their needs and their ability to relate to their space because we would know the outcome before it happened. Obviously, that’s not how life works – or the way we approach aging in place renovations.
If we could somehow possess the ability to know how someone’s needs would change and what their most urgent requirements might be at any given time, we could be proactive and create those solutions in advance. However, as soon as we meet someone’s current needs, another part of the roller coaster is experienced and we need to reevaluate our response.
While it might seem that we should have a pat answer or response – something preformulated to address people’s needs in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and other decades, we know that their actual home layouts and conditions of their property vary tremendously, and so do their desires, needs, and preferences.
This is why aging in place solutions is a responsive effort and not a proactive one except for universal design or visitable designs that we can implement to apply regardless of someone’s abilities.