Thursday, November 23, 2017

"Aging In Place Choices Give Us Plenty Of Reasons To Be Thankful"

On this Thanksgiving Day in the United States (and on the similar special day in other countries), we have much to be thankful for. Among our many blessings, family, friends, and other things which we can cite as being appreciative of, we can include aging in place - specifically the choices we have and the products that are available for us to use in assisting our clients.

To begin, the whole concept of aging in place where people get to consciously choose (although some do this by default by just continuing to live where they are without ever decisively selecting to remain in place) to stay in the home of their choice long-term. Many people have been doing this for years, but the majority of individuals this is a relatively new concept.

Some families have had historical or generational homes or farmsteads that have been passed down through the family over the years, and the decision on where to live and remain was never in doubt. The home that some people were born in was the home they died in, and their children carried on from there. As we became a more urban population, however, homes were not as well suited for people to grow old and remain in place. The rooms, doorways, hallways, and access points were not particularly conducive to people remaining at home in their advancing years. Moving to a nursing or retirement home became a common practice.

Aging in place means that nursing homes aren't something that has to be part of someone's long-term plan. Rather, staying at home can now be that option. Both as the number of people who are looking forward to remaining in their current homes and as aging in place professionals who get to help people do just that, we collectively can be thankful that this is now the preferred option for getting older.

Thus, aging in place and remaining at home, moving in with adult children, or even occupying an ADU (accessory or auxiliary dwelling unit that is attached to or separate for their children's home but on the same property) are all viable options for people as they get older - whether they have limiting physical or sensory conditions beyond normal aging or not. This is worth celebrating.

In addition to where we personally get to live as we get older (at home essentially) and how we get to help other people do this, we now have so many more products that we can use that weren't available at all or not in their current form just a few years ago. Start with lighting. We now have LED bulbs in so many shapes and sizes for overhead can use, in cabinets, along stairs, under the cabinets as task lighting, toe kick lighting, strip or rope lighting, soffit lighting, on demand (motion activated) lighting, and so much more. This means more illumination, lighting that is easier on the eyes, lower electric bills, and bulbs that don't need to be changed with any type of frequency. For some older people, LED bulbs installed now could well last their lifetime.

For interior doorways that need to use a solid door, we can make them even wider than what a 36" hinged door allows by using sliding barn doors to cover openings of six feet or more. We know that 36" is what is needed to provide the recommended interior clearance of 32" and this gives us even greater flexibility.

We have fold-down shower seats, handheld personal showers, integrated grab bars that are attached to towel bars or other functional elements in the bath, and the linear drain that facilitates a roll-in or curbless shower.

In terms of flooring, we have many choices available. Hardwood is still quite popular, but many other hard-surface options can take the place of carpeting. Linoleum has made a big resurgence also.

There are so many facets of creating accessible, safe, and comfortable living spaces for our clients, that we can be quite thankful that we have these tools available to us.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 22, 2017

"Thanksgiving Day Should Be A Safe Celebration"

Many countries celebrate a day of thanksgiving - in Canada it was last month, and in America it is tomorrow. There will be a lot of activity in the kitchen. Except for the dining room which is where all of the preparation and feasting is focused, the kitchen will be the center of activity.

The kitchen typically is an area where many things are occurring - often simultaneously - but on a day of celebration such as Thanksgiving Day, the amount of activity is increased. Here, there is greeting of guests, snacking, cooking, preparation, cleanup, post-meal storage of uneaten food ("leftovers"), and a higher number of people who will be in the kitchen at any one time (including visitors and guests). Thus, the kitchen takes on added importance as a focus of maintaining safety in the home. This is true in our homes as well as those of our clients.

This is supposed to be a fun day, a family day, and a day of celebration. It shouldn't be ruined or diminished by a mishap or more serious incident. Nevertheless, there are so many possible calamities and accidents that can occur in the kitchen.

With all of the cooking going into preparing the feast, burns are a distinct possibility, regardless of someone's age - touching hot pots and pans, getting too close to escaping steam from food or containers, touching a hot burner (gas or electric) or the oven door or shelf, eating or drinking something straight from the container when it is too hot to consume comfortably, having heated liquid splash onto the skin, spilling hot liquid or contents onto clothing or feet, using water from the faucet when it is too warm, or touching a candle or light bulb when they are lit.

Accidental cuts from knives and scissors, sharp edges of plastic packaging, paper cuts, sharp lids from cans, sharp or blunt animal bones while preparing meat dishes, broken or chipped glass on serving dishes or drinking glasses and cups, cracked or broken glass or ceramic cutting boards, stepping onto broken glass from something that just broke after falling onto the countertop or floor, or walking into the edge of an open cabinet door or other relatively sharp surface can happen.

While not breaking the skin, bruises can occur from walking into the corners of cabinets or countertops, hitting open appliance doors (oven, microwave, dishwasher, or refrigerator), bumping into the leg of a table or chair, or dropping a canned good or frozen item onto a hand or foot. 

Uncomfortable but not usually serious is frostbite from handling frozen foods for too long while opening them or getting them out of the package, transferring them to other areas of the kitchen from the freezer, or working with frozen meat, fruit, or vegetables to cut them into serving-size pieces or get them ready for another step in the cooking process

Falls can be quite dangerous and can occur from falling off of a step stool or ladder used to reach a higher shelf, a chair while attempting to sit down and misjudging where the chair is or having the chair move out of the way, or when a chair leg or chair back that was providing support while seated on the chair breaks, cracks, or gives way.

Slipping on spilled water or other liquid or a small patch of melted ice, stepping in spilled or splashed cooking oil, or slipping or tripping on food particles (raw or cooked) that have fallen to the floor and gone unnoticed can lead to falls also.

Pinching the skin between two objects or getting a finger or other part of the body partially shut into a door or drawer can be uncomfortable and potentially break the skin.

Stretching to reach that top or second-to-the-top shelf, trying to remove a relatively heavy item from a higher shelf, or trying to pick up a heavy item from a low storage place and then stand with it can lead to muscle pulls or strains. 

There are other safety issues in the kitchen, but it's easy to see how the kitchen can be a dangerous place even while we are in a time of celebration. Let's be careful!

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 21, 2017

"Very Few Homes Allow Accessibility"

Very few homes allow accessibility. They are in need of visitable or universal design improvements. When those homes that require aging in place solutions are added, nearly all homes are included. There just aren't very many homes that couldn't stand to have some modifications done to them to assist people in coming and going and moving about both inside and outside the property. That's the good news for aging in place professionals like us. The flip side is that there is a large resistance and reluctance to undertake this work - for several reasons.

Because the overwhelming number of people are in the no urgent needs category as they age, they largely don't identify with any perceived issues with their homes. They either don't have issues negotiating stairways, narrow hallways and doorways, hard to grasp and use cabinet and door hardware, and the like, or they just don't want to focus on the change such improvements might mean because that would mean admitting that age is catching up with them. Instead, the cope, adapt, or just deal with it in their own way. Many ignore the shortcomings of their homes and just accept it as the way things are.

In a few cases, accessibility home modifications might already have been made - but it's the way they have been done and the extent to which they have been completed that can still present some issues. Nevertheless, we are in the early stages of seeing consumers accepting changes that can be made to their homes and in having such improvements provided for them

Our chief challenge in making such accessibility improvements to promote ease of movement and general visitability is educating people to the changes - often minor and inexpensive - that can be done to help them enjoy their properties more and to be safer in them. We can eliminate the risks of slips and falls, which is a huge accomplishment due to the prevalence of these as dangers to life and health as people age. We also can help people have a  more pleasant and enjoyable experience in the way they use their appliances, cabinetry, bathroom fixtures, light switches, electric outlets, and other areas of their homes.

As we consider improvements that can be made to help people age in place long-term and remain safer in their homes, we need to look at how they enter and leave their homes (doorway width and direction of swing as well as access in approaching the door from either side), the safety of the flooring in terms of providing solid, non-slip or slip-resistant flooring, even lighting throughout the home so that there are no hidden or shadowed areas and that objects in the home are easy to see, interior doorways that are easy to use and pass through, bathrooms that offer no physical challenges in being able to use them effectively, and kitchen that are functional and enjoyable by occupants of the home and their visitors and guests.

It's one thing to create a home that is usable for the people who live there full-time and another to extend the functional usage of the home to anyone who might come calling or attend an event in the home to which they were invited.

Creating improvements and modifications for people that have special needs is not difficult in terms of having people accept what we offer. They recognize that improvements are necessary and contact us to perform them. It's with the people that don't perceive any physical or sensory limitations (even though they may have some issues) that the challenge exists. They have to be willing to allow us to help, and sometimes they are more receptive if we approach it from the standpoint of making their homes more accessible for people from the outside - and helping them at the same time without directly calling attention to it.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 20, 2017

"A Great Way To Impress Our Clients Is By Taking Notes"

One of the great rules of making sales is to remember important details, including the name or names of the people interested in acquiring what we provide. It's not enough to remember their name, sort of, and to mess it up when trying to pronounce it or only get it partially right. However, there is a surefire way to remember the client's name, the caregiver's name, the names of everyone else in the room, and the important details being discussed during the meeting - take notes and write down the information on paper.

This works when we are initially meeting someone in their home, when we have a chance meeting with a potential client in public, or when they call us on the phone to discuss their needs or ask a question about our services. We don't have to strain ourselves or use memory tricks to remember their name, email address, phone number, or other important information. All we need to do is jot it down. It's that simple, but a process overlooked by so many people.

Tablets have made note taking a lot easier in recent years, but we should still use writing things down on paper initially. Our notes can be transferred to a tablet, notebook, or desktop CRM or app later.

There are three reasons that taking notes on paper is better than using an electronic device for doing it (especially when we are sitting with the client in their home): (1) our clients (particularly if they are elderly) may not have access to computers or trust them - they may not understand what is being done in their presence, (2) it takes time to type on the screen - even if we are very fast and know where all the boxes of data are located, and (3) it is discourteous to take time looking down at the screen when we should be engaging our potential client. By contrast, notes can be written quite quickly, don't have to be particularly neat (as long as they are legible) and can be done while glancing at the paper (rather than looking down for a period of time).

If someone who sees us taking notes asks us why we are doing this, the answer is simple. We don't want to forget anything they tell us. We don't want to ask them again for information they already have shared with us. We're not as young as we used to be and we don't always remember things as easily as we once did. To that point, however, make sure that it doesn't appear that we are taking dictation and writing down everything they say. This would be concerning to them. Do it as inconspicuously as possible but don't try to conceal the fact that we are writing down important details so that we can use that in putting together our proposal of what we think they need.

We should never find ourselves without a pen or pencil and something to write on - even if it's the back of a business card or a Post-It note. When someone calls us on the phone (even away from the office), we need to be able to make a quick note of their name so we can call them by name at least once during the conversation and thank them for contacting us by using their name at the end of the call. In public. if we don't have a notepad with us, we should have a business card we can write on. After the encounter, we can make notes on our smartphones. Some phones have the ability handwrite notes into them, and some will allow the typing in of notes. Another way of recording the information is to type it in an email and send it to ourselves.

Our clients are giving us information that we will want to use in suggesting a solution for them. We need to make sure we don't forget or overlook any important details - or give them the impression that their answers didn't mean that much to us. Therefore, taking notes is the smart thing 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 aging in place 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, November 19, 2017

“To Succeed With An AIP Business, We Must Be Great at Asking Questions”

There are many qualities that a successful small businessperson (sole practitioner or sole proprietor) might possess, but ones that they must have. Includes in the desirable qualities that will facilitate growing and maintaining their business are a good work ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit, great communication abilities, empathy for and a genuine interest in people, and product knowledge.

Add to this list anything that comes to mind, such as organizational abilities, self-motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, persistent, and dedicated.



However, the one must-have, essential skill to run a business and be successful at it is sales. For many people sales is a scary word, but it's nothing more than being able to have a conversation with people who can benefit from what we offer and in knowing how to ask questions. This is partly learned and partly natural ability.

Asking questions comes from a natural sense of curiosity and from an interest in people. When we genuinely want to help people live in their homes and age in place, the questions that we ask them come from this basic desire and not from some script or memorized list of questions to use.



Any person who is people oriented and enjoys having a conversation with them can learn to sell just from this basic foundation. A love of people causes us to want to learn about them, their needs, and how we can help them. They sense our interest in helping them (and not just in making a sale or earning an income) and talk with us. Along the way, they share important information about their needs, desires, abilities, and budget that we can use in suggesting a solution for them.

Conversely, a person with strong product knowledge that isn’t comfortable asking questions or isn’t able to develop a natural rhythm of asking questions will be more challenged to become a successful salesperson.

Asking questions is nothing more than having a conversation with someone. One of the reasons that sales seems intimidating to some people is that they lack confidence. They can't imagine themselves being good enough at appealing to someone's needs for the client to make a purchasing decision that will lead to the client getting what they want and the person making the sale getting paid for their efforts.

Making sales is relational. It begins with an introduction and then a conversation about the other person and what the are seeking from us. Take someone we don't know very well or someone we are meeting for the first time socially. We ask what they do, about their family, where they live, where they’re from, what they like to do, and so forth. This is conversation without anything more to it, but making a sale starts the same way.

Before long, we have an idea of their background and areas that we have in common with them. It’s not all one-sided either. It’s give-and-take. We learn about them, and they learn about us.

Sales is quite similar. There are certain types of questions we can’t ask until the foundation has been established, but it’s very similar.

Asking questions because we want to know the answers, because we are curious, because we need an explanation, and because we want a clarification to earlier statements they made or we are curious about something we observed in their home will guide us toward successful a sales presentation.

Along the way, we’ll learn what we need to focus on and the answers that our clients need to have in order to make an informed decision on our product or our proposed solution for them.

If we think that we aren't that good at asking questions except in a light conversational way, we should start with that and grow it. Practice talking with people everywhere we go. After that, concentrate on really getting to know the people we are talking with - clients, potential clients, or ones that could purchase from us down the road. The questions to ask will begin coming because we are genuinely interested in helping people, and in knowing what they like, dislike, and need. This is how we can begin helping them.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 18, 2017

"Being Careful Where We Place The Modifier In The Phrase"

So often we talk and use expressions were we know what we mean, and quite often the person we are immediately addressing in the conversation knows what we mean, but a casual observer might get the wrong mental picture or image just from the way we put the words together.

Sometimes they are idiomatic or colloquial expressions that can't be taken literally, such as "I'm all tied up right now." Most of us aren't actually physically restrained or bound when we say this. It just means that we are busy, but we offer a more colorful expression to convey this.

As aging in place professionals, we need to guard against using sloppy expressions ourselves so that people who hear and repeat what we say might begin to get it right. How often, for instance, do we hear about a disabled person when we really mean a person with a disability. Phrased the first way, the term disabled is an adjective that describes the person so that we would recognize that person if we saw them. A short person, a balding person, a large person, a tall person, a lightly complected person, or a thin person all describe common physical traits that are easy to identify.

Saying (or hearing someone else say) that someone is a disabled person means that the disability defines them and their personality. There is no way in hearing this to know what type of a limitation they might have, to what extent it is noticeable, or how it impacts their ability to function normally. It's really a matter of the person (regardless of other noticeable physical traits such as weight, age, or stature) exhibiting or living with some type of disability rather than them being totally defined by their condition. 

If someone was described as being wheelchair-bound or being confined to a wheelchair, could someone just hearing this expression form the mental picture that this person was somehow restrained against their will or could not move from their wheelchair when they wanted to or when someone offered to help them? How about saying that someone is living in a wheelchair? Do we expect that someone would be using this as some type of small dwelling? We mean that someone depends on using a wheelchair for mobility or that they are unable to get around on their own without the assistance of a wheelchair - or walker or other mobility devices.

Saying that someone is blind likely suggests a vision impairment, but it could also describe a lack of awareness or a state of cluelessness. Not being able to see is just a condition that this person has that we may not even realize when we meet them for the first time. The blindness doesn't label or define them. It doesn't change how we think of them. It's just a characteristic they have.

If someone mentions that they wrecked their car versus they had an accident or that their car was involved in a wreck, do we expect that it is able to be driven or that it is ready for the scrapyard? Maybe it was received some damage but otherwise is still serviceable. A key difference in what we perceive. In the first instance, the vehicle is essentially destroyed. In the second, the car was involved in an incident but is not totally unusable.

We might say that we will create a "word document" when we mean that we will use the Microsoft Word app to write and create a document. Wouldn't the document have words in it anyway? It's not a word document (although how could it be anything else?) but rather a document prepared with Word. It's our document to be precise.

We just need to be careful in describing someone or an event that we place the adjectives where they belong. Coming before the subject, the meaning is that the person, place, or other object being described is characterized by the condition reflected by the adjective. A rotten or spoiled apple (or other fruit) suggests that it is unusable and should be discarded. An apple with a rotten or spoiled spot in it means that the rest of it may be fine to use. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 17, 2017

"When Bad Things (Falls, For Instance) Happen To Good People"

Home safety should be a continuous focus for us as we evaluate homes and how people use them. People deserve to feel safe from injury in their homes, but this is so much easier said than accomplished.

There are many types of possible injuries in the home - burns, cuts, falls, walking into objects, having something fall and land on a hand or foot, or being injured while operating a tool, appliance, or piece of equipment. It's almost easier to think of ways a person can be injured in the home (or outside in the yard) than it is to remain safe.

While September is the officially designated "Falls Prevention Month," every month - make that every day - is a time when we want to focus on eliminating as many potential tripping, collision, slipping, and poor footing conditions for people in their homes as we can - including those present in our own homes.

Nevertheless, as much as we try to prevent falls and as dangerous as they can be for people, falls do happen. Try to imagine just how much more they might occur or how much more serious or debilitating they might be if we weren't focused on preventing and eliminating as many likely trips and falls as we can. 

There are just so many things in and about a person's home - let alone places away from the home - that can cause accidents. All falls and slips are uncomfortable - if not embarrassing - but not all are injurious. Many are.

Sometimes it's just a slip or a fall that produces no lasting effects - maybe just a bruise or a slight muscle strain, if anything. Sometimes, the strain or sprain can be a little more severe. Sometimes, a broken bone or dislocation results. When it's a broken hip, there can be more serious complications as well. Even when it seems to be something minor, it can affect a person's mobility for a time or make them less sure of themselves as they navigate their home and property.

Regardless of the severity of a fall or slip, the objective is to eliminate as many potential causes for such conditions as we can. There are the obvious places where a person can be tripped, such as extension or power cords that cross a passageway, or a hose stretched across the sidewalk. There are pools of water from rain or lawn and garden watering that can look simple enough to walk on or through but become problematic. 

Toys, clothing and outerwear, tools, groceries before they are put away, and things on their way to the garage, attic, closet, basement, or car can cause someone to trip over them or misstep as they try to walk around or avoid them.

Look carpeting or flooring, tears in carpeting or vinyl flooring, glare from shiny surfaces, and loose throw or area rugs (or ones with the corners curled up) can present navigation issues in the home. Wet flooring in the bathroom or from moisture tracked in from the outside (near exterior doorways) can lead to slips. 

In short, the idea that someone's home is their castle or sanctuary comes with no guarantees. It isn't automatically true. There are so many things going on - nearly constantly - that people need to watch out for and then correct to keep their homes relatively safe. The more we are aware of how people use their homes and the potential for danger that exists in living in and getting around in their dwelling space, the more we can point out and correct obvious trouble spots when we see them.

While we can reduce the potential for slipping and tripping in the home, there are additional issues to contend with in the living space that make safety more of a challenge. Poor vision can mean walking into objects, misstepping, slipping on a step, or misjudging the height of a chair, bed, or table. Glare can mask items from view or confuse our eyes to where seeing the edges of objects or being able to perceive or recognize where they are in relation to other items in the room becomes a safety concern.

Maintaining a safe home environment is not easy, but we have to remain diligent. Otherwise, people are going to be at risk in the living environment, and this is something that we don't want to have happen.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 16, 2017

"People Want To Find A Long-Term Home To Occupy"

When it comes time to find a place to live, there are options and strategies for people to pursue. Some people want to move to a different home, and some are content to remain where they are.

There are many people who desire to purchase a newly constructed home. They have various reasons for wanting something new, including getting a home that has never before been occupied, that it comes with many warranties - from the builder as well as various manufacturers (of systems, appliances, and other components), that they get to select their features and colors, that their home may have a better chance of appreciation than older homes, and that it is located in a desirable neighborhood with recreational amenities and other natural features. 

Some people who are looking for something different to occupy prefer to rent rather than purchase - single-family homes or apartments. They may want to save for an eventual down payment on a future home purchase, enjoy not caring for a home in terms of normal maintenance, or prefer the freedom of being able to move frequently without marketing their home first.


Arguably the largest group of people are those who want to continue living where they are now - regardless of their current age, family situation, the age of their home, or how long they have lived in it. These are people who want to age in place.

They prefer to remain in their current home indefinitely - for the long-term. For some in this market, they have found what they believe to be their "forever" home and see no need to move from it. Others have no real issue with their present home and don't even think about the possibility of replacing it down the line.

The decision to age in place comes about in many different ways - sometimes a conscious choice and sometimes more the result of inaction - but the bottom line is that people want to remain in their current home. It may serve their needs perfectly as is. It may be real close. It might serve them better with a little TLC or renovation. It might need a lot of work, but the neighborhood, the size of their investment, and other factors make moving rather impractical for them.


Many people simply cannot afford to replace what they have now - to get the same size home or layout for the money they spent on their current home. It would take considerably more to replace it, so they remain where they are. Even if renovation or maintenance is required, this is far less of an expense for them than moving would be.

Others - in fact, most people - have such an accumulation of stuff that it makes the prospects of moving seem quite tall. Some cannot part with what they have and don't see moving as the answer to their space issues. Others know that it would take an inordinate amount of time to sort through and cull what they have. Better just to remain put than face what they have collected and amassed over the years.

So whether the initial objective was to find a long-term home as people were seeking to move from where they were living at the time, or it just happened because they just kept on living in a home that worked reasonably well for them, they now are part of the majority of people over the age of 50 who are aging in place. They have reached a point in life when they don't want to encounter the disruption that a move causes.

There is stability in finding a long-term home and in remaining in it. We get to help people make the changes they feel are needed to help them have a more enjoyable and safer lifestyle in the homes they have chosen.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 15, 2017

"The Human Part Of Aging In Place"

Last time we looked at the physical condition and characteristics of the home or dwelling space as being half of the aging in place equation. The other part is the human condition.

As we noted, either part - the dwelling unit itself or the needs and requirements of the individuals occupying the home - may be the focus of our aging in place modifications and recommendations. We discussed the home as being the best place to start our assessment and renovations.

While this is especially true for older homes, it also is quite appropriate for people with no urgent or apparent medical needs. They don't have to be defensive about what they need or don't think they need in a home remodel or any limitations or restrictions they might be feeling but don't want to readily admit or reveal. This is a non-threatening approach because we are looking just at the physical characteristics of the home and not addressing anything about the individuals occupying the home. That's why it's a great strategy.

Universal design and visitability treatments are quite appropriate for suggesting and implementing changes, updates, and upgrades. Because we weren't focusing on any individual needs within the home, a design that appeals to most anyone is a strategy that has broad appeal and acceptance.

With all that said, let's turn our focus to the individuals living in the homes we are evaluating. True, there are many opportunities in the homes themselves for upgrades and safety improvements. Human performance characteristics is a term that looks at the individual needs and abilities within the home. Remember also that we are interested in the visitability aspect of effective home design to accommodate those who come into the home on a regular, semi-regular, or infrequent basis.

Sometimes the occupants of the home are going to have a progressive condition - arthritis, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, a stroke, a heart condition, diabetes, or other impairment or ailment. Sometimes it's going to be a mobility issue due to inflammation or deteriorating joints (hips, knees, shoulders, or ankles, for instance). These issues manifest themselves in how well someone gets around their space, climbs stairs, sits, squats, bends, stands, or reaches for and retrieves objects from closets, dressers, or cabinets. Sensory issues, especially vision, also impact how well people use and relate to the living space.

Generally, an occupational therapist or other healthcare professional is going to be consulted before designing and creating any home improvements. They have the training and background that enables them to determine how people relate to their space and specifically what might be required to make their homes safer, more accessible, comfortable, and convenient for them to use.

Thus, there are two important considerations for creating aging in place environments for our clients. The first is the home itself - regardless of who is occupying it. The second is the specific needs, requirements, and characteristics of those residing in the living space as well as those who might come into it from time-to-time.

Both approaches are important. The physical characteristics of the home - doorway and hallway widths, door swings, height of counters and wall cabinets, access to the bathroom and shower facilities, and so much more - affect and impact how well the occupants of that space are going to enjoy living in the home and find performing normal everyday activities to be safe and pleasant. Then, the physical limitations or issues that the people living in the home are experiencing and living with are going to have a bearing on how they relate to their home and find it functional for them.

For the total aging in place solution, we must consider and address the requirements of the individuals living in the dwelling space (and those coming into that space occasionally from the outside). Starting with the home is fine, but looking at the individuals is important also.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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, November 14, 2017

There Are Two Types Of Aging In Place For Us To Address"

Aging in place is special because it focuses on individuals and their needs as they continue to live in their homes over time. Naturally, they are getting older through the passing days, months, and years as well. It's contemplating how these changes can be accommodated and allowing for them that makes what we do as aging in place professionals challenging, worthwhile, and extremely satisfying.

There really are two distinct aspects to evaluating and creating aging in place solutions. Either may be considered and addressed independently of the other, or they can be approached collectively.

These two aspects of aging in place are the home itself - the physical dwelling or structure - and the occupants of the living space.

Either the dwelling or the needs and requirements of the individuals occupying the home may be the focus of aging in place modifications and recommendations, but the best place to start is with the home itself. This is especially true for older homes and those occupied by people with no urgent or apparent medical needs. In looking at the home, universal design and visitability approaches can be used to suggest appropriate changes, updates, and upgrades.

Regardless of who is living in the home (free-standing single-family dwelling, attached townhome or villa, condominium apartment, or rental home or apartment), the number of occupants, and their ages or abilities, the physical characteristics of the home itself is a great place to begin.

For mid-century homes (generally those built before 1960), the first thing that needs attention is the electrical service. It may have been upgraded to current standards and load demands, but if it hasn't, this will need to be done before beginning any serious types of renovations. The house must be brought up to the current code - if a building permit is being applied for - and this means adding significantly to the electrical capacity of the home.

Current codes are between 200 and 400 amps. Older homes can have 60 amp service - clearly well below current demands. There just weren't the amount of electrical appliances years ago that there are today - central air conditioning, microwave ovens, other small appliances, electric tools, hair dryers, pools and spas (pumps and heaters), for instance.

Older homes had fuses instead of breakers, and the newest breakers being required are the arc fault interrupter ones.

Hallways and doorways typically are narrower in older homes than current expectations. Hallway widths of 29" no longer suffice, and bathroom doorways as narrow as 24" (2-feet) are quite narrow for many users. Getting a walker or wheelchair through such an opening is not possible with the user still in contact with the device. 

It was customary for many mid-century homes to have just a single bathroom located in the hallway. This served the needs of the entire home - and visitors and guests as well. The master suite with the bathroom located inside or off the master bedroom came later. So did the powder room. Everyone used that single bathroom. Clearly, this may not be the best idea for today's residents.

Additionally, many homes were designed and built without covered porches and just exposed stoops, without adequate room to allow the entrance door to open without those attempting to use it being in the way of it, and without adequate lighting to illuminate the entrance.

There are other areas of the home to consider as well - garage and laundry are, for instance. Before even looking at the requirements of the individuals occupying the home, there is a total review and evaluation required of the living space itself to determine how well it can meet the needs of anyone living in the home - regardless of specific physical requirements they might have.

Often the best place to begin aging in place modifications is with the structure itself. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.