Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"There Is A Tremendous Opportunity To Help People Age In Place More Safely"

There are many people who want to remain living in their homes as they age. Depending on their current age and the study cited, this number approaches nearly the entire population. It increases as people get older and realize that they really like being where they are and really don't have any interest in changing their address.

Just because people have no interest in moving from their current homes does not mean that those homes are well suited to provide for their occupants over time, however. Some are, but many are not.

It could be that the age of the home is not conducive to mobility or accessibility issues that people are likely to have as they get older. Those homes were built at a time when hallways and doorways were narrower. Windows. lighting, flooring, and electrical service were different. If they have not been upgraded or maintained over time they main be out-of-step with current building codes or comfort requirements.

Nevertheless, many people are going to remain in their homes and do nothing to improve those homes. Even though those homes have not kept pace with technology or their occupants' advancing years, the homes are desirable for other reasons. They just may not be as safe as they could be.

People want to remain in their homes because they like them. They are familiar with the floor plans and the immediate neighborhood. Even with declining sensory perception (for those so affected) they can find their way around their homes and the homes immediately near them. This level of comfort and security is a big factor in making the decision to remain living where they are.

While many cosmetic or safety improvements could be made in the home, including modernizing appliances, cabinetry, bath fixtures, lighting, door hardware, and similar features, the homes themselves are capable of being lived in for many more years. As such, some people who really could benefit from home modifications and improvements are going to ignore or forgo such changes and upgrades because they are unaware of them, don't think they can afford them, or have never been approached and consulted about making them. This is a huge opportunity for us.

Even when people don't make any changes to their existing homes to make life easier for themselves as they remain living in them and aging in place, they may be able to survive quite well. They could do better with our help, but they can make do. The point is that there are many people who are going to continue living in their homes without doing anything to make those homes better for themselves. There are going to many who recognize that they need improvements and reach out to us. it's figuring out ways to tap this otherwise unreachable market that is a real potential for us.

We can't force people to improve their homes who really don't want to make any changes to them, but there are many people who simply are unaware that their homes can be better or don't know which areas can be improved and to what extent. There is such an opportunity to reach such individuals with the message that improvements can be made and to show them ways that such changes can be financed. 

For those people that really would like to have some improvements made that are unaware of just what can be done or perhaps how simple or relatively inexpensive some of these changes can be, someone needs to figure out a way to reach them and make them aware of how their lives can be improved. This applies whether they have any mobility limitations or other aging issues or not. 

Of course, there are also going to be those people who are willing to do something to make their homes more accessible, easier to move around in, and safer. Often they will reach out to us. We can help them in many ways, and it will be easier to serve them because they are welcoming the types of changes that we can make.

Either way, there is no shortage of people for us to serve. There is the obvious market of people who contact us or respond eagerly to our calls to help them and the less obvious one of people that are not as willing or knowledgeable about improvements that can be made to their homes.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

"There Are Many Ways We Can Structure And Run Our CAPS Business"

Fortunately, there are many ways - and not just one or two - that we can structure, run, and apply our CAPS business. Using our training, expertise, and experience we can build upon what we have been doing to continue offering the types of services we have become known for, or we can branch off into a new direction. There is plenty of room for various approaches.

The CAPS training provides a framework, a core competency, from which to build a way to deliver our services. Based on any professional training, licenses, or designations we have, apart from our CAPS coursework, we can use this to develop a delivery system for our business model. This includes any background we might have in interior design, architecture, occupational or physical therapy, nursing, construction, durable medical equipment, assistive technology, or other related businesses to what we want to do with our CAPS training.

Helping people stay in their homes as they age is such a rewarding, and yet encompassing, experience. We can structure our approach to involve people in their thirties, essentially just starting out in life - with or without a family they are beginning, and continue on through other stages of life. We can work with mature families with kids in high school or college, empty-nester couples or single parents in their forties and fifties with no children at home or ones there just occasionally, retiree or pre-retiree individuals or couples, and into what traditionally is viewed as senior citizens (a target that is moving upward from the early or mid-sixties to the seventies or eighties). We can choose to work with people at any stage of life, whether they are incurring any physical limitations or not that impact their activities of daily living or their coming and going.

Rather than looking at people and where they are in life and any needs they might have, we can view this secondarily to the structures in which they live. We can target the dwellings and the physical improvements they might require because of their age or method of construction to help them be more serviceable, accessible, and visitable to whomever is occupying them.

Thus, we have two approaches, and a third if they are combined. We can choose to focus on the individual and their particular needs, look at the dwelling space and how it can be improved, or treat both of them as they occur, figuring that the physical requirements of the individuals might be affected or impacted by the physical restraints or parameters of the homes in which they are living.

To begin offering our services, we can design assessment and evaluation services to help pinpoint what type of work needs to be done inside a dwelling to make it more suitable for the inhabitants. That might be the extent of our business, and there certainly is plenty of this type of work that is necessary. It can be done by working with the homeowners directly or by going through a third party such as a referring medical professional, an insurance agent or adjuster, an attorney, a contractor, or a concerned family member. It can be a standalone assessment that informs the homeowner of the status of their home or as a prelude to getting improvements done. We can be involved in working with a contractor to complete those improvements, or the homeowner can get this done on their own, depending on strategic relationships we have established and the urgency of the pending work.

As contractors or handymen, we can actually initiate the improvements. This can be through a referral, through business we find on our own, or from previous clients that we have completed other types of work for in the past.

Regardless of our professional specialty, we can collaborate with other professionals to form a team approach for accomplishing comprehensive improvements for a client that would include a medical needs assessment, an evaluation of the living space, a design component, and construction.

There are so many ways that we can structure and offer our services as CAPS-trained professionals because the need is so great. So people are not going to be interested in doing anything right now - the classic procrastinators - but others will. Regardless of how we structure our offerings and whether we do them on our own or as part of referral network or strategic team, we can keep quite busy.
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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Your CAPS Designation Is Powerful - Use It"

There are many professional designations and certifications that we can strive for and earn - apart from ones that go along with our profession such as CPA, AIA, OTR/L, PT, RN, MD, and others like this.

CAPS is one such designation, and a very strong and influential one at that.

Certified Aging In Place Specialist - CAPS, is widely recognized as the leader in providing expertise and knowledge about understanding and modifying home living environments to make they compatible with the ongoing needs of the residents of those dwellings.

It has taken 15 years to get to this point, but aging in place, and more specifically CAPS, is resonating with the public. There is a constant discussion in various forums among consumers, caregivers, and professionals about aging in place.

We have several organizations that are helping to promote the CAPS program and designation to and through their members  - and ultimately to the public. In addition to NAHB and AARP which created the program, the NKBA, ASID, AIBD. AOTA, APTA, AIA, among others, are encouraging their members to become certified and to use the principles advanced in the courses in their practices. Other organizations in real estate, design, and aging in place are likewise recommending and endorsing the program and encouraging their members to get the designation.

This is a huge amount of chatter about the program that underscores both the need for it and its importance in affecting the lives of all it touches.

As a result of CAPS-trained professionals, people now have a way of remaining viably in their homes as they get older. Aging in place is no longer something that just a few can hope to attain. It is within the reach of nearly anyone. Even people who can't afford or don't desire to undertake any type of special aging in place renovation or modification projects in their homes are still part of what is happening. They are able to be part of aging in place even by doing little or nothing to their living spaces.

Of course, CAPS is most concerned with helping people to achieve their aim of living in their current homes successfully by actively taking to steps to assess and evaluate what currently exists and make a determination about how to proceed. For some the required changes are going to be minimal because the condition or age of the structure is such that significant changes are impractical, too expensive to be cost effective, or not really needed beyond a few safety improvements. For others, their homes are going to require major work to make them into the accessible, safe, convenient, and enjoyable homes they are capable of being. 

It's not the amount of work that needs to be done, the age of the homes, or the abilities of people living in such homes that is the main point. It's that they don't have to settle for what they have, and they don't have to move into something else. Their homes, which they have come to love and which provide safety, security, comfort, and peace-of-mind to them as places they enjoy spending their time, can remain their anchor. They don't need to even consider leaving them.

This is the major premise of aging in place and why the CAPS program has been so successful We are helping people to remain in their homes and set aside any thoughts of needing to move as they get older or perhaps have more pressing physical impairments that otherwise might challenge their ability to remain in their homes. CAPS professionals are trained to understand their changing life conditions and to meet them effectively by creating solutions that accommodate them.
This is a great time to have the CAPS certification, and it's only going to get better as more and more people seek us out for our help.


Let's make sure we are letting people know that we are CAPS trained and how we can help them. Having the training is the first step. Using it is the next.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"In Everything We Do, There May Be A Better Way"

We all strive to do our best. We take pride and professional satisfaction in doing the best job we can. When we meet with a potential aging in place client to assess their situation and propose solutions for them, we are looking for ways to match their abilities with their budget, the parameters of their home layout and constructions, and the best practices for this situation.

As hard as we attempt to get it just right - with the resources we have available to us and the knowledge base we are working with - it just could be that there is something we are overlooking or not considering. This can't become something we worry about, and we can't obsess over this, but there is the possibility that there is a better way to approach the solution we are creating and recommending.

It doesn't mean that there is a better way, or even that there even should be. We just need to take a step back - after doing all of our analysis - and consider that there might be several ways to approach a given situation. Sometimes our first hunch or idea will be the one we go with. Other times, it might be several ideas we go through before landing on the one we like.

Of course, just because we like something doesn't always mean the client will want it - or that the other decision makers, caregivers, or others involved in creating the solution will agree with our proposal. They might have a better way - maybe not. Budget can be a deciding factor in selecting an approach. Even at that, the solution that seems to work and meets the budget criteria and the physical needs of the client and the structure could still be tweaked a little. This is the whole idea that possibly there's a better way.

Of course, we don't want to get into a second-guessing mode or develop our hindsight or armchair quarterback abilities. We just want to be open to idea that once we think we have arrived at a workable solution or way to approach the demolition or reconstruction of an area in the home, we should give it a more critical look to see if we could do anything differently - to benefit of the client, to the sustainability of the project, or to the profitability of our company. 

This concept of the better way isn't limited to just the execution of our projects and the recommendations of solutions to meet the needs of our clients. it can apply to the way we present our proposals and our marketing as well. 

When we assemble the various parties that might have an interest in the solutions we have been asked to create for the client, the way we organize our thoughts and present them can have a bearing on how well they are received by everyone. On delicate matters that need to be discussed, is there a better way to bring them into the conversation that what we have been doing? Are there props or illustrations we can use to help our clients grasp better what we are suggesting? In terms of communicating with them verbally, are we using terms that are too technical or ones that may not register with them because of generational differences in terminology between us and them? There may indeed be a better way.

In the way that we craft our message and disseminate it, are we choosing media, methods, and words that connect well with our intended audience? Should we be using some social media that we aren't? Should we pull back on some that we are using? Is there a type of message that people really need to see that we (or possibly no one) is presenting? If this is true, let us determine what that is so we can take advantage of it.

Frequently there are better ways to do something that the first thought that occurs to us or the way we typically approach it. Let's be open to this being true and no be so quick to run with the first answer that seems reasonable to us. There may be a better way if we look for it.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Selling Is Nothing More Than Communicating With A Purpose"

For many people, the idea of selling something rates right up there with many of the unpleasant aspects of life to be avoided if possible (public speaking and root canals come to mind). It doesn't need to be this way.

Selling has two very distinct aspects: (1) making your point and persuading someone else that what you are presenting to them has value for them (from watching a movie with you, going to a certain restaurant, or purchasing something they really need) and (2) making your livelihood from selling items that may or may not be really needed by the person or company to whom you are making a presentation. It's this second part that garners all of the attention, gives selling a bad name, and causes people to run the other way when the idea of selling even mentioned.

There is a very simple and basic fact of business. No one in the company or organization gets paid until money comes through the front door. Usually this is in the form of sales. It could be grants, donations, royalties, gifts, or other contributions, but sales is the primary revenue-generating vehicle.

Many people think of being sold at some point in their lives and project this image onto sales in general. Being pressured into purchasing something - being talked into it - when that really wasn't our intent is not pleasant. This is what often leads to buyer's remorse - the idea that people want to cancel a purchase soon after they make it because they weren't emotionally prepared to make it in the first place.

If our idea of selling is that we need to talk people into buying something their either don't want or don't need, we have the wrong product and the wrong approach. Take our aging in place solutions and look at those are sold.

With aging in place modifications, we generally have an appointment with someone to discuss their needs and provide possible solutions to address those concerns. We don't invite ourselves into their homes or force ourselves upon the. We are invited.

Once there, we offer professional opinions about solutions to meet the conditions that they express or that we observe - or a little of both. We determine a budget and then fit possible solutions within that proposed expenditure. Sometimes, priorities need to be assigned to make sure the most important or pressing needs are addressed first.

People want what we offer or they wouldn't agree to meet with us. This is different from "window shopping" where they drop in on us at our showroom (if we have one). They may not agree to what we are proposing and may not want to spend what it will take to address some or all of their needs, but we can feel that we meet with them in good faith and that we were not trying to talk them into getting something they didn't need (such as selling them a new car when the one they had was serving them well or trying to get them to buy a new set of golf clubs when there is nothing wrong with the current ones).

While there are many ways to approach solving a particular situation, and many price points for doing it, it's a matter or showing someone how they can be better off than they are now rather than trying to talk them into something they don't need, can't afford, really shouldn't be purchasing, or have no interest in getting. If they don't want what we are proposing, it's alright. They just won't get the immediate relief they are seeking and will have to go on living with their situation or talk with someone else at a later time. It such cases, they may or may not ever make a decision, but it's up to them.

If we believe that we really can help people age in place successfully by offering them some solutions to improve the quality of life in their homes, then we owe it to them to share our knowledge and insights. If they like what we are proposing and agree to have us implement it, they will pay us for this service. This is professional selling and how we build a business. 


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Friday, June 16, 2017

"A Uniform Set Of AIP Criteria Is Easier Hoped For Than Accomplished"

There are so many guidelines, standards, and recommendations to consider when it comes to designing or renovating space for people to age well in their homes. While it might seem that it would be great if there was an overall set of criteria that we could use to create effective spaces for people, we really don't want this.


Why would we not want to have a uniform set of criteria that would govern making recommendations and renovations for anyone but especially for people who want to age in place in there home? There are several reasons. Here are a few of them. 

First - and not in any certain order of importance, prominence, or priority - there are too many conflicting regulations, suggestions, guidelines, and standards that it would take years , if ever, for there to be a consensus on what to promulgate. ADA says one thing (actually it says several things within its guidelines depending on which page is used). The ICC, ANSI, and UFAS have slightly different interpretations in some areas on what should be included. Then there are local codes which have slightly different requirements in a few areas.

There are some areas such as outlet location, countertop height, type of switches and controls, flooring, mirror height and size, and window sill height which are not consistent and would take a lot of work to reach any type of agreement. Some jurisdictions have published criteria, but many do not.

Second - and perhaps the most central reason for not ever having regulations that could be developed and implemented - is the fact that everyone is the same size. Children are much smaller (at an early age) than adults. Adults range in height from under five feet to nearly seven feet in height. Men tend to be taller and larger than women. Weight can range from under a hundred pounds for a very slight adult to several hundred pounds.

With the range of size, and with it the difference in reach, designing cabinetry, switches, appliances, shelving, and other features so that they would be mandated throughout all homes would mean that many people would not be able to live well in their own homes. Clearly, this would never happen, so we go with recommended universal design locations for switches and other items as being conveniently located and accessible for most people.

Third, the physical ability of people varies tremendously. Some people have no urgent medical needs or requirements but may have mobility or sensory limitations that come with aging that may not require any specific modifications to accommodate them but would be happier with homes that made it easier for them to navigate them.

There are those living with progressive conditions, resulting from an acute or traumatic episode that now remains or from birth, that are using assistive devices (wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, for instance) or finding that their home needs to be specifically adapted to address and meet their needs. People without these issues may not need or benefit from the same type of treatments.

Fourth, the differing age of homes and the layouts represented mean that some homes are much better suited for easier renovations (and less expensive) that others. Some are going to require extensive work that is beyond the value of the home - just by bringing them up to current codes and not even thinking about any type of regulations that might be created and apply as far as aging in place design or accessibility.

Fifth, is the proliferation of checklists, guidelines, recommendations, standards, and ideas on what makes a good or successful design for aging in place. Finding consensus here would be a very large undertaking. Since the body issuing or publishing their ideas on what should be included, often with their reasoning or explanation for suggesting them as well, feels strongly enough about their recommendations and the fact that there are so many different organizations with such ideas, it is unlikely agreement could be reached easily on what is the definitive criteria to use.

For these reasons and others, it is improbable that there will be, at any point in the foreseeable future, a national or international set of criteria to be used for all homes.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"How Old Is Your Profile Picture?"

For anyone wanting to take advantage of social media as a way of marketing their business, having a good headshot (a head and shoulders photo that captures the essence of who we are without being too formal or business inappropriate) is a must.

There was a time, not long ago (in fact some people still choose to do this even today) when a sitting in a photographer's studio was required to get an acceptable publicity photo - one suitable for publication in flyers, news releases, and other forms of marketing. These were not inexpensive and required advanced planning. There was the wardrobe (what outfit to wear - often a couple of changes of clothes were taken to the studio to change from one to another to see which one came our better), the hairstyle (and how recently it had been trimmed - not too fresh and not just before it looked like it needed trimmed again), and the general appearance (although small blemishes could be air brushed out or covered with makeup, for men or women). There also was the time of day - not too early so we still looked sleepy and not too late in the day when we were worn down a little.

Needless to say, one studio session generally lasted a couple of years or more. Some people have been known to continue using the high school or college senior pictures for years.

Today, we have a much better and less expensive option that we can use - the digital camera, and for most people the smartphone. This has revolutionized our ability to capture frequent headshots and change them as often as we like. We can update what we are publishing quite frequently to reflect a new hairstyle we are wearing, a seasonal emphasis, a background we want to be photographed in front of, or a special event or commemoration. We can have someone take our picture or we can use a selfie.

The main thing to remember about the headshot is that it needs to reflect who we are and our personality. We should not have anyone else in the shot with us - no friends, colleagues, spouses, or others. We should not have our dog, cat, horse, or other pet in the photo with us. We shouldn't be on our motorcycle, hiking in the mountains, standing in the surf, or anything that shows a whole-body or mostly full length view. We want a much closer image - just the head and shoulders. We can be holding something (a mug, trophy, ball, pen, or phone, for instance) as long as it is at should level and not too large to compete with our face for attention. 

Rather than leave the witness protection photo posted on social media sites as the placeholder, default photo, just take a picture (a selfie) and post something. It can be changed in a day or two, and then as often as you like, but post something. Again, this is the beauty of the smartphone. We can take an post a photo in seconds. No more taking time to find the camera, making sure it has film, waiting for a sunny day, taking the picture, getting the film developed, and then going from there to get it posted. With digital, the weather doesn't have to be perfect. The camera does great in low lighting. 

If we don't recognize ourselves from our published photo - because our weight or hair style has changed, our hair color or amount of hair has changed, we are wearing glasses (or not wearing them any longer), or something else significant about our appearance is different - we need a new photo. No waiting until we can schedule it with the photographer. We can just take one ourselves in the next few hours or ask someone else to take it for us. If it turns out we don't like it that well, we can take another one tomorrow or the next day.

When we think about how old our profile or publicity photo is, and we really can't remember, it's time for a new one. Then we can make sure that we don't go that long with updating it because it's easy to do.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

"CAPS Certification Is A Great Accomplishment This Summer"

As summer is rolling into full-swing, getting your CAPS designation ("Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist") is something you may want to plan to get done. It's great to have it accomplished for the fall, an in many cases, it gives you an excuse for a brief getaway to attend the classes - even if they are local for you.

Regardless of your profession - contractor, occupational or physical therapist (or assistant), interior designer, architect, non-profit organization for seniors or governmental entity, durable medical equipment supplier, trade contractor, building materials supplier, or so many other professions and services dedicated to helping people renovate their homes for safety, accessibility, and maneuverability - the CAPS designation can give you the tools you need to help such people stay in their homes over the long term.

People today are looking to remain living in their homes - for several reasons. People like their current homes, those homes generally meet the long-term needs of their occupants, staying is certainly less expensive than moving - even with rather substantial renovations, and people don't want to pack up everything they own and transfer it to another home and start all over getting used to a place.

The homes that people currently have may already be the right size for them to age in place comfortably and successfully, or they may need to be enlarged or reconfigured. They might need to be updated. Regardless, there are many things that we can do to help make staying in their homes safer and more enjoyable for them.

When compared to the enormous annual cost of moving into a nursing home or other retirement center, several thousand dollars that someone might spend on a one-time remodeling and updating project, in a home they already like and want to live in that offers comfort, convenience, safety, and accessibility, seem like a great value.

In taking the classes to receive your CAPS designation, you'll learn about the very large - and growing - segment of the population who already are or soon will be of an age generally considered to be "senior" - age 50 or more - and their needs. Some are going to need improvements to their homes to accommodate specific mobility (arthritis, for instance) concerns, sensory impairments (vision or hearing decrease, for example), or cognitive loss. Some are not going to be experiencing any specific issues other than getting older and needing their home to be comfortable for them.

You'll come away with several ideas on how to approach working with situations that you already have seen or that you will see when you visit peoples' homes. While there are no templates to learn as far as improvements that can be installed in most any home where people are experiencing a similar need, there are many guidelines, standards, and best practices that can be learned and applied. Much of the improvements are going to be dependent on the physical characteristics of the home even more that than the needs of the people living in them. This is why being in aging in place solutions business is such a rewarding pursuit because it's always different. There will be similarities among some renovations, but each case is unique. 

People may need a minimum of improvements, or they might require substantial work to be done. Budget is certainly going to affect this, but there are some funding sources available that the average homeowner may not realize exist. 

So, learn how you can be instrumental in helping your clients turn their present home into their forever home that continues to meet their needs over time. Get started now by obtaining your designation. CAPS classes are being held several times this summer (and in the fall also). Even if you already have your designation, there are brand new (as of a week ago) course materials and texts you'll want to explore.
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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Recognizing National Home Safety Month"

We should focus on safety in and around the home every month. It happens, however, that June is "Home Safety Month. This is an observance rather than a celebration - unless we could be assured that everyone could remain safe in their homes the entire month. Indeed, that would cause for great celebration.

This month is especially challenging because children are out of school - for families with young ones at home and for grandparents where kids are free to visit more often. It means that they are more susceptible to injuries since they are going to be playing outside more and generally be more active than during the school year. Rather than being in a classroom most of the day, they now are at home.

For everyone else, this is the longest month of the year so we are enjoying more outdoor activities at home and elsewhere. At home we are gardening, trimming, fixing things that have needed attending to over the wintertime, and other activities that may cause use to be less careful about our personal safety - falls, cuts, burns (including sunburn), insect bites and stings, allergies from plants and pollen, and muscle strains.

In addition to the normal emphasis on safety in the home that we, as aging-in-place professionals, have throughout the year, the summertime is challenging because of the extra amount of daylight hours and time spent outside.

Safety issues come with normal carelessness in leaving garden tools (rakes, hoes, shovels, and other implements) where they can be stepped on or tripped over, soft dirt from planting areas where we might slip or twist an ankle, rapidly growing grass and plants that may hide areas that we normally would avoid, grass and weeds growing onto and in pathways and sidewalks that create unsafe or uneven footing, and overexertion that comes with trying to do too much in the good weather we are experiencing.

We can never be a hundred percent effective in eliminating unsafe conditions from people's homes. We have to give it our best shot though. If someone uses a kitchen knife, box cutter, razor blade (to open a carton, cut a string, or for shaving), scissors, or a stove or cooktop, sooner or later there will be a cut or burn. It's inevitable.

People are going to attempt to reach something that is just a little beyond their grasp - whether using a stool, ladder, or chair to stand on or just reaching while standing on the floor. This could result in a slip, fall, or muscle pull.

Home are familiar places - one of the big reasons people choose to age in place. They expect that they should be able to navigate their homes effectively and safely without ever falling, tripping, or running into objects. However, we know that stumbles and loss of balance happen. This can lead to bruises, cuts, and even more severe injuries depending on the type of fall or what objects were involved.

People get careless and set items down - on stairs, stacked precariously on tables, in walkways and hallways, on countertops, and elsewhere where they shouldn't be. Sometimes those items fall onto people or can be tripped over when people aren't looking for such items to be where they are walking. Small pets and children can have the same effect on people of getting in their way and cause falls or stumbles. People often injure themselves through a fall or twisted joint in an attempt to keep from stepping on or hurting their pets or children (grandchildren) who get entangled with them.

Then there is the bathroom, the laundry room, the garage, and other areas of the home which offer challenges in addition to the kitchen. Turns out there is a lot to be watchful for in and around the home.

Homes likely will never be totally safe because life happens. However, we can do our best to anticipate events that are likely to happen based on the furnishings, general layout, and features that we see - and the activities that occur in and immediately outside the home - and make or suggest the appropriate courses of action.


Let's keep June as safe as we can.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Packing For Vacations Can Be Fun, But Moving Not So Much"

Moving is such a challenge - more than many people want to accept and embrace. Remaining at home is a much more pleasant option - except for going on an occasional day-trip, long-weekend, or vacation.

Packing for a vacation can be fun. We get to plan what items we'll need - depending on where we are going, what we are going to to be doing once there, and the general weather conditions expected. We may decide to rent equipment we will need, or we might attempt to take some or all of it with us, if we have it already or want to go out and buy it before we leave.

Depending on the distance we are traveling and whether it's a domestic trip or not, we might decide to drive. We might or take the train part of the way and then rent a car to sight-see and get around the rest of the trip.

Back to packing. We find our suitcases, duffel bags, backpacks, and trunks - again depending on the mode of travel, the number of days we intend to be gone, how many are travelling, and the activities we are planning.

There are several ways to get ready. We can can make a list of everything we need - days in advance. We can begin packing several days in advance and even choose to mail some of the items we are going to need to the hotel at our destination. We can plan and worry but take little action until the trip is upon us. We can literally pack the night before - or the morning of departure for the really adventurous ones.

Nevertheless, as much fun as it is getting ready for a trip, planning what to take, going out and shopping for it, packing everything, and then finally leaving, we know two very important details: (1) we aren't taking everything that we own with us (that would take considerably longer to get ready), and (2) we are coming back home when the vacation is over.

We know that when our vacation is over - even if it wasn't a vacation in the true sense and we were just going to visit the grandkids or other relatives - that we get to return home and pick up where we left off. We'll put away what we packed - or keep it handy for the next trip if it is coming relatively soon - and ease back into our routine.

Now, let's contrast this relatively unstressful vacation or trip (except for determining what to take, getting everything packed, and getting to the airport on time or actually leaving the house) with what would be ahead of us if we were leaving our current home forever and going someplace else.

In the first place, we have to approach the move with some type of order - cant just start throwing or stacking things on the truck or in a storage container. We may not want to move everything - the new home might be smaller, we may not want to pay to move items we know we won't use again, and some things we have been meaning to get rid of anyway.

That still leaves us with a large collection of stuff from the garage, closets, basement, attic, and maybe a shed (onsite or rented offsite). This is why many people don't move. They know they have way too much stuff to begin even thinking about how to deal with it. The easiest solution is stay where they are and not worry about it.

Ever notice how when we do move that some things (at least one but often several items) never manage to get to the new home? Somehow they vanish someplace along the way - never to be seen by us again. Then, the is the realization that some items are going to get broken also. No matter how well they are packed, they are going to get broken, cracked, scratched, dented, bent, or otherwise disfigured - maybe not totally destroyed but not like they were before packing them.

Vacations can be fun, but making a permanent move (for all time or just for now) can be extremely challenging and enough to dissuade many people from even attempting this. As exciting as moving into a different home can sound, the reality of actually moving everything brings people back to the realization that they should stay where they are.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.