Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"How Did We End Up With So Much Stuff?"

One of the reasons that we amass so much stuff as we journey through life that eventually has a tendency to become clutter is that it sneaks up on us. Most of us don't intentionally start out to keep acquiring and holding onto stuff that we don't need and won't use, but we fool ourselves into thinking that it may be useful again someday.

This cycle starts out early in life when we break something but hold onto it because we think that might be able to fix it someday or we might be able to use some of the parts to fix something else. The reality is that we very likely will never use nor need that item again - assuming we could even find it when we wanted to. It sits on a shelf, gets tucked away in a box, or sits someplace in the basement, garage, attic, or closet. We have tee-shirts, pennants, posters, or other mementos or souvenirs from concerts or events that we attended years ago. How many tee-shirts - possibly faded, stained, or too large or too small to wear comfortably now - do we really need? Do we really want to wear something that obviously is from many years ago with the date of the game or concert on it?

We have expensive clothes or shoes (at least they were when we bought them) that are no longer in style, don't fit us anymore (because we weigh more or less than we did at the time when those items were purchased), or our tastes in colors or styles have changed, but we store them in a trunk, closet, or storage facility because we can't justify parting with them, think that they they might come back into style again, or feel that we might be able to wear them someday.

How about tennis rackets, racquetball equipment, hockey gear, bicycles, baseball outfits and equipment, skates, bowling balls and shoes, and other sporting goods or recreational items that we stopped using long ago but hold onto in case we get an urge to pick them up again and start using them? We paid a lot for them at the time we got them and we feel that they are just too good to get rid of - despite the fact that equipment keeps getting better, stronger, lighter, streamlined, and efficient with technical advances over the years. Our old gear would probably look out-of-place or be noncompetitive even if we did decide to use any of it again. Some of it may have even deteriorated from lack of use over time also.

Take a small appliance like a coffee maker, deep fryer, blender, mixer, or similar item that becomes broken, burns out a heating element, has a timer or thermostat go out, doesn't perform as it once did, or otherwise is not the same as when it was new, but we hold onto it because we may get around to fixing it someday, it was such a good appliance, or we might be able to use part of it to replace something on a similar item that we put in service after we retired that item.  Of course, now that digital has taken over, many items can't even be repaired.

Sometimes we buy several items when they are on sale because it is just too good of a price to pass up, but then our tastes change, styles change, the items go out-of-date, or we find that we really didn't use as much as we thought we would. So, rather than toss out the surplus, we hang onto it - just in case.

We don't start out to clutter our lives and our homes, garages, basements, attics, closets, and sheds with a collection of items that may lose their value to us over time, that may not work, that are missing an important part or element, that are of a color or style that likely will never return to prominence, or that we couldn't find even when we wanted to use them. We just hang onto one thing here, and one thing there. After a while, we have retained a lot - not just us but so many others also.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Sometimes Aging In Place Just Happens"

Aging in place - the act of someone continuing to live in their present home and remaining there for as long as they desire - is becoming increasingly popular, but it doesn't always happen because people have planned for it in advance. Sometimes it happens because people don't make a definitive declaration to remain in their current home but don't do anything to change it either.

We know that the vast majority of people (as high as 9-out-of-10) would choose to remain living in their current home rather than having to move into a nursing home or retirement enter if faced with that option. Some make specific plans to make this a reality, while others just keep living in their present homes without deciding that they have found their forever home, The end result may be the same, but the way the home accommodates or address their needs may be quite different.

Many homes are not that well-suited for people to remain in them effectively without modifications, but through procrastination on the part of the occupants, that's exactly what ends up happening. People stay in under-performing homes long-term because they never decided that they were going to do so. They didn't decide to the contrary either. They just remained in their homes and thus aged in place by default.

As aging in place professionals, consultants, and providers, we get to help people realize their declared objective of remaining in their homes successfully through modifications that allow their normal activities as much as possible in their present homes. But what about those who never get to the formal decision stage and just keep living in their homes? Again, the long-term result is the same. People stay in their current homes and don't move from them.

Thus, the real challenge for us as design, aging, and renovation professionals is working with or addressing the needs of this large number of people who want to remain living in their homes but who are just aging in place in their homes more accidentally or indifferently rather than intentionally.

Ideally, aging in place is an intentional decision and action that people choose for themselves - and then learn about how to make the necessary improvements and modifications to their homes that will facilitate their accessibility, maneuverability, comfort, convenience, and personal safety as they remain in their forever or permanent homes long-term - indefinitely actually.

Nevertheless, people may continue to live in their current homes without any regard or thought as to how well equipped those homes are to accommodate their changing needs as they age. It's not something they focus on or think about. They get up each day and just keep going as best they can.

Just as many people are in denial about getting older or about needing to take certain aspects of their home or lifestyle into account as they no longer function in ways they have in the past, they also are unwilling to admit that their homes require any type of modification to make living in those homes safer, more comfortable, easier, or more pleasant.

Thus, aging in place often is unintentional - it just happens. There are many individuals who currently are putting off or delaying any thoughts of how well they may be able to function in their current homes as they age, and we need to be ready to help them as they slowly come to the realization that their homes are not that well designed to meet their needs. For some, they feel as though they always will have the same level of mobility or activity they have today. For others, they know they have limitations, but they cope and adapt to get by as they have in the home they enjoy. 


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"Aging In Place Checklists Versus Evaluation Forms"

Since there are no automatic or textbook solutions to use for aging in place renovations that we might want to recommend, consider, or make to someone's living environment, we must look at both the occupants of a residence and the home itself to determine how each impact the other and any other factors that  might influence any changes that we might want to suggest.

As we begin determining how to we might want to approach making changes in someone's living environment - their physical space - we begin with an assessment of what is going on now. 

There are several different aspects to consider: (1) how the home is physically constructed - layout, floor plan, design, type of construction, number of floors, and building materials used, (2) how easy is it to repair, amend, add-on, or renovate what is present - in light of existing products, updated technology that is available, and local building codes that may need to be met or observed, (3) the physical requirements of the occupants of the home - from minor to severe limitations or impairments, involving mobility, sensory, cognitive, reach, range of motion, perception, balance, stamina, coordination, and similar concerns, and (4) the likelihood of any of those physical conditions changing over time to require more serious treatments and modifications in the home.

To systematically evaluate the home and note how its occupants interact with the living space, we can use a standard checklist, a functional assessment, our own independent observations, an interview with the occupants of the home, or a combination of these resources.

Some of these methods are going to be more helpful to us than others based on our previous experience in using them, the way we like to approach a home audit or evaluations, how helpful the client and their family is in sharing what their concerns and needs are, how easy it is for observe how the client uses their living space, and our ability to note our observations independently of a formal notation format.

If we don't want to start from scratch and create our own form, or if we want a little more organization to our assessment than just interviewing the client and taking notes or documenting what we see with some photographs and videos, we should find an evaluation or assessment form that we like to use. These differ from a checklist in that checklists lay out many best practices or guidelines to follow and ask us to observe whether they exist or note that they need to be included in the design. They do not offer anything qualitative that addresses how such an addition or deletion from a design will impact those who will be using it - or analyze or note any physical or functional characteristics of the people living in the home and using the space.

Checklists allow us to do an objective assessment of what is present or what should be that isn't. Evaluation, assessment, or audit forms provide us the ability to note how or why a particular physical function does not work in a space - vision, hearing, reach, range of motion, strength, physical size, stature, grip, and other such factors - and to who that limitation applies. Some forms also allow us to ascribe a priority to to limitation to help us determine which issues or concerns are the most pressing and to devise a budget based on the most pressing or urgent needs first.

Regardless of how we approach our evaluations of a client's property - the physical condition of it or the need for the client to function more effectively in the space, or a combination of the two - we need to find a method that we like and that will help us do our job effectively of making the proper recommendations based on what we note and observe.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"October Hosts National Aging In Place Week, Among Other Observances"

Yeah! We get to celebrate a week just for us, and it starts today!

OTs, PTs, nurses, emergency personnel, builders, real estate sales professionals, and other outstanding professionals involved in serving the aging in place needs already have days, weeks, and months devoted to celebrating their contributions and accomplishments. Parents and grandparents get their day. Many people with a progressive mobility, sensory, or cognitive condition - and the caregivers and organizations that support these issues - are recognized with their special days also.

Now, it's our turn for recognition. As aging in place professionals - in addition to any other days of recognition or celebration during the year that may cover our profession or concerns - we get to have a National Aging in Place Week that runs from October 15-21 this year.

There are other observances in October, but it's great that we have a week on the calendar that calls attention to the work we are doing. This, in turn, helps to publicize our message. October is actually a very full month for observances and recognition. Of course, it is "National Physical Therapy Month," but it is also "Disabled Awareness Month," "National Kitchen & Bath Month," "Emergency Nurses Week" (October 8-14, 2017), "National Gerontological Nursing Week" (October 2-8), and "Pediatric Nurses Week" (October 3-7).

We know that we don't actually need a special week to acknowledge what we do, but it's nice just the same. It's not like we aren't active the other 51 weeks of the year. This just helps to make us feel a little better about what we do.

It also gives us an opportunity to sponsor events, appear before citizen groups, and take our message to the public in a special way since they are perhaps more receptive during a week carved out on the calendar and already devoted to what we do anyway.

Aging in place as a concept is growing rapidly. So many people are talking about it, but more importantly, they are doing it. They are remaining in their homes as they age at unprecedented levels - regardless of the age at which they decide that they have their forever, permanent, or long-term home.

It's interesting that October is also National Kitchen & Bath Month because so much of what goes on in the home to keep it interesting, exciting, and viable revolves around these two aspects of the home. The kitchen is the heart of the home, the activity center. Not only do we eat and prepare meals there (and clean up to get ready for the next meal or snack), but we gather, hold conversations, receive guests, make plans, keep our checkbook, and so many other activities.

The bathroom is obviously an important room.

When people shop for a new home, and when they consider remodeling the home they home, the kitchen and bath figure prominently in what is considered. People spend a lot of time in these rooms, these rooms have more appliances, fixtures, and moving parts in them than other rooms in the home - and they also present significant safety challenges and concerns. When people decide to invest in improvements for their home, for potential resale value or to enhance the livability of it, the kitchen and bath immediately come to mind.

As aging in place professionals, we certainly can make this awareness for kitchen and baths work for us as we help people focus on those aspects of their homes to create safe, functional spaces for them that are accessible and visitable for members of the household and others who come into the home on an occasional basis.

Let's have a great National Aging In Place Week and use it to inspire us to reach out to the many people who need and who can use what we offer.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Aging In Place Happens At Home"

Aging in place starts and ends at home. It's quite a simple concept. It means that people (without any age qualification, statement of ability, application process, interviewing session, or special screening) can remain in their current homes for as long as they like - for the rest of their lives potentially - and not need to leave because their home no longer provides safe, comfortable, or accessible accommodations for them. They don't need to make any declaration of their intent to do this, it just happens by their choice.

While some people talk about extending the aging in place idea or concept to a wider area outside the home - the office, community center, library, shopping centers, supermarkets, or other public areas beyond the dwelling - aging in place is totally as a residential strategy. Having other venues be comfortable and adaptable for people to serve their needs as they age is commendable and desirable, but it cannot be labeled aging in place - because it isn't.

Aging in place means that people get to remain living safely, independently, and comfortably in their current homes. This is the only place it occurs - as much as we might like for facilities outside the home to be accommodating and desirable.

To extend the aging in place concept to areas outside the home, such a concept would necessarily need to begin with the recognition that such areas need to appeal to people of various abilities and those who may have mobility, cognitive, or sensory impairments or limitations. Because a variety of people visit public places, there is no way that any facility - no matter how much it might want to or claim that it does - can address the specific needs of each individual. In this way, it cannot truly be thought of as aging in place.

As we know, people have a variety of aging issues, with some having few medical or physical concerns and some living with various progressive conditions that essentially mandate corrective action to the residence. This means that our work as aging in place professionals is equipping the homes of people to serve them well so they can live effectively in them. We are not charged with going into public places and making them adaptable for specific needs because that is impractical. A given person might visit a facility once or twice, never, or frequently. There is no way to tell, just as there is no way to gauge in advance what types of needs should be accommodated. 

We could help public arenas to be accessible and usable by having universal design elements that would allow the broadest number of people to enter them and navigate them rather easily, but this would only accommodate a portion of the population. Unlike outfitting a specific residence with what is required to meet the needs of the people living there, public accommodations can only be presented in a broad sense. Then, there is the issue of who pays for these improvements and what type of priority they have for a public or non-profit organization's budget.

We have plenty to do as professional to meet with potential clients, evaluate their physical needs and requirements, consider the constraints and parameters of their home in allowing us to make modifications for them, determine a budget (and possible funding sources if needed to supplement what they can invest), be sensitive to how their needs may change over time, involve other professionals to consult with us to devise an effective plan, and to execute it to make successful aging in place a reality for them.

This important work on a case-by-case basis for each indiidual home that needs to provide better function for it soccuoants that idoes at present. Thi is whre we need to invest our time and energy.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Living For The Next Owner Isn't Necessarily The Best Idea"

We love our homes and enjoy living in them. That's one of the chief reasons we have elected - consciously or just by letting it happen - to remain living in our homes long-term. We want and expect that our homes are going to treat us well and not give us a lot of grief as both we and our homes continue to get older. They may need a few tweaks here and there and some timely renovations or updates, but most of that is cosmetic - affecting how we view and interact with our homes - not serious fundamental concerns.

Nevertheless, when there are deeper issues - steps that are too many or very hard to negotiate, hallways that are narrow, kitchens that barely have enough room for one person at a time to be present and not much room to even turnaround while there, bathrooms that are unusually compact, poor lighting distribution, outdated cabinets and closets, or entrances that don't provide shelter from the elements - we are not opposed to finding solutions. Our budget might not allow us to undertake everything we would like, but we understand that our homes can provide more comfort to us than perhaps they do presently.

When it comes time to consider and then undertake a sizable renovation - in terms of budget, amount of the home involved, time to complete it, or the amount of research we do prior to making the commitment to move forward with it - there are two main approaches. The first one, which was the prevailing viewpoint until the past view years, is to evaluate the improvements in light of what they will mean to our potential resale value.

Resale value is still important, but not to the exclusion of function - the second way of looking at improvements today. As we are making our homes ready to continue living in them long-term and making safety, accessibility, or comfort upgrades, we are concerned more about how the homes are going to allow us to use them effectively than with what they are going to mean to some undetermined future owner that we have no idea who it might be or what they really will want.

Rather than rolling the dice so to speak and guessing what might be appealing to someone a few years from now when we might want to sell or home - or hopefully much longer than this - shouldn't we serve our own needs? How are we going to be able to guess what the marketplace wants in a kitchen layout or which appliances might be important in ten years - maybe some of them haven't even been invented, created, or re-styled yet? What about flooring colors, styles, finishes, and materials? Look at how this industry has evolved? Do we pick neutral colors of countertops, backsplashes, wall tile, and cabinets - or do we select what we want?

In short, we can get caught-up in trying to outguess the marketplace and spend a large sum of money trying to appeal to someone else when the opposite approach is more what we need. Let's design and improve for our own needs and those of our household. Let's make our home aging in place friendly. There's a real good chance that some house shopper years from now will like what we've done anyway - particularly if we have been able to stay within universal design and visitability suggestions.

There's also a good chance that we really won't care what the market thinks about our home when we no longer need it. It must serve our needs now, and then someone else can be concerned about how it meets theirs. There are many homes on the market today that need visitability and accessibility improvements, yet they still sell. People see the location, the overall layout, or the potential in these homes. Let's live for ourselves and not focus on the next owner - whoever and whenever that might be.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Some People Desire A Change Of Scenery, But Their Current Home May Serve Them Well"

The whole idea of aging in place is that people can stay in their current home and not need to replace it over time. Once they find a home that works for them, they can remain in it. If they haven't found that ideal home yet, they may decide to look for and select a better home for their needs.

It's better when people don't have to move at all and they can make their current home - if that's the one they want to remain in - work for them over time. People want to be safe and comfortable in their homes. They want them to be totally accessible - both getting into and out of the homes and moving about within them.

If someone has determined that their present home is something that needs to be replaced - because it's too small, too large, multiple stories, too many stairs to climb to the entrance (or too long or steep of a walk), too much property to maintain, a neighborhood where they don't feel safe, poor window design or location, narrow passageways, older or very little technology, or other issues that may be easier to fix by finding a different dwelling - there are many choices open to them but essentially two directions to pursue. People can look for and purchase a brand new home (free standing single family dwelling or multifamily townhome or condominium apartment), or they can find an existing home that meets their criteria. Additionally, the argument can be made that moving into an independent living facility (purchasing or renting) that is part of a larger campus satisfies the aging in place criteria.

There are many existing homes on the market that have served people well over the years that may meet the needs of someone looking to relocate. A never-before-occupied new home from a builder may offer a range of choices in wall colors, flooring, appliances, cabinetry, and floor plan layout. It might be in a neighborhood that is desirable. However, a new home is not the only option.

Generally for less money or with more designer features and upgrades already included for a comparably sized home, a seasoned existing home or one that is relatively new that compares well with a new home may be available.

Purchasing a "new" home as in a different one doesn't mean that it has to be new construction, and it doesn't mean that it has to be an existing home. It's personal preference along with many economic and emotional factors. Just know that there are several options in terms of size, features, price point, accessibility, technology, and other criteria that might make an existing home more attractive to someone looking for a different home.

If a "new" home is definitely on the horizon, make sure that it provides the access, freedom of movement, ease of use, convenience, general safety, brightness, and other mobility and sensory aspects that are going to make that home a good choice to remain in long-term. There's no point in purchasing something and then learning that it doesn't measure up to what was needed.

Before making a decision to change homes, a person should evaluate how well their present home can meet their needs - or be adapted or modified to do so and at what cost - and determine if moving is really something that is beneficial.

After all, aging in place means being able to stay in one's present home without the need to move. If there are concerns about how this can be done or what needs to happen, an aging in place consultant ("CAPS") can be contacted to help.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Grab Bar Installation & Usage Compares To Seat Belt Acceptance"

Thanks to Steven Bailey at Age Safe America for sharing the ideas that are being passed along here. He couched the use of residential grab bars into a good and healthy light that puts into perspective the idea of including grab bars in the homes of our clients.

Steven starts out be recalling how Baby Boomers and their parents remember getting into, riding in, and driving cars without seat belts - or in clicking them closed and sitting on top of them. Some would snap them together behind the seat, and some would just let them dangle to the side.

In the late 1960s there were many misconceptions concerning seat belt usage such as people saying (and believing) that seat belts would prevent passengers from escaping their cars if submerged in water or in the case of a fire or collision. Some even felt it was actually safer to be thrown from a car in an accident than to be somewhat trapped inside.

Today, he advances, few would argue that seat belts are an effective injury-reducing device that saves lives. While not as universally accepted (and not mandated by law as is seat belt usage), Steven goes on to compare grab bars as a similar effective safety feature.

Over the years, America’s two oldest generations (the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers) have had quite a love affair with the automobile, but until seat belts were widely accepted and even made mandatory in 49 states, thousands died in preventable traffic fatalities. He advocates a new message that “Grab Bars Are The New Seat Belts." While most people today would not think of driving without buckling-up, we want people to be just as committed to reducing preventable fall injuries in the home.

HUD reports that on average, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds, and an older adult dies from a fall every 19 minutes - some 3 per hour. Moreover, falls account for 40% of all nursing home admissions, and nearly half of those people will never again return to independent living.

By simply installing grab bars in strategic locations, Americans can significantly reduce trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults, and the skyrocketing cost of fall-related injuries. In 2015, four times as many Americans 65 and over died of unintentional falls than in auto accidents,

As was the case when seat belt usage was new and was being encouraged as a safety measure, we hear people lament that grab bars look institutional. They certainly don't need to be considered this way, with the variety of colors, styles, shapes, lengths, and finishes available. Also, there are towel bars, toilet paper holders, small corner shelves, and soap dishes that function as they need to but also double as an effective assist. People grab for a towel bar in a panic slip anyway so why not have the towel bar be designed to support their weight and function as an assistive device?

Companies like Health Craft Products with their "Invisia" line, Delta Faucets with their Decor Assist products, and Moen have developed bathroom safety products that do double duty as assist bars and functional items such as towel bars.

There are so many times when any of us would be thankful to have something to hold onto when we slipped or had a misstep getting in or out of the tub or shower. It can happen to anyone and for a variety of reasons. Illness, medications, carelessness, a distraction, glare, overexertion, and other causes can trigger a slip or loss of balance. It would nice to have the comfort and security of a solid grab bar to reach for and support us. Without it, there is a towel bar or ring that is not designed for such a purpose or just a smooth wall that can be held.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Many Universal Design Concepts Are Intuitive"

Universal design is a powerful design strategy. It undergirds many of the aging in place solutions that are created - especially those dealing with access, mobility, safety, or sensory issues. Often, something that appeals to everyone in the household, plus visitors that might enter, will serve an aging in place need but be a universal design treatment.

Consider how often we might be doing something in our own homes and arrive at a universal design solution - intuitively - that we can introduce to our clients. The reason it is described as intuitive is because a solution to an issue wasn't being sought, or even considered. We possibly didn't even realize it was an issue - until we discovered it, along with the solution.

Take for example a grab bar located near the entrance to the tub or shower. We did not have one in our own home. Maybe we had never thought about the need for it. One day we slipped (but fortunately regained our balance without falling) getting in or out of the tub or shower and reflexively put our hand out to catch ourselves. Only there was nothing there to grab onto except the flat wall surface or possibly the towel bar. It suddenly occurred to us that a small (12"-15" or so) vertical grab bar would be great to have - for those times when we slipped, felt dizzy, couldn't put all of our weight on our foot or ankle for some reason, had a muscle strain or cramp, or were recovering from an injury or surgery. This made sense then and it continues to be a good choice for anyone. For those people who are opposed to the term grab bar, there are assist bars, safety bars, and safety assists - all meaning the same thing. Not only that, but they come in a variety of colors, styles, and finished to allay the argument of the institutional look.

How about the time when we had our hands full of groceries, vegetables taken in from the garden, the mail, takeout food for the family, or any of many other possibilities, and two things occurred to us - both of which are universal design treatments. First, we noted that it sure would be great to have a place to set down what we were holding to free up our hands to open the door without balancing our load, juggling it, or attempting not to drop any of it. An entry shelf or entrance station does the job - a shelf, table, chair, bench, cabinet, or other piece of outdoor furniture.

Second, we found that opening the door by pushing down on a lever handle would be preferable to grasping and turning a round knob or trying to use a thumb latch that is nearly impossible to operate with just one hand (people have too small of a span between their thumb and fingers or don't have sufficient strength in their thumb to use this with just one hand). Additionally, if we were holding something in our hands, we could push down on the lever handle with the side of our hand, wrist, forearm, elbow, closed fist, or other ways. Without coming to an issue with a solution, the way to approach the issue became clear to use from experience - it was intuitive.

There are many more examples such as these where we discover a great solution that fits into the decor of a home without causing undue attention to itself, that works for most people (regardless of their age, physical size, or ability), and that possibly we hadn't considered before determining a fix to a situation we happened upon.

There are many design treatments that can be achieved through universal design just by looking at what is not present, what could be desired in a space, and then creating or recommending it to our clients. It's intuitive because it just naturally follows as a solution to the deficiency we observe.


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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, October 9, 2017

"The Duct Tape Approach To Simple AIP Solutions"

Duct tape is one of the most versatile repair tools available. Arguably, it and a can of WD-40 belong in every tool drawer in the kitchen or emergency repair toolkit. It's not the tape so much that's the story but how it's used and the fact that so much can be done with it.

In one of the most popular "Mythbusters" TV episodes, the boys made a raft, hammock, and other survival implements from duct tape (with occasional other products used for support or shape).

Duct tape has gotten so popular that there are other brands of essentially the same product available, and it now comes in a variety of colors.

So how does this apply or relate to aging in place solutions? Are we supposed to look for ways to use duct tape in our clients' homes? No. It's about the creativity, ingenuity, and simplicity that a duct tape solution represents. That's how we connect to the story.

Sometimes we look for complicated, intricate, or expensive ways to approach an issue when a very simple inexpensive solution exists or can be found. Take the temperature in the shower. Maybe it's set at 120 or possibly even higher. That is too high to be comfortable for at least one of the household members, so we want to install a thermostat or an anti-scald device on the shower flow. That would certainly work; however, so would adjusting the water heater to 105. Don't worry about the dishwasher and the clothes washer unless they are older models. Most offer a heat boost to get the desired temperature for their cleaning cycles. Of course, some people launder in cold water anyway.

In the kitchen, visual difficulties often make it harder to distinguish the edge of counters and separate them from the countertops. Here, duct tape can be a solution. Rather than replace the countertop with a contrasting edge ("edge-banding"), an attractive color (not the standard gray) can be used and smoothed out so that it looks like it's supposed to be part of the surface.

Maybe there is a loose throw rug, runner, mat, or area rug - or one that has the corners curled to the point that a person easily could stumble over it. Of course, it could be removed, but it might be there for comfort or aesthetic reasons. Instead of removing it, the edge could be secured with strong double-sided tape so that the edges would remain in place and anything less than a very strong motion against it would not dislodge it.

There could be flooring (ceramic tile, concrete, or terrazzo, for instance) that is polished to a very high sheen or luster. On first look, we might want to replace it with something less shiny and easier on the eyes from the glare it produces. However, dulling the surface by removing the wax or using a matte finish could make the flooring much safer to use and easier on the eyes. 

We need to be careful, however, because sometimes the quick fix or the duct tape approach may not go far enough or may not completely solve the issue. When a grab bar is needed for entry into a bathtub or shower, it needs to be a substantial one that is securely anchored to the wall using the proper hollow wall or stud fasteners. A quick fix is a suction cup grab bar - get the job done in almost no time. As soon as the suction decides to let go, the bar comes lose or falls - hopefully, no one is grabbing it at the time.

When someone needs to rest or sit in the shower - as most of us likely would like to do from time-to-time - placing a bench in there will provide a seat, but it won't be anchored to anything. It thus has the potential of tripping someone or being kicked. A built-in seat or a fold-down one that is designed to be used this was is the better option.

Some solutions require the time to do them right. Others can be thought through quickly and just solved - often with materials or techniques already available.

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 or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.