Sunday, September 25, 2016

"There's More To Universal Design Than Just Labeling Something That Way"

As is true with so many industries, hobbies, pursuits, and other directions that people are interested in following or promoting, calling something by a certain label may or may not accurately identify its properties or describe it. If we call ice cream a low-calorie desert without the ingredients or studies to back it up, we doubt the validity of its claim. Calling a food, diet, exercise program, or lifestyle healthy that has dubious properties and claims does not suddenly change its status to what we would like it to be.

As much as we want to embrace a particular design or idea that is marketed as or touted as a universal design product or solution, we can't just rely on the labels or descriptions that someone wants to attach to it without verifying it bu what we know to be true. If someone mistakenly believes that something fits the category, based on their own interpretation or from what they have read or been told, and we can't agree with their premise, then the label doesn't hold.

Universal design is pretty simple. There are seven basic principles that North Carolina State University crafted in 1997. They have not changed in the ensuing 20 years. There is some overlap among the seven criteria, but it is fairly easy to compare a product, solution, or application to find out whether it meets any of all of the established criteria. Just wanting it to align with some or all of the principles with no visible evidence that it does is not good enough for us. Here, desire is outweighed and overruled by function.

Some designs that people want to use have specialized functions that apply to a particular need that someone has - be it mobility, sensory, or cognitive. Because it is meant to serve a certain aspect of the population and not the general public, it cannot be regarded as universal design - no matter how much someone wants to persist or claim that it does. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having aging-in-place solutions that appeal to someone's specific needs, but these won't fall into the category of universal design unless they have much broader appeal also.

Since universal design is a very inclusive type of design, it is no respecter of ages, physical size, capacity to understand how something works, or physical ability to operate something. That's why a couple of the principles of it are perceptible information and low physical effort.

If a first grader can use something well - say a digital thermostat (although they don't need to know what the actual numbers that they read mean in terms of relative comfort) or a rocker light switch - and a grandparent (someone even into their 90s) can do the same - whether they are using mobility assistance or not and regardless of the the strength of their vision or any joint difficulties they may possess - that item is a universal design feature. If only one of them, or neither of them, can use it as it was intended, then it is not universal.

If something seems like it would be a good design to create or install it in a certain manner, ask how the first grader and the grandparent would relate to it as well as others who might have various limitations. That should be enough to decide if something generally can be used by people in general or if it is more limited to just certain persons. Universal design means just that - essentially being for everyone.

Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Aging-In-Place Renovations Do Not Need To Be An Absolute Solution"

We hear people question the suitability of their home as being able to meet their needs as they grow older - those with special needs as well as those without.  We also see discussion about choosing the correct aging-in-place home as the forever home.

Nevertheless, life happens, and people can't always be forward-thinking in their choice of a home or able to move from the one they are in presently. That's where we come in as aging-in-place specialists. We can help them deal with their current and projected situation the best way possible given their physical condition, the physical layout of the home, and their budget.

There is nothing that says that an aging-in-place home has to meet certain criteria or contain a minimum number of age-friendly features. If we are able to make just a single improvement for someone that enhances their relative safety and enjoyment in their home, we are further along than if nothing was done.

While it would be great to find someone with a generous budget, a home that was amenable to several changes, and a willing owner to go along with our textbook approach to renovating their home. This might happen, but generally will not.

We have to work with what is presented to us. It's not always an ideal situation or one able to allow us to complete a full range of improvements. That's where setting priorities becomes important. Some activities are going to be more important to do than others - for safety, accessibility, or general comfort reasons. Some are going to be less costly to complete than others.

While it's true that moving into a nursing home or retirement center can run close to 6-figures per year, and that an aging-in-place renovation only needs to be done and paid for just once - at a considerably smaller number - there is no prescription for the ideal or complete aging-in-place solution. It's a matter of what the residents of the home want, what they will allow or tolerate in terms of changes (and how long it might take to achieve them), what their budget or outside funding will accommodate, and what the most pressing or necessary concerns happen to be.

Again, it may not be possible to address all of the many needs that a home has or that the occupants of that home have with various physical limitations or needs. There may be too many to address reasonably, quickly, or economically. Therefore, the most pressing needs will need to take top priority and be acted upon to achieve a solution that provides more safety, comfort, and accessibility for those occupying the space.

From an ideal standpoint, there might be many more changes that we would like to make in a home or that we feel are necessary. These may be outside the scope of what is reasonable to accomplish due to factors such as the age and value of the home, the medical needs of the clients, and the amount of time required to complete the changes. Some improvements may be more urgent than others for a time standpoint.

Also, some improvements, while beneficial and called for from an assessment standpoint will simply over-improve a property. It will not be consistent with the real estate value of the home or the surrounding ones in the neighborhood.

In the final analysis, creating aging-in-place solutions is an art. Each case is different, and even two similar situations may have varying results for a variety of reasons having to do with the budget or funding, the clients, and how much work is appropriate to do. 


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"An Entry Station Is Something Anyone Can Use - And Definitely Needs"

As we drive up to our home - especially when we park outside and not in the garage - often we have a challenge as we approach the front door. We are carrying something with us.

Depending on whether we are coming from the office, an appointment, the store, the mall, the gym, or elsewhere, we have a backpack, brief case, folders or envelopes from the office, gym bag or workout equipment, mail that we picked up at the street on the way in, fast food we picked up for the family, a soft drink or cup of coffee we are still drinking, a bottle of water, a cell phone, and possibly more.

Maybe we stopped to pick up the dry cleaning or made a quick trip to the grocery store to items for dinner (if it's at the and of the day). At other times of the day, we still may have groceries and supplies to carry in, or items we picked up running errands for the household.

It's not just either. Certainly this applies to our clients - also other members of our household. In fact, some people label this place where things are dropped off as the "drop zone" and typically locate it near the back or side door. Here, the kids can drop their backpacks, homework, and other materials.

Used in reverse, this a pace where delivery people can leave or retrieve a package that is coming or going. It's where a neighbor can leave something for us.

Many texts can this area an "entry shelf," but this is very limiting. Let's make it an "entry station" or "entrance station" instead to signify that it can be varied with have multiples looks and personalities and that it can be personalized to the occupants of the home. Now, it can be a lot more than just a shelf. It can be something hung on the wall - shelves, hooks, or racks - as a unit or detached and done separately.

The entry station can be a piece of furniture - a table, a bench, a chair, a cabinet, a desk, or anything else that can have a flat surface on it (among other surfaces or cubbies). We and others can sit on it, have a conversation there with a neighbor or visitor perhaps, take on the phone, read a email or check our emails, or just enjoy some outdoors quiet.

Recognizing the importance, function, and versatility of the entrance or entry station means that we should begin calling for these to be installed wherever we can. We can include them in a bid, note them on an assessment or evaluation, or just include them as a gift to the homeowner - whether we recapture any of the cost or not. We can go to a second-hand or thrift store or to an unfinished furniture outlet and purchase some inexpensive tables, desks, dressers, or cabinets. Then we paint or finish them to withstand an outdoor environment (whether they are shelter on a porch of not), and we have a huge value-added proposition that adds beauty and function to our clients' homes.

Embrace the entrance station - for all it offers. It's a great universal design and aging-in-place feature.


Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit my website at or call 561-685-5555.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Three Things Anyone Can Do To Improve The Front Of Their Home"

Before anyone ever gets inside the home - whether it is their home that they are entering, they are visiting a friend's home, or someone is coming to see them (whether that person is known to them or not) - there are a minimum of three things that can be done to improve and enhance the appearance, access, safety, and functionality of any home.

Some owners and renters may be able to handle these items themselves. Some may require the assistance of others such as family members or contractors. For those with physical or mobility challenges, the work will most likely need to be by someone else, such as an aging-in-place professional like us.

The entrance of the home seems to have been generally neglected over the years - designed to be attractive in some cases but not created as part of an overall access plan for the entire home.

Essentially, we are talking about the design concept and focus of "visitability." This creates a uniform path for entry and access in any dwelling, and for the most part, is absent from homes. Homes are designed and created for many reasons, but universal access to them and comfort for the person arriving at and entering the home (occupant or visitor) has not been a point of emphasis.

The three items that can and should be a central design feature for any home - and ones that we can focus on creating and providing - are (1) a covered entry that protects people from the elements as they are standing at the front door, (2) an entry station of some type (some people refer to this as a "drop zone") where people can rest or set down what they are carrying before opening the entry door, and (3) a wide enough area to stand where the door can open without interfering with where they are.

Of course an easy to navigate pathway to the front door and one that minimizes or eliminates the number of steps someone has to climb is important also, but that can't be easily achieved in some homes based on the historical nature or architectural design of the neighborhood.

Also a wide entry door is important, but significant construction might be required to achieve this.

Sufficient lighting to illuminate steps and pathways and eliminate shadows and hidden elements also is an important concept that needs to be incorporated into any long-term, comprehensive design plan.

The three items enumerated, however, are reasonable objectives for most any home.

A covered entry is more than the traditional two-foot overhand - much more. It is high and wide enough to shelter people beneath from rain, snow, sleet, or other precipitation - active or just dripping - but not so high and open on the sides as to allow the moisture to be blown or driven in by wind. The precipitation is not just a falling phenomenon but one that can come from the sides or at an angle.

When people are standing on the entry porch or stoop waiting for the door to open for them (or to open it themselves), there should be plenty or room to stand to the side of the the opening door (at least two-feet) - still under the cover of a roof or awning - without endangering themselves or interfering with the action of the door. This applies regardless or any mobility assistance that someone might be using.

Lastly, is a shelf or piece of furniture (table, bench, or chair) that is near the front door where people can sit, unload their hands or arms before opening the door or going inside, or generally use as they are outside.

Nearly any home - new or existing, or any age - can have these three items incorporated into a redesign. 


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Do Our Clients Know What CAPS Is?"

We learned about the CAPS program - Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist - from a colleague, our company, an organization we belong to, an article we saw, or somewhere else along the way, and we decided that we wanted to obtain the designation. So we did. Now what?

We made arrangements to take the training and completed the requirements to receive our CAPS designation. We proudly and enthusiastically add those initials to our business card and website. But we're just getting started. Now we have to make people aware of our credentials, training, background, and abilities - those that may become referring professionals for us, those that we might want to partner with strategically, and those who might want to engage our services.

Whatever our particular specialty and professional background happens to be, CAPS designees collectively represent a vast array of professional specialties including general contractors, home builders, new home salespeople, renovators, remodelers, occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants, handymen, interior designers, decorators, kitchen and bath designers, durable medical equipment providers and installers, building material manufacturers and sales representatives, trade contractors (electricians, plumbers, carpenters, drywall contractors, flooring contractors, roofers, cabinet fabricators, and more), real estate sales professionals, stagers, home inspectors, attorneys, university faculty, home health, visiting nurses, senior service agencies, nonprofit organizations, and many others.

Regardless of why the CAPS training appealed to us and whatever led us to find and enroll in the courses - and whatever particular products or services we offer - people need to know that (1) we have the training, (2) what that represents or means to them, and (3) we are available to help them with a variety of their housing and home environment issues and concerns.

We have a very special expertise that allows us to work with their issues - or the issues of close family members and friends.

This is an on-going process. The three-day training doesn't make us an overnight expert, but it adds credibility to our story. It gives us additional insight and perspective. It allows us to be better at what we already have been doing, but the journey continues.

Nevertheless, we must share our story as often as we can. We know that people both want and need to stay in their homes as they age, and we also know that people who need improvements largely are unsure how to locate a reputable contractor or to get someone like an OT to help them evaluate their needs.

By talking up and discussing our designation with existing customers that have used our other services, their families, new people we are meeting, and people who ask us what we do - and by discussing what our CAPS training means to us and how it can help them as far as our ability to relate to their needs and suggest specific solutions and services to address these concerns - we will be spreading our message among people who are looking for what we offer.

We may have a website and social media profiles where we can discuss our credentials and our story also.

People aren't going to automatically know that we have the CAPS training or how they can benefit from it without us helping to inform them. Many people are aware of CAPS through the combined efforts of NAHB, AARP, AIA, AOTA, APTA, ASID, NKBA, and similar organizations. However, they may not have a good explanation of how they can benefit from working with a CAPS professional, and they may not know that we have the designation. Marketing is quite important for spreading the word and sharing our CAPS story with our marketplace.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"No One Is Immune From Aging"

No one is immune from aging - no one escapes it. We have different ways of slowing down its effects and for not letting the outward or physical signs of aging show, but as the years pass, we all experience some form of aging. It's inescapable, and for some it's more pronounced than for others.

Not only that, but everything ages - our homes, our cars, our food. Buy produce at the market and put it on the shelf for a week and then look at it. It doesn't look so fresh. They put expiration or best sell by dates on packages because the useful life or quality of a product fades over time. Even fine wine can age past the time when it is pleasant to drink. Manufacturers are constantly updating and upgrading their products to add the latest technology and remove design features that no longer are desired or useful.

Clothing styles change. How many people are walking around today in leisure suits, double knits, or bell-bottoms? If we were to see such outfits, it would be quite obvious as from an earlier time.

We can deny that we are aging, we can invest in cosmetic surgery or skin treatments to keep the physical signs of aging to a minimum, we can attempt to dress younger or wear a younger looking hairstyle, and we can exercise (mind and body) to keep looking and feeling young for years. Still, aging is a natural part of life.

As aging-in-place professionals, we get to help people come to terms with the aging process in a way that minimizes any effect the passing years are having on their physical or mental abilities. We get to help them move about successfully in their homes and access the features in the space much the same as they could when they were considerably younger.

Aging-in-place means that people can stay in their current homes for as long as they like and have those home function reasonably well for them. Notice that the term is aging-in-place so we are admitting that people do grow older. There is no denying it. It's not called forever young, for instance.

Since we all age - admittedly at various rates and in different ways - and there is no denying this, why not make the most of it and approach aging proactively to seize on the opportunities for creating enjoyable and safe living spaces? That's the concept of aging-in-place, and it's not limited to seniors. People are aging throughout life, so let's address their issues at whatever station in life they find themselves. 

Everyone - regardless of where they are living at the moment, their current age, their physical state, or their income level - deserves to live in a place that is as safe, comfortable, convenient, accessible, and enjoyable to them as their resources allow or as we can help them attain.

Of course people have differing needs, requirements, and budgets, but the common fact of life is that we all are aging - from birth onward - and there is no going back. We must deal with aging in the best way that we can - both personally and professionally - based on our experience and knowledge base and the needs and abilities of those we are serving.

This is why we have chosen to be aging-in-place professionals - to address a fact of life common to every single person.

Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Mid-Century Homes Make Great Aging-In-Place Makeover Candidates"

Homes built in the middle part of the 20th century - from the 1930s to the 1960s - had some great architecture and were generally built quite well. Many are still very livable and inhabited today.

That was a different time, however, in more than just the calendar. People lived differently, building products and furnishings were different, people had different needs and requirements, and they had different expectations from what they wanted and demanded from their homes.

Compared to today, people had fewer design choices in terms of the types of doors and the hardware to use to open those doors. The lever handle was non-existent. The barn door concept was not available although pocket doors were used.

The countertops were mostly laminate - not the granite, quartz, onyx, glass, copper, concrete, ceramic, and other choices available today. Obviously LED lighting had not been created so ceiling fixtures where located in the middle of most rooms with incandescent bulbs as the norm. Florescent bulbs were used in some kitchens, closets, and bathrooms.

Flooring choices were generally hardwood - until people started covering them up with carpeting, as well as linoleum - and then vinyl tiles, and terrazzo. That evolved into ceramic and a few other products, but recently is where we have seen so many changes with laminates, engineered wood, polished and stamped concrete, marble, travertine, porcelain, slate, stone, and several other hard-surface products.

Older homes had narrower doorways and hallways. That's just what was done. Of course, walkers didn't exist as we know them today until the 1970s so mobility was different in that era. People generally weren't as large physically as we see today. Also people didn't expect to age-in-place as much as we do today although many aging parents were asked to live with their adult children.

Air conditioning was not original equipment in these homes. Window units or central air may have been added, but the homes did not come this way because the technology was not there. There are still homes of this vintage without air conditioning.

Of course, electricity requirements were much different then also. In addition to air conditioning not being available in most homes, technology did not exist like today so there were no home computers, copiers, digital TVs, gaming stations, surround sound systems, security systems, and other low-voltage products. 

Electrical service coming into the home generally was 60 amp service as compared with 200-400 today. Portable hair dryers, microwaves, toaster ovens, pool or spa heaters or pumps, and other large energy users weren't available then so the electrical demand wasn't either. Rather than the breaker panels that are commonplace today, fuse boxes with glass fuses were what was used.

Whether it is creating more visitable exteriors and entrances, foyers and vestibules, hallways, and main floor bathrooms - or eliminating steps that people use to get to the doorway - there are many aging-in-place projects awaiting us.

Widening doorways, replacing door and cabinet hardware, changing out heavier and generally harder to operate wooden sashed single- and double-hung windows with aluminum or vinyl clad single-hung windows or crank-out casement ones, and replacing harsh or inadequate central ceiling fixtures with more versatile LED lighting choices are some of the many projects we can undertake in these vintage homes that will make a huge difference in the way people live in and enjoy them.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Just How Many Extra Steps Are We Creating For Ourselves Or Our Clients?"

Exercise in some form is good for all of us - depending on our level of fitness, and degrees of mobility, stamina, balance, and coordination. It might just have to be limited exertion activities, those done mostly while seated, or even mental exercises. For those able to walk and get around, this type of movement is great for enhancing bone density, muscle tone, balance, muscle memory, and general health.

Even so, many people are challenging themselves and their neighbors, family, and guests by creating additional work to get to and through the front doors of their homes. We call this visitability, and the number of instances of poor visitability is in the very high percentages.

Just how many extra steps are we creating for ourselves as well as our friends neighbors, guests, and visitors by having steps for them to negotiate as they approach our front door? This may actually be keeping people away, and it could be creating potential hazards (tripping, stumbling, or falling) for people wanting to visit us and our clients.

One could argue that any unnecessary steps - those that could be avoided through a redesign - are too many. This situation really does present a safety concern.

The concept of visitability is that people - regardless of who they are or what their mobility requirements are - can go to anyone else's home and gain entry without difficulty. Clearly this is not the case in so many situations, and here is our challenge.

Now that the weather is going to be turning cooler, people are going to be wearing more clothes - sweaters, jackets, scarves, and more, depending on the exact temperature and personal preference. This complicates walking up steps and going through doorways - all the more reason for creating visitable entrances and first floor public areas in our homes.

Now, think ahead a few weeks to the heart of the football season, Halloween celebrations, Thanksgiving and year-end observances, and it's easy to see how more and more people are potentially going to want to visit us - and placed in potential peril if the entrances aren't ready to accommodate them.

Even, athletic people can miss a step, turn an ankle, or otherwise have a mishap when climbing stairs or just going up a couple of steps. Consider how challenging this becomes for people with more limited mobility or balance, coordination, or stamina issues.

Then, the issue of getting up the entry walk and climbing stairs or steps is made worse by the entry door itself. Many entrances have not been created to allow the person entering the home sufficient space to move out of the way of the opening storm or entrance door (those that open out, which is most of them). For those who had enough difficulty just getting to the door, expecting them to be able to get out of the way may be asking too much.

There are so many ways to reduce the number of steps we take, that our household members take, that our clients take, and that everyone visiting any of us are made to take, that we should make this a top priority to act upon - even when no other home improvements are envisioned, considered, or desired by our potential clients. When there is other work required, this needs to be a top priority in addition to the rest of the project.

Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

"No Two People Are Exactly Alike, And Neither Are AIP Solutions"

We all got to where we are today  through very different paths. Therefore, it's no wonder that all of us (or at least many of us) have different outlooks on life, different plans for the future, different intentions on how we want to age, and various requirements for our forever homes.

We all have had different life experiences – even if we grew up in the same household with the same parents. We had our own friends, teachers, life experiences, little league and high school coaches, work experiences, and interactions with friends and strangers. Two people from the same household may have different talents, different interests, and express those interests in various ways. Some are athletic, some musical, some joiners, and some more reserved. There are many ways that siblings might vary even though they are exposed to essentially the same home environment.

In short, who we are today is the composite of myriad life experiences over the years that has helped to shape and mold us.

That said, we can't be expected to behave like many other people although there are group dynamics and similarities across various core beliefs, values, and experiences.

Nevertheless, what we have experienced - at home, at college, in the workplace, on our own, and in relationships - has been affected in some ways also by our outlook. This tends to act as a filter for how we view and interpret life.

What we want, what we expect, how we like to be treated, and how we treat and interact with others has been shaped in various ways by our experiences. Where we grew up, who we associated with, hobbies we have (or don't have), clubs and organizations we have belonged to, and national or ethnic heritages we identify with or hold onto all affect how we do life. They affect how we view new ideas and possibilities that are presented to us – such as aging in place solutions.

Therefore, creating a boilerplate solution that can be applied uniformly among seniors or those with various special needs is just not practical. While similarities may exist in solutions that are created for homes that were built about the same time and are roughly the same size and layout, the fact remains that what people want, what they are willing to pay for, and what they think they need are filtered to a large extent by their life experiences.

Then, in addition to the influence that those life experiences have in deciding what, if any, work will be commenced to help them have a safer and more enjoyable life in their current home, we need to factor in media exposure and peer comments.

Many people place a lot of stock in what they see and read in the media and on home decoration and renovation shows. Their homes and their needs may not correspond at all to what they are viewing, yet they think this is the way for them to go.

They also are concerned about what their friends, neighbors, and relatives are going to say about any planned improvements.

It's no wonder that each renovation is different, given all of the factors that come into play and actually affect any decision that is made. From looking at life through the filter of their experiences, having various expectations from watching TV and reading online content, and from talking with others, people can obtain a sense of the improvements they should have - even if those are the most desirable or recommended.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Making A Name For Ourselves Is Sometimes Harder Than It Would Seem"

As aging-in-place professionals, we recognize the importance of marketing ourselves and branding our business to attract more customers and enhance or reputation in the marketplace. At the root of that is our name. We need and want people to remember us and to associate, value, quality, and integrity with our name, even we have a company or corporate name we use also.

Most of us have no control or say over our name - it was the one given to us by our parents at birth. Some of us use a nickname or are known more by our middle name than our first. Since we literally are trying to make a name for ourselves in business and online, there often are complications that likely were never foreseen when our parents named us. In fact, until the recent popularity of the internet, having a name shared by others (including famous actors, athletes, scientists, public figures, writers, or performers) or a very unusual name wasn't near the issue that it is today.

So, when someone does a google search (or use bing, yahoo, or other search engine), they find several references for the more famous namesake or namesakes but may not find us until page three or later. Sometimes we can get lost in the shuffle altogether. Sometimes, it several pages back before our name appears - depending on how many famous or in-the-news people share it with us. It doesn't even matter who had the name first (as in who is older). It's a matter of visibility and usage.

Our parents probably didn't intentionally name us the same as someone with a recognizable name so that we would have to compete for online recognition with them. In fact, our namesake was likely an unknown in the developmental years anyway, and the internet was tears away also.

It's possible our parents wanted to give us a famous first name from the past that they were fond of, and this may cause some issues with people finding that historical or more famous name rather than ours in an online search. When both our first and last name match a more famous personality, we definitely can get overshadowed online.

The real issue is when someone gains a following because they are a TV or movie actor or other prominent person and they share the same name as us - of we them. They are going to come up first in the searches.

So what's the answer? How do you make a name for yourself when all of the names are the same? Say that your name is Steve Smith - do a search and see what comes up.

It's time to change our name - nothing formal - for marketing an online search purposes. Just add a middle initial (even if it's a "made-up" one because we don't really have a middle name or apply a nickname that we invent). So, we can be Steve (or Steven) X. or Z. Smith (when the X or Z stand for nothing except as a differentiation tool). We can be Steve "Skip" Smith (even if we have never used this name before).

Unless we want to remain buried deep within the searches - sometimes there are 20 or more people on Linked In with the very same name - we need to come up a name modification that will identify us.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555.