Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Presenting Our Case To The Marketplace"

Starting a business, being in business, and staying in business relies on two essential ingredients - a product or service that people are will to have and pay for and being able to get the word spread about the fact that we offer that product or service.

In addition to these challenges, most businesses also have some type of competition. Maybe someone else offers a very similar product or service. They might be located in the same area or serve the same market. There could be a similar price point.

Unless a business is quite new to the marketplace or offers a product or service that hasn't been around long enough for others to copy it, there is competition. It's what we do with that competition that makes the difference. It's how we neutralize it or actually capitalize on it that matters for us. Of course, with the internet and social media, it's easier for the consumer to be aware of other companies that they might not have been aware of in earlier times.

With the internet, it's not even vital that the competing company is located in the same area or even that close to the company a consumer is considering. This is especially true for retail products where delivery time, price, and other factors determine who gets the order more than where the store is located.

As for our aging in place services, consider how competition affects us. We include contractors, handymen, occupational therapists, physical therapists, designers, durable medical equipment specialists, and so many others. We provide a variety of products, services, and solutions to our clients and customers with a team of specialists - presumably in ways that aren't being done exactly by others or nearly as well as what we do.

So, when we get a call from someone desiring to use our services, are they contacting just us and only us - because of a referral or because they have heard good things about us - or are there others that are going to be competing for the assignment? That's something we need to determine early on - before we agree to meet with them or during the initial interview.

Many other companies - sole practitioners up to larger firms - can claim to do what we do, but is this really the case? Are we exactly the same? Likely not.

First, are the other companies trained as CAPS? Many probably are not. Make that work for us. It an important part of our story and one to be accentuated. Let the consumer know what this means to them and why we already have an edge on anyone else they are talking with who does not have this designation.

How about our strategic network - also of CAPS-trained individuals and firms? Few people in our immediate marketplace can approach an assignment such as what we are being requested to do with the teamwork, level of experience, and intuitive ability to deliver what they need - whether a medical component or special equipment is part of it or not - in precisely the same way as us.

No one - no other company or individual contractor or consultant - even within a franchise organization - is going to approach an assignment the exact same way as another. The products may be similar or even in some cases the same, the approach to doing the work may be similar just because of what is required to complete the job, and the final price may be comparable. However, no one else is us. We have our own values, thought processes, personality, and history that we bring to each job.

We know what we can do. We just need to make sure that the marketplace is aware of it. We can't be the only ones who know this.

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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, July 21, 2017

"First Impressions Count - Even For Homes"

We all know the importance of first impressions. It has been instilled in us from a very early age. We also know that we usually don't get a second chance at making a good initial or first impression - although sometimes we might get a do-over.

We are so aware of this on the personal level - from establishing connections with people, interviewing for a position, trying out or auditioning for a part, or having someone decide that they might like to get to know us better. Part of it is the way we are dressed, some has to do with our grooming, some is conveyed through our body language (posture, eye contact, and smile, for instance), and some is just the general air of confidence in ourselves that we project. 

As important as initial impressions are for establishing, creating, and building upon personal and interpersonal relationships - and in getting to the next step in the process - initial impressions are important in other areas as well. Homes come to mind, especially in the context of aging in place, livability, and visitability.

When someone visits a home where they have not been previously - because they were specifically invited by the people who live there, they are being neighborly and just want to introduce themselves, it's a sales or service call, or they are soliciting for a cause, issue, or event - they form an instant impression of how easy, friendly, or inviting it is going to be to actually attempt to enter this home.

We are talking about more than how attractive the home is from the outside. This is more than a curb appeal or streetscape concern, We are looking at the home from how approachable it seems.

What is someone's initial impression of a home about how easy it is going to be to get to the front door and then to get inside? This is true whether they are approaching on foot from their home in the neighborhood or whether they park in the driveway or on the street in front of the home.

First impressions are key as to how well someone is going to enjoy entering this home - regardless of why they have been invited or why they are there. They are going to look at how steep the walkway is to the front door or the number of steps they might have to negotiate to get to the door. They are going to factor that into their physical ability (or lack of ability) to walk to the door or climb the steps in front of them. For some, they may be totally overwhelmed by what they see based on their physical limitations of the amount of effort that is going to be required to get to the front door.

Some homes have front doors that are quite challenging to access but provide an easier means of entry from the side or rear door. Being a visitor to the home, this might not be immediately known or apparent.

Assuming someone is able to get up the steps or climb the walkway to the front door, do they find that it is a smooth, continuous surface walkway or is it a series of separated concrete slabs or stepping stones? Is it supposed to be a continuous surface that has deteriorated into one that is cracked or overgrown with grass or weeds? Is it intentionally supposed to be hard surfaces separated by grass, mulch, or crushed rock?

Then at the front door - assuming someone can get there easily - how inviting is the stoop or porch and does it provide any weather protection or place to stand to wait for the entry door to be opened for them? Sometimes getting to the door is not a significant challenge but actually waiting at the door is.

First impressions of how inviting or practical a home is going to be to get inside once someone has arrived is quite important. Regardless of what we do on the inside to make the home visitable or accessible, the outside deserves attention also.

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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, July 20, 2017

"Older Homes Present Many Challenges & Opportunities For AIP Improvements"

In creating aging in place solutions for our clients, the homes themselves have as much, and sometimes even more, to do with our recommendations than the physical needs of the occupants of those homes. While people may have balance, stamina, coordination, mobility, reach, range of motion, vision, hearing, or other issues that affect how well they can use their space and what accommodations will need to be made for them to function better in that space, the way those homes are created and built may be the central focus.

Any older home, but especially those built in the middle part of the 20th century - from the 1930s to the 1960s - have some great architecture and generally were built quite well. That's why they are still quite livable and usable today. It's just that the lifestyles and needs have changed significantly from when those homes were originally designed and built.

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

Compared to today, people had fewer design choices in terms of the types of doors, cabinetry, countertops, hardware, lighting, flooring, finishes, appliances, and fixtures. The lever handle was non-existent. The barn door concept was not available although pocket doors were used.

The countertops were mostly laminate - not the granite, quartz, onyx, glass, copper, concrete, ceramic, and other choices available today. Clearly, LED lighting had not been created so ceiling fixtures were located in the middle of most rooms with incandescent bulbs as the norm. Fluorescent bulbs were used in some kitchens, closets, and bathrooms. In general, homes were not as well lit as they can be today, and it was much less energy-efficient to keep the lights on.

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

Older homes had narrower doorways and hallways because of the economy or space and because people just didn't require them to be any larger than they were. Walkers didn't exist as we know them today until the 1970s so mobility was different in that era. People generally weren't as large physically as we see today. Also, people didn't necessarily expect to remain in their homes as they aged as much as we do today although many aging parents moved in with their adult children and grandchildren.

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

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

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

There are so many opportunities to widen doorways and hallways, replace windows and inadequate lighting fixtures, redo kitchens and baths, and focus on other areas of the home, that we can make a huge difference in the way
 people live in and enjoy these older homes - before we even look at any specific physical needs or requirements they may have themselves.

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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, July 19, 2017

"Be Careful Not To Expect Your 'CAPS' Designation To Do More Than Intended"

People take the CAPS certification program for a variety of reasons. Some want to enhance the skills they already possess. Some want to add a set of impressive initials after their name - whether this is the first such designation they have earned or one of many. Some want to branch out into a new career. Some want to grow their existing business in this direction. There are additional reasons for taking and seeking the CAPS designation as well.

Getting your CAPS designation is a great way to prepare for serving people in their homes in a variety of settings and across the spectrum of ages and abilities, yet sometimes the CAPS is viewed as being able to do more than it really is designed to do.

The CAPS training provides a wealth of insights and understanding about how to work with people who have no visible impairments other than normal aging concerns who want to remain in their homes as they grow older, those people of any age who are living with progressive conditions, and those of any age who have a traumatic condition.

It helps us appreciate what people are experiencing as they go through life and what they might need their home to provide for them. We focus on safety aspects of navigating the home, including the flooring and the lighting. It's important that doorways and interior passageways be wide enough for anyone (residents, visitors, neighbors, or infrequent guests) to use, whether walking or use a walker or wheelchair. We want storage areas to be accessible with easy to open doors or drawers and shelves or bins at usable heights.

It's important that the other aspects of a home be conveniently located, comfortable to use, and functional for those living in the home or visiting it. This includes controls and switches, faucets, bath fixtures, appliances, furniture, cabinetry, windows, mirrors, and the remaining areas of a home.

There should be no concern from a safety, comfort, convenience, or accessibility aspect that anything within the home can be used by anyone in the home. Our CAPS training gives us the requisite background to know what to look for and how to offer prescriptive changes and improvements. 

However, our CAPS training does not provide a glossary of solutions that we can reference and apply. Rather, we learn about guidelines and best practices - things that we want to consider using when there is a need that can be met or alleviated through such an application. Because each home is different and the needs of the occupants are going to vary according to age, physical size ability, general health, personal preferences, and other characteristics, it is not possible to go home from the CAPS courses with a set of solutions that can be applied in any situation.

Expecting otherwise is underestimating the two main variables in aging in place solutions - neither of which is going to be consistent. These are the residents or occupants of the home itself - renters or owners, as well as anyone who happens to be in the home at any time as an invited guest or someone who came as a visitor - and the home or structure itself.

We know how to evaluate what we observe and how to create strategic relationships to help us create and deliver solutions. When don't need to be able to provide everything ourselves, and it is unlikely that any of us will ever provide solutions for people with involving others to help us. Our CAPS training gives us the ability and flexibility to design and create many possible solutions for our clients. It should not be viewed as a rigid template that can be applied from house-to-house. That was never the intent.

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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, July 18, 2017

"Home Improvement Standards Don't Allow For Individual Differences"

Many people seek defining standards to apply for aging in place solutions. That would be an easy approach - too easy actually. If it really were as easy as picking up a book or a set of guidelines and then just following them, many homes in America could be completed to basic aging in place standards, but they wouldn't necessarily serve their occupants well.

There is a major difference in complying with a set of guidelines designed to apply to a large portion of situations and in meeting the specific needs of our clients. Fortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all guidelines for aging in place solutions They all are client-centric - based on the specific needs, desires, and requirements of the people we are serving, regardless of the age, ability, or physical size.

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.This would negate our ability to interact with our clients and choose a solution tailored to their needs and budget. They might not need what others require - even neighbors of theirs.

Some people are going to need assistance at the entrance to their home - the approach, walkway, porch or stoop, lighting, entrance doorway, door hardware, and security. Others are going to have a lesser need or perhaps no need in this area. While it's common for homes to be deficient at the entrance, not all of them are. This applies regardless of the physical needs and requirements of the occupants of the homes, but their condition may highlight work that needs to be done.

This is the entire point of rejecting a uniform or universal set of criteria for conducting aging in place renovations. Even with trying to meet universal design or visitability objectives, not every home or every individual will require the same approach. Some homes will already have the desired improvements. Some budgets just won't allow an approach as extensive as others.

Moving on to others areas of the home - hallways, closets, doorways, kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas - the same is going to be true. Each home is going to be different and have various needs. Some will be able to serve the needs of the occupants better than others. Again, budget, age of the structure, and work that already may have been done will be mitigating factors in deciding how to approach any renovations. Then, the physical needs, requirements, and desires of the people occupying that space will further refine what should and could be done to make the space more effective and efficient for those living there.

If there were to be any set of criteria that we would attempt to apply across homes that we work with, the range of physical ability alone in the people that we want to serve varies so much. 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 make it easier for them to navigate them.

Those living with progressive conditions, resulting from an acute or traumatic episode that now remains or one that they have had from birth, 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 so to approach all homes the same would not be something we would want to do.

It is improbable that there could be - or ever will be - a national or international set of criteria to be used for all homes because the living spaces are just one variable. The people occupying them are the other. Adding the two togther presents still a third.

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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, July 17, 2017

"AIP Solutions Can Occur A Little At A Time"

To serve our aging in place clients, there frequently is a tendency to go all-out to make all of the indicated or required improvements at one time. We want them to be able to take advantage of what we are creating so the feeling is that they shouldn't have to wait for the treatments to be added a little at a time.

Because each situation and need is different - for the occupants of a home and the dwelling space itself - consider the possibility of doing a little bit at a time spread out over a few months. This might be important when people doing their own work or when we want to schedule several smaller sections or pieces of a more complete job to allow our clients to experience less disruption in their normal activities and in their living environments.

Sometimes there is an urgency in creating solutions, especially when providing for traumatic injuries or when safety issues need to addressed in a more immediate way. Otherwise, a more strategic approach may be appropriate to accomplish what is needed in a more budget-friendly, less intrusive way.

Some of the desired work is going to relatively simple and straightforward to complete. It can be done by the occupant of the home if they are capable and knowledgeable of how to complete the work. Otherwise, it can be scheduled as the first phase to be completed by the contractor or a handyman.

Items that could be completed as part of this initial first phase of relatively minor, but necessary, would be swapping out all of the toggle-style light switches for rocker, push button, or torch ones. Switches that use dimmer switches or pre-selected timers also are fine to install at this time. Even motion sensor switches that are activated by someone entering a room would be a good addition. Completing these improvements would require just a simple knowledge of electricity.

Replacing lightbulbs throughout the home with LED bulbs and fixtures is an easy task to complete to create more even and dependable lighting, and it can be done over a few weeks if budget is a concern. The color output and the amount of lumens vary by the bulb selected, but the main thing is to offer as much light as possible in a space and eliminate shadows or areas of low illumination. This is both a safety and comfort issue in a home.

A similar replacement that will help throughout the home - and one that can be phased if budget is a concern - is changing out all door handles that are not the lever-style with ones that are. The occupants of the home have their choice of colors and finishes to fit their personal tastes or decor. If this project already has been done, the kitchen cabinets and drawers can have the handles and pulls replaced with something relatively easy to grasp and use. Be careful of sharp or extending edges on the handles that might catch on skin or clothing if someone brushes against them.

There are many other smaller projects like these that can be suggested by us and undertaken by the owners, subject to their ability to do them, to begin making a huge difference in the quallity of the home and the way it lives.

Larger scale projects involving the kitchen (cabinets, islands, counterspace, appliances, and flooring) and bath (shower, drains, other fixtures, and flooring), as well as other parts of the home including windows, flooring, and general layout can be planned and undertaken later - even in stages if necessary for budget reasons or to keep the disruption to a minimum - if the needs are not immediate.

The point is that improvements, gnerally speaking, are not something that have to be done all at once although that may desirable in order to get the work done and the home put back to order. 

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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, July 16, 2017

"How Do You Make A Difference In The AIP Market?"

Most of us looked at getting into the aging in place services industry as a way to make a difference, but how exactly is this done? Maybe we need to start by working with a company as an employee of that company. If we start our own business, what service or product should be our focus? What about our clientele and market area?

This question of making a difference or being the difference can actually be asked and considered two ways - how do we (collectively) make a difference, and how do you (personally and individually) make a difference? To answer the second, let's look briefly at the first one. This applies to all of us.

Regardless of our specialty or profession, and regardless of whether we already are engaged in providing aging in place services of some type or we are considering going into this field, we want to help people remain in their homes long-term, over-time. More than that, we want them to be safe and to enjoy their homes and their lives. They may have few discernable aging issues or they may face limiting mobility, sensory, or cognitive factors.

The way we make a difference in and to the marketplace first is by making sure we are approaching our service with the right vision. Is this just something we are doing because we think there is a need for aging in place renovation services and that we can make money doing it, or do we have a real passion for helping and serving people? Without the second part, we can't make a difference. We can just show up and at most do a good job for the people who hire us.

To make a difference as a company - large corporation or sole practitioner - we have to define the services we provide in such a way that there is a real connection with the marketplace. Offering to paint homes blue because we think this is beneficial but there is no market demand for it will not sustain us or allow us to provide any meaningful service to the marketplace. We might do a great job, and the end product may look fantastic, but if there is a low demand for this or very little we can do to show that we are really enhancing the lives of the people we are serving, we won't be successful beyond just selling and delivering a few jobs.

We have to keenly define a service or product that will help people be safe in their homes - from many different types of potential perils (falling, getting burned or cut, stumbling, tripping, walking into objects, slipping on footing or seating, over-reaching, and more). We have to make sure they are able to access their homes easily - entrances, doorways, passageways, and the floor space within rooms. Using very aspects of the home must be comfortable and convenient for them - controls and switches, faucets, tubs and showers, appliances, cabinets, closets, windows.

Then we can feel that we have the capacity to make a difference.

That leads us to the second question of we personally can connect with our clients and make a difference in their lives. We must have the company that offers relevant services to them because we understand what is needed and why they are beneficial. Then we have to show a truly caring attitude and demeanor when we are working with them - in making the initial sales presentation, doing the home assessment, explaining the scope of services and getting their agreement to proceed, doing the work in their home, and maintaining contact with them.

Too often, a job is done and then the relationship is severed. How do we show that we truly were interested in serving people and in making a difference in their quality of life if we don't talk with them again or visit with them?

In short, we make a difference by providing a service people need in a manner which they appreciate - for what it is, for how it will help them, and for our thoughtfulness in suggesting it. Even though we might be providing construction services or durable medical equipment at some point, we still are in the personal services business. Caring is at the heart of 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, July 15, 2017

"This Four-Letter Word Is Both Great & Horrible To Use - Depending"

Who doesn't like the idea of a bargain? People from every economic background seem to like getting a good deal on something - maybe they know someone who can offer an item to them at a substantial discount, maybe they have a good relationship with their retailer or distributor and can get special pricing, maybe they qualify for preferred pricing, maybe there was sale pricing in effect, or there's another reason that someone doesn't have to pay full price for something.

Maybe we have discovered a little out-of-the-way place that has great items that sell for much less than they would in a more popular or visible location, maybe there's a great little second-hand or nearly new store where we can great bargains, or maybe we are just careful shoppers.

There are many ways we can look for and find a good deal - depending on how patient we are, how much homework we have done (and the internet has helped dramatically in this respect), quantity discounts we can get, and adjustable delivery schedules we are willing to accept.

Nevertheless, one of the best words we can look for - and hear - when it comes to pricing is the word "free." This is a fantastic four-letter word. Sometimes free comes with strings attached or conditions. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we need to purchase something we didn't actually need or want at the moment but could use just to get the free bonus that we were more interested in having.

When something is totally free - and one can argue that nothing is one-percent free - we feel like we have really accomplished something special. We got something we wanted and didn't have to pay anything specifically for it (except maybe shipping, sales tax, or processing). Maybe we bought something else to qualify, drove clear across town to get it, or bought more than we wanted to to get the special offer. The point is that we got something without directly paying for it. We like that, and our clients and customers like this also.

One can also argue that when something is free, we don't appreciate it as much as when we pay for it - even getting a substantial discount creates more inherent value than just receiving it totally free. One can also advance the idea that when something is free it is not regarded in the same way as something which was purchased. It is somehow deemed less valuable or important.

Often when something is free, and there is an issue with it, we will be told that the item or service was worth exactly what we paid for it. However, the item or service failing to work or measure up to what we expected could happen regardless of the purchase price - free or not.

OK, we understand that the word free is a great word to hear or see when we are shopping for an item. So, when it is it a horrible word? Interestingly, in much the same way.

Because we, as consumers, are attracted to the idea of getting something for free as being quite pleasant to us, advertisers and phishers have begun populating the subject lines of the emails with the word "free." Because of this, email servers are routinely flagging as spam any email that has the word "free" in the subject line - free offer, free for a limited time, free to the first 100 people to respond, free shipping, and so forth. Many times we are interested in such proposals, but we never see them because of the overuse of this word (and serval dozen others like it that have come to mean spam).

When we send out emails, we need to avoid using the word "free" in our subject line or early in the message. We can still convey this, but our readers need to see our message first. If it is never delivered to their inbox, we won't have gained anything.

Interesting that the word free can be both desirable and disruptive.

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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, July 14, 2017

"People Have Accumulated Too Much Stuff - But They Don't Want To Hear About It"

We see it all the time - some of us don't have to look very far at all. As aging in place professionals, we are aware that people collect and hold onto things as they go through life. We are in essence "stuff magnets" - stuff is just attracted to us. It's part of our human condition. We go through life with a collection of keepsakes to remind us of our past and provide comfort in the present. 

Not all stuff that people (us included) retain is bad. Some of it is excessive, some of it is disorganized, and some of it is just plain junk - by anyone's standard.

The key to living a successful aging in place lifestyle, especially well into one's seventies and beyond, is having a home that does not present mobility challenges. It should not have stored items here and there - on the floor, in the corner, perched on shelves where it can fall, or in closets (garages, attics, basements, or sheds) where it is occupying space that something else - or nothing at all - could reside. 

Having and holding onto stuff presents a real conundrum for us as aging in place professionals. We are bordering on affecting people's mental and emotional health when we tell them that they have to cut back on what they are keeping because it is affecting their well-being in the current home. This makes for great entertainment to see a de-cluttering TV show where bags, boxes, and dumpsters worth of materials are tossed or sorted for reassignment (to a thrift store, another home, or a much smaller footprint in the home). We are amazed that someone could acquire that much stuff and then pretend that it's not taking up that much s[ace in their home. Isn't it obvious that it's taking over? Not always.

Some people recognize that they need help. Others push-back and deny any issue. Look at the preponderance of de-cluttering books, webinars, and seminars that have been released in the past two-three years. Still, people have to want to change. This is not something we can make people do.

Assume that we had the ability to go into someone's home and toss out or pack up for reassignment anything that seemed excessive or unnecessary to us. We are disconnected from the "stuff" so, while it might be insensitive, it would a relatively easy call for us to just begin cutting back on what's there. For our clients, it's personal and thus a whole other matter. Almost anything can be rationalized as to its importance and why it needs to still be retained. Whether it was an outfit that was worn on a momentous occasion, ticket stubs or program from a big event, a souvenir of some type, a note that can hardly be read anymore, or dozens of other types of items that we hang onto, they had their significance at the time. For many people, that importance continues to this day.

People - even though few would argue that they have a lot of stuff (even too much of it by their own admission) - do not want to read, watch TV shows, or be told that they need to de-clutter. It's a little like being scolded for allowing it to get so bad. They didn't get into this situation in just a few days, and it's not going to go away or reverse itself in short order either.

When clutter becomes a safety issue because it interferes with proper lighting of a space by blocking the light or creating shadows, competes for passageway space by taking up space where people need to walk and maintain their balance without stepping over or on objects, or occupies furniture or cabinetry causing them to be less functional, this becomes our issue. People can retain whatever they like, but when we are selected to help them create an effective living space, we have to look at the clutter and how it affects their home. 

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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, July 13, 2017

"Having A Vision Propels Our Business Efforts"

Many people earn their Certified Aging In Place Specialist designation to launch their own consulting, home modifications, or home assessment business to keep people safe in their homes as they age in them. Others want to achieve similar aims for people to help them use their homes more functionally. Regardless of why we attain our training and what we plan to do with it, a strong vision lies at the heart of how we are going to put into practice what we have learned.

It's easy enough to start a business, notwithstanding the financial aspects of being able to produce sufficient revenue to remain viable, but without the vision, there will not be the level of passion and commitment necessary to launch or sustain the business. While it might do well initially, it won't have the staying power to attract new customers or to even excite those associated with the business.

It's this thought process and planning that goes into the formulation of the business that enables us to launch it with some direction. The vision is more than just a dream to create something or a desire to achieve something. It starts with looking around us and identifying a need - something that is not being addressed currently in any form or not to the level desired. Maybe that need is already apparent without any additional observation. Regardless, that need must be factored into a plan to facilitate a way to address it.

Our vision will encompass what needs to happen and shapes how it can occur for us to offer our ideas to the marketplace. It doesn't have to be explicit in every detail, but it has to be expressive and detailed enough to identify and outline what we want to accomplish and why it's important that we do this. It should address a desired outcome.

A vision will be defined from a real or perceived need that can be met or addressed through specific actions or activities that we will take or set into motion. Without that drive to address a specific unmet or under-addressed need, the urgency to pursue it will be absent.

It is the vision that fuels and propels our business. It provides the passion to be creative, to persist, to innovate, and to reach out to invite and include others who can help implement the vision as well as those who will benefit from having our services in their homes. The vision must excite and motivate us because that is how we are going to generate the enthusiasm in others to help make it happen.

By defining our vision, we will be expressing what makes us different - as professionals or as a company - from other aging services, aging in place providers, contractors, or health care professionals. We can use this as our business model, to express our USP (unique selling proposition, or what differentiates us from others in our marketplace that currently provide similar services), in our branding, and in our marketing message. It will underscore how and why we are delivering the types of services we are and to the people we are serving. 

To have the kind of aging in place business that conveys our intense desire for helping others remain independent and safe in their current home environments, we have to identify a vision that we can get behind and attach ourselves to as the primary explanation for why we are - or want to be - in the type of business we are planning.

Our vision underlies everything else we create. It guides our daily activities and how long-term objectives. It gives us the direction to identify population and areas to serve and the methodology to implement the solutions and treatments that are called for among those we wish to help.

Successful businesses don't exist and thrive without a driving passion behind them, and this comes from a vision that provides that basic compass and direction. 

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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.