Friday, April 20, 2018

"The Client Interview Needs To Be Taken Seriously"

As aging in place professionals who advise clients on improvements that can be made to their homes to help them have an easier time of remaining in those homes or who actually create those improvements for them, we can't do it in a vacuum. We have to have a lot of input from them. Otherwise, it is our plan superimposed on the home without any regard for what they might want or need.

This brings us to the client interview and the importance of it.

Often we get the opportunity to talk with the client, the caregiver, the referring healthcare professional, or someone else close to the client before we actually meet the client face-to-face and see the inside of their home. This can be an extremely important interview and needs to treated as such.

After the formalities and pleasantries of the introduction and small-talk have been taken care of, it's time to learn what is going on in the client's home, why they or someone looking out for their needs and ability to function successfully in their home feels that their living space is not working well the way it currently is configured, what they would like to see done to improve what they have or what they think can improve their situation, and the money they have designated, allocated, or been able to set aside for the project.

While this needs to be a pleasant and cordial call, it's much deeper than just having a conversation. While it may seem to be just gathering some data, the real essence of the project is being ascertained. Questions detailing information being shared and ones delving into topics not being volunteered need to be covered. At the conclusion of the phone conversation, we need to feel good about our ability to help this client, have a reasonable understanding of their budget or ability to pay for the work that we are beginning to envision, and actively look forward to getting to their home and beginning to formulate a plan of action for their home.


During the phone conversation, we are gathering information, but we also are listening, discerning, and deciding if this is someone we want to work with and if they have realistic expectations of what can be done with their home to help them.

At the conclusion of this polite interview where they are likely asking us questions about our experience, ability, and pricing, we will make a determination of how to proceed. We will suggest a time to go to their home and begin the field assessment part of the project, or we will thank them for contacting us and essentially decline to go any further with this home and potential client. In other words, it did not seem like a good fit or a good use of our resources even though we like to help as many people as possible. In this case, it didn't seem like they have realistic expectations, they were not forthcoming about the types of changes that would help them, they were not willing to discuss budget or were quite vague about it, or it seemed like it was going to be difficult to please them.

Assuming that the conversation went well, however, we will have set a date and time to visit their home. Then the interview starts all over - some of the information previously obtained will be confirmed and verified. Some will be dependent on our observations and questions that need to be asked face-to-face.

We need to understand exactly what they need to have done and how specifically our changes or recommendations will help them. There are no generalities allowed at this phase. It's time for very specific questions and suggested solutions. We have to take seriously our assessment and evaluation role as part of the interview process. If when we leave their home we don't have a firm idea of what will help them, what they might accept as an improvement, and their budget or funding for accomplishing it, we didn't do our job. We can't move forward.

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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, April 19, 2018

"Email Communication Is Not The Same As The Spoken Word"

Many of us communicate with each other and with our clients through email or text messages. Mostly this is good except there are some potential breakdowns in communication that can occur.

We need to remember that any type of communication in order to be effective has three main parts: (1) sharing of a message by the sender, (2) receipt or reception of that message by the intended recipient, and (3) understanding or comprehension of the message by the recipient. Needless to say, an email can break down at any of these three critical stages and result in lack of communication.

We know from experience that sometimes emails get lost in cyberspace and never get delivered - improper email address, a typo error, or something unexplained. It's amazing that the internet doesn't know how to auto-correct a comma that it knows should be a period as in "dot com" or "dot net" instead of "comma com." It certainly knows how to humorously (sometimes) or embarrassingly (other times) "correct" words that were not intended to be part of the message. Who would be sending a message to someone at ("@") comma com rather than dot com? Obviously, no one, so the interent should treat this obvious typo for what it is and send the message on its way. Let the recipient determine if it's valid or trash. By the way, why do the comma and the period ("dot') appear side-by-side on the keyboard - and appear side-by-side but in reverse order on the iPhone keypad? No wonder we occasionally get it wrong.

Then, there's the real biggie that occurs on the other end after the message has been sent - the second part of the communication trilogy. The recipient has to receive and open the message. How many times has someone (including us) claimed that a message never came when we mistakenly deleted it without opening it, didn't recognize it and thus did not open it, or just didn't open it because it got lost among all the other messages that came in that same morning or afternoon? Granted, messages sometimes get delayed and may take several minutes to a few hours to reach the intended inbox. Once-in-awhile, they don't arrive at all for no apparent reason.

So, assuming that the message was sent successfully and then subsequently opened and read, we come to the third part of communication - the understanding or comprehension of the message.

Often, the message is straightforward and clear, such as "see you 3:00." However, this can still leave some room for interpretation if the exact place of the meeting has not been clarified, if it varies due to rain or snow (since the meeting place was outdoors or in front of the building), or if the person sending or receiving the message is in a different time zone.

Humor, in its many forms, has a definite place in communication, but much of its impact is lost in email communication between people that don't know each other very well. A phrase that can be misinterpreted or just not understood for its nuance can fall flat or actually seem inappropriate.

If we tell someone "good luck" or "good luck with that" before they go into an important meeting or appointment, they can usually tell by our tone of voice, rather than the words themselves, what we mean. We likely meant them well and indicated this in our brief message; however, we could have been sarcastic, insincere, or trying to display a sense of dry humor. The listener might know, but even here, it can't always be discerned.

As tricky as it can be to understand the spoken word - often filtered or tempered by our mood, focus, and stress level at the moment we are hearing it - imagine how difficult it can be for the people communicating by email to understand each other. Should we stop email communication - is that the answer? No, but we need to read and re-read our message to see if there are multiple ways a phrase, comment, or message can be interpreted and rephrase as necessary. A witty line in person is one thing. In an email, it may not be understood in the manner intended.

Emails are a quick way to send or receive a message, but let's be careful that we aren't asking too much of them. It not the same as literally having a conversation.

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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, April 18, 2018

"What Is Someone's Occupation? - The Answers Might Be Surprising"

Talk to 20 people or so standing in line to get coffee, order lunch, or board their flight. Ask them what their occupation is, and we would expect to get the typical responses - the shortened, familiar ones rather than the formal titles that might be on their business card or next to their door or cubicle.

People would tell us that they are a teacher, lawyer (or attorney), firefighter, paramedic, nurse, salesman (or salesperson), sales manager, stockbroker, journalist, reporter, letter carrier, parcel delivery, truck driver, shipping clerk, carpenter, plumber, and the list goes on.

That's true, to a point. However, we have multiple occupations - some paid and some volunteer.

During this month of April - National Occupational Therapy Month - we reflect on the role of the OTs and just what an occupation actually is. Nowhere does it say that an occupation is what we are paid to do or that it only counts as an occupation if we receive money for doing it.

OTs evaluate how well someone can perform the activities of daily living - basic life skills - and function independently in their home or living space. They are concerned about someone being able to be effective in pursuing their particular occupation or occupations whether at home or in the workplace. 

Let's take a closer look at occupations. A pre-schooler has an occupation - playing. To the extent they are able to engage in that set of activities completely and participate in their physical, sensory, and mental growth, they are being functional.

Take someone mentioned at the outset that responded to what we would expect to hear in response to a question about their occupation - because people equate or associate the word occupation with the concept of work or a job - that's likely only part of the total picture. Very often, someone is a son, daughter, father, mother, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or some other relationship in the family structure, and those come with a list of implied or assumed "job" responsibilities also.

Also, someone - in addition to their normal paid job responsibilities, and in the case of someone unemployed or retired - may be a volunteer at a hospital, church, library, soup kitchen, school, or some other non-profit program. They may be a youth soccer, baseball, hockey, martial arts, BMX, or another type of coach. Perhaps they are a scoutmaster, Sunday School teacher, mentor, or other types of volunteers. These are all occupations - typically unpaid - that co-exist with being a professional, family member or roommate, or friend.

People may have hobbies - also occupations - such as sewing, woodworking, sculpting, drawing, painting, photography, astronomy, gardening, cooking, baking, wine or beer making, cycling, jogging, rollerblading, collecting, and so many other pursuits done inside the home (including the garage or basement), in the yard, and nearby in the neighborhood.

Think that OTs only work with people to get them back into the workplace after an accidental or medical setback? It's much broader than that. This is where establishing universal design and visitability components in each dwelling facilitate aging in place regardless of what someone's occupation may be or how many they might have.

As non-healthcare (OTs, PTs, or others) aging in place professionals, particularly when we are working with people without urgent medical needs, our clients may have so many other non-apparent issues that need to be considered and addressed that affect how they use their living space and how it can be accommodated to serve them better.

They are going to have multiple occupations (paid and unpaid, formal and informal), whether they have begun their working careers or already completed them - across the age spectrum. This highlights the importance of working with OTs because we need their input and expertise as we begin evaluating how to serve our clients and the many needs they may have - beyond what may seem obvious or apparent 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 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, April 17, 2018

"Being Deliberate Is A Great Way To Remain Safe"

As we work with our aging in place clients, and as we go about our daily activities ourselves, preventing falls and injuries is a top priority. No one wants to deal with the dramatic impact of an injury - from an unexpected cut, fall, or bruise to a life-changing event that may land them in the emergency room.

To begin living life more safely, we need to be deliberate about our actions. We need to briefly assess what we are about to do and make sure it is as safe as we can make it - given everything else going on around us at the time.

Being deliberate means taking a micro-second delay before each activity that we proceed with to make sure nothing unforeseen or unanticipated can occur and affect us. When we are driving, this means being doubly careful pulling out from a stop into an intersection, merging into traffic from a ramp or side street, or backing out of our driveway or parking space. We need to pause momentarily and have another look at the possible presence of an oncoming vehicle (maybe one that changes into the lane closest to us within feet of the intersection where we are about to merge into traffic) a child, a jogger, someone on a bicycle, a dog, or anything or anyone else that suddenly appears.

We have all seen children chase balls into the street without giving any thought to the possibility that there might be a car coming. Many of us have walked through puddles on the sidewalk or unpaved road not really knowing how deep they were or if there was anything dangerous in them. We know that people often attempt to drive across a rain-swollen roadway only to get their car stuck and face the possibility that their life is in danger also.

In the home, we often attempt to reach something from a ladder, step-stool, chair, or even standing on the floor that is just a little beyond our fingers so we stretch for it. At a younger age, it didn't matter as much. We likely had more flexibility so we could stretch more easily and possibly even grasp what we were trying to reach. Our balance was better so that even if we did over-stretch and start to fall we could recover our balance and remain upright. Even if we did stretch beyond the point where we could remain standing, falling was not as serious as it is now several years later.  

As we (and our clients) begin activities around the house, we need to cautiously take that momentary pause to evaluate what we are about to do, assess possible outcomes for going ahead, instantly determine any risks or things that might interact with our movements that might create a less desirable outcome, and do all of this in the briefest of time before we are committed to action that possibly we should avoid.

As we are walking - in order to avoid stumbling, walking into objects, or losing our balance and possibly falling - being deliberate is quite important. We must perceive how a misstep, a hasty movement, or a distraction, may cause us to have an accident. There are more things we have to be aware of as potential dangers as we age. Our eyesight may not be as sharp as it was. If we are wearing bifocal, trifocal, variable, or even readers, looking down at where we are going can be tricky at times because the path may not be in clear focus. Lighting can also have an effect on how well we perceive pathways.

While we may be relatively confident of how to navigate our living space and can do so quite well in the daytime, it can be more challenging with limited lighting or even darkness at night. Items that we easily see or recognize in the daytime we may forget about or misjudge their presence at night. 

Remaining safe takes a definite commitment to do so. Being deliberate is the best way to make that our actions are wide and well-executed. Take an extra moment before acting to make certain that we are being safe and that what we are doing will go as intended.

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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, April 16, 2018

"We Can't Win New Business Unless We Engage The People We Want To Reach"

To provide our aging in place services, we need to locate people who can benefit from what we offer. We need to find referral sources who need us to help their clients, or we need to locate people we can communicate with directly. There are several ways we can find people who can refer their clients to us as well as those who might want to work with us directly. It all starts with meeting and engaging people.

The best way to locate people to serve is by having a conversation with them to introduce ourselves and allow them to get to know us. From there, the relationship can be developed until they are comfortable in deciding to refer people to us (for hospitals, rehab facilities, social workers, or other professionals who want us to help their clients) or in working directly with consumers who are comfortable in inviting us into their homes to work with them. Creating trust is a large part of getting to the next level with anyone we might be serving before we actually get an opportunity to discuss their needs and begin designing a solution for them.

We can't be everywhere, so we have some tools to help us introduce ourselves to people without the necessity of being face-to-face in front of them or talking with them by telephone at the moment of that first meeting. The internet helps accomplish this in terms of websites and social media.

Nearly everyone has a website of some form today - some better than others in how helpful they seem to the people attempting to use them, the basic approach they have for appealing to the public, how easy they are to navigate, and their general tone and message. They need to provide good content to keep people engaged and feeling good about the possibility of developing a professional relationship with us without them feeling like they are being left with more questions than answers or that they were being sold something.

We must strive to have an honest connection with them that discusses our experiences, knowledge, professional approach, and successes so they can relate to what we might be able to do with them and not feel that our website was totally self-serving or too strong of a sales message. Obviously, our site is about us and our abilities, and we want them to contact us so we can discuss how we can serve them, but it has to create a good customer experience and not just be an electronic brochure. 

The same type of approach works for the social media platforms we choose to use. We need to present ourselves as knowledgeable and approachable. We want to show (to the extent that we can within the amount of content and testimonials we can post) that we have the experience to serve them that we are extremely well-qualified, and we are capable of helping them.  We need them to feel that we are interested in serving them and not in just selling them our services.

The language we use online is very important. We need to convey professionalism (with enough action verbs and tenses to show that we believe in what we do and have the ability to help them but not a lot of jargon or special terms that might not be understood by everyone). We need to use softer words and phrases rather than words that might be more direct or assertive (or sound like a strong sales message). We should suggest that we are open to creating many types of solutions (according to what works best for addressing their needs, budget, and timing) and not just offering a limited range of more typical approaches.

Engagement is the first step toward building relationships and finding people we can serve. Personal contact is the preferred method of doing this, but this takes time and planning to accomplish. Websites and social media help us to make the introductions we desire when we can't personally be there for that initial contact. Either way, we have to engage people in a way that invites them to get to know us before we can eventually serve them.

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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, April 15, 2018

"Our CAPS Credentials Are Powerful, But We Still Have To Connect With Our Clients"

Most every industry or area of specialization has a designation, certification, or other educational programs through which they award a title of competency, represented by a series of initials that a person uses after their name to signify that they have completed the training or qualified for the designation.

That's what those of us who have earned the Certified Aging In Place Specialist - CAPS - designation are doing. We are telling the world - at least those in our sphere of contact - that we have completed specialized training to work with and help people remain safely in their homes as they continue to live in them long-term. Moreover, the CAPS certification is a little different than other designations and programs in the realm of public opinion, acceptance, and recognition.

There are dozens of certifications and training programs that a professional in real estate, construction, sales, healthcare, non-profits, or aging in place (among others) can strive for and attain. Many of them, while important and meaningful, aren't immediately recognizable by the public until they have a need to engage someone with those credentials. With the CAPS, there are a minimum of eight national professional organizations (NAHB, AARP, AIA, AOTA, APTA, AIBD, NKBA, ASID) that encourage their members to attain the CAPS certification, offer continuing education credits for coursework, and promote the designation and training to their members, and by extension, members' families, clients, associates, and friends.

This is why having the CAPS is beneficial and why so many consumers are aware of what CAPS training is - perhaps not the exact definition of it and what is required to earn it but knowing that it is something they want in a person who helps them create a solution to allow them to continue living in the home that they love. We are seeing more instances of consumers looking for and requesting CAPS trained professionals to work with them in their homes to help solve their issues.

When homeowners want someone to look at their home and help it become safer, more accessible, more functional, and just a more enjoyable place for them to remain, they begin - to the extent they can locate one in their area - by reaching out to a CAPS trained professional.

Similarly, property managers, case managers, social workers, attorneys, claims adjusters, social service agencies, and anyone else who works with people in their homes to modify, renovate, repair, or remediate them would welcome a CAPS professional to assist them in such endeavors.

As strong as the Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS) designation is in preparing us to enter people's homes, meet with them, look at the physical condition and parameters of their homes, evaluate their own functional needs, and suggest a renovation program (within their budget), we have to make sure that the people we are meeting and preparing to work with understand the value, tools, and experience we bring to them. 

CAPS must be more than just a set of letters or initials next to our name. It has to connect with the consumer, or the strategic partner or referring professional we want to work with, in such a way as to let them know that we have the training, knowledge, experience, resources, and network to serve them in a way that non-CAPS professional are not prepared to do.

Consumers are requesting CAPS trained people to help them. For those who aren't, we owe it to them to make sure they understand the value we bring to their particular situation and that we can make sure their money is well-invested in the project we recommend and complete for them. We must make our training relevant to the consumer.

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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, April 14, 2018

"Aging In Place Does Not Require Any Particular Type Of Home"

What makes a good aging in place home - one that will serve the needs of someone as they grow older and decide to remain in place in that same home? Is it something people can and should actively shop for, something they might accidentally stumble upon, or is there even such a thing as an aging in place home?

There is nothing that is labeled as an aging in place home that someone can search for online, find in the classified section of the paper, locate in a real estate publication, or find advertised anyplace else. This is not something that is created by a builder or anything that a home seller or real estate agent would use to describe a home for sale. However, it does not mean that such homes are not available.

They very much are something that people can find and purchase - particularly when they include 
universal or visitable design features. People just have to know what they are looking for or need in a home that they might be seeking or determine that they already have found such a home and are living in it now.

Because "aging in place" is a great search term and a trending topic, many home builders who do not understand what this concept entails have begun using this term as a branding tool. Nevertheless, people don’t shop for an aging in place home nor buy a home that comes with individualized solutions that are already present and ready to use. Unless it is a custom built home, there is no way that a builder can know what a given person will need for their physical and lifestyle requirements.

Simply put, aging in place is a process that takes many years of living in a home and deciding that it accommodates a person’s needs fairly well and likely will continue to do so, or that several changes (possibly even some significant ones) need to be made to make the home safer, more accessible, and more enjoyable - where the decision already has been made to remain living in that home. From the standpoint of what the home needs to include for the functional needs and abilities of the person or persons occupying it, each situation is going to be different. This is precisely why it can't be determined on the front end and marketed as such to the public.

While a home - new or existing - cannot be marketed and labeled as an aging in place home because it is totally dependent on the needs, requirements, and lifestyle of the people deciding to purchase that home, it does not mean that people can't find such a home. They can and do.


Many people are finding homes - some at a very early age in life such as their twenties or thirties - that are comfortable, accessible, pleasant, well-situated, and seem to have what they will need for the foreseeable future. Homes that turn into ones that can be lived in long-term do exist, and people frequently find them as they move through life. Others are still looking for such a home.

Still, the home itself does not need to a certain size in terms of the number of floors or square feet - many homes that would be labeled as tiny are sufficing for people long-term. It can be a single story or have multiple levels. It can have a basement or be built on a slab. It can be in an urban neighborhood with a relatively small homesite, or it can be more rural with a larger site or even one with acreage.

It may already have much of what someone will need to remain living in it safely for many more years. Then again, it may require significant improvements and modifications to improve general access to the home (for the occupants as well as people they invite into their home to visit with them), maneuverability inside the home (whether using mobility aids or not), the way the bathroom and kitchen areas can be used safely, and the convenience of items in the home, such as appliances, controls, cabinets, closets, and fixtures.

While there are homes that work better than others for living in them long-term, there is no special type of home (by itself) that one can find advertised or built as one for aging in place purposes unless it includes universal or visitable design features. It's not the style or location of a particular home as much as it is the way it allows the occupants of it to live in it and enjoy their lives.
  
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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, April 13, 2018

"How Easy Is It To Be Recognized When We Meet In Public?"

Each of us spend considerable effort in marketing our services so that we can generate more business and serve the aging in place clients we are attempting to reach. We have many ways of presenting our message, and online resources are a very common and popular way of accomplishing this.

The two principal ways of having an online presence are with a website and through various social media platforms Both of these provide an opportunity for us to post a headshot. This photo is important. It's not just something to include because the site requests it. It's a real opportunity for us to begin the sales and connection process with those who visit the site where our photo, contact information, and profile story are posted.

The nice thing about both types of postings - our website and social media (Facebook and LinkedIn, for instance) - is that we get to include a headshot. Look at this as an opportunity and not an obligation. This is something we get to do rather than something that is expected.

When it comes to the headshot, we need to overcome the traditional public relations or studio photo and go with a less formal, softer expression. A studio photo, whether black and white (like we would include with a press release) or a color shot (that might be sent to a magazine or online publication that uses color photos), is staged and often retouched to eliminate wrinkles, blemishes, and other slight imperfections in our appearance. We look better on our photo than we do in real life as a result.

When people see us in public - at an event, on the street, or when we meet for coffee - how close is our published photo to what we project in real life? It needs to be real close. We might have a slightly different hairstyle, longer or shorter hair, a different outfit, eyeglasses, jewelry, or something else that is not exactly the same as what the photo captured, but the person seeing us should immediately know that it is us and not have to try to figure out is we are the person they are attempting to meet.

Also, depending on our current age and appearance now (heavier or lighter, thinning hair or facial hair for men, and certainly older), we may look very different from that formal photo that was our high school or college graduation picture. If it's been a few years since we sat for that picture - and as good as that picture made us look at the time - we need a more current one.

Fortunately, an updated photo is easy to get. We don't even need to have a an expensive camera to do this. Most of us already have a great camera on our smartphone anyway. We can have someone take a few photos for us, or we can take a selfie. The idea is that having a photo does not need to be a big deal, even though it is quite important that we post one. The great thing about digital photography - with a camera or smartphone - is that we don't have to wait for a set of proofs to come back from the photographer, and we aren't limited to just a couple of poses at each sitting. We can update our photos as often as we like, and we can take multiple images each time until we get one that we want to use.

There are many opinions on what we should wear, what constitutes a good background, whether the photo should be taken indoors or outside, if it should look like a candid photo or one more staged, and how close the camera lens should be to us. Much of this is personal preference, but there should not be anyone else in the photo (except maybe a dog or cat that we are holding), and the camera should be close enough to us that our face fills most of the image.

Then, we can honestly say that (after we post such a picture on social media, on our website, or on our business card or flyer) that when someone came up to us or had an appointment with us in public that we would look like the picture we had posted and that they would easily recognize us.

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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, April 12, 2018

"Kitchen Islands Are A Great Accessory But Only If There Is Enough Space"

Trends come and go in homebuilding - especially as they relate to what is included or featured on the interior of the homes. Sometimes they are fleeting and not heard of again, sometimes they last many years, sometimes they are like certain fashion styles that return every so many years, and sometimes they are permanent.

Certainly people change in what they are looking for in a home - although kitchens and baths are always popular. The outlooks on life that people express, and what they require from their homes changes over time also. People who get their first home as a young single or as a couple just beginning their life together have certain needs in a home. Those families with young children have definite requirements in a home and what it provides in terms of space and features.


As their children grow older and demand more personal space of their own (and as they have friends over more), the housing needs change again. Then, as people complete their child-rearing time (if having and raising children was part of their lives), their needs in a home - the same one a different one - change again. As people reach their retirement years, their needs are different still. Thus, there is a constant change in both the demands and the expectations that people place on their home or apartments over the years and how they utilize their living space.

Some people are fortunate enough to find a home that they like well enough to remain in at a very early stage of life and live in that same home their entire lives. It might just be that staying in this home is just simpler and easier than moving, or maybe they found the ideal home for themselves right away. Most people, however, even if they stay in the same area, live in two, three, or four homes over their adulthood. The trend is away from living in so many homes in a lifetime, however, as the average amount of time a person stays in the same home has reached a new high - with over half of homeowners staying in their current home for more than ten years.

So, with the focus being the kitchen and the bath areas, people look for features (such as the presence of an island or the lack of one) that appeal to them. They spend a lot of their at-home hours in those rooms, and while those rooms have evolved in appearance and function over time, cooking is still cooking and bathing is still bathing.

Specifically in the kitchen, appliances have been invented, streamlined, eliminated, enhanced, and become more powerful and more efficient. Today, we have tools for food storage and cooking that likely weren’t even thought of a few years ago, and countertops and cabinetry have changed to be more durable and useful.

While kitchen islands aren’t new, many of them are far too prominent for the space in which they are located. While they provide additional countertop, serving, and food preparation space - especially for kitchens with limited perimeter countertop space otherwise – they often do so by comprising the general access, traffic flow, and appearance of the kitchen.

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) recommends 48” as the minimum distance on all sides of an island between it and other cabinets. If there is not sufficient space to have an island large enough to be functional while at the same time providing adequate maneuverability around it by others in the kitchen, the island needs to be downsized or even removed.

Nothing says there has to be an island. They look nice if they are appropriately sized for the space and often contain additional sinks and cooktops. Nevertheless, they are an accessory and not a requirement. A roomy kitchen with plenty of counterspace, cabinet storage and appliance access may look great and live quite comfortably.


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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, April 11, 2018

"Conducting An Evaluation Is The First Step To Beginning A Renovation Project"

Before beginning any renovation project for a client - and especially one that involves creating aging in place solutions for clients who want to remain in their homes long-term - we need to review their living space and evaluate both what exists and the potential for making modifications to improve the living space.

This evaluation or assessment needs to look at the physical nature of the home itself and how well it can accommodate changes that might be necessary (as well as how easy those changes would be to make), and it needs to factor in the personal element of how the occupants of the property and any guests they may entertain will be able to use the space effectively. 

It is both an objective survey of what the way the home was built, room sizes, general layout, construction materials, age of the home, and condition of what is present as well as a subjective one involving the occupants of the home and how well they relate to space and accomplish the tasks that are important to them.

We can't begin to suggest a plan or undertake any improvements until we have a firm grasp on what is present and it needs to change - and to what extent - to appeal to the needs of our clients. We need to create a design specific for the needs of the client and the physical parameters and constraints of the property they occupy. Even if we find ourselves completing many similar projects, it's not appropriate to suggest a typical approach of what we generally install or create because it may not comply with what the client needs. This is what we begin with the assessment.

Through observations and direct interviewing, we must determine the priorities of what they clients think they want and need. We will examine how they use various aspects of their home, which areas of their home are the most important to them in terms of where they spend the majority of their waking hours, which parts of the home are not that important to them, and how making modifications (especially for accessibility) will enhance their overall quality of life in their home.

It's important to learn what their home will not allow them to do that they feel is necessary. This could make the difference in their home continuing to serve their needs long-term and it not being that comfortable or pleasant for them to occupy. We might determine that an additional room or rooms need to be constructed, that existing space needs to be reconfigured or reallocated, or that a particular space such as a kitchen, porch, bathroom, or family room needs to enlarged or enhanced by taking space from adjacent rooms or removing built-ins that restrict how the space can be used. Perhaps there is a hobby that cannot be pursued or enjoyed as much as they would like due to the way the current space is designed where they might pursue that activity.

As is frequently the case. there might be general lighting issues, where the space that they want to use for a specific activity is too dark or insufficiently lit to allow them to use it effectively. Maybe there is not enough natural light available because the windows are not large enough or plentiful enough. It could be a wiring issue where the additional lighting that is needed or required cannot be supported without more circuits or outlets.

In addition to what we see and experience, we need to get people to reveal what they are interested in doing in their home that they presently cannot do at all or cannot do to the extent they desire - or perform it safely, easily, or comfortably. Then, our challenge is to help them determine how this can be done and to gain agreement on doing it.

Once we are satisfied that we have a good grasp on what is going on in the client's home - from the standpoint of what the home features as well as the functional needs and abilities of our clients - we can form an opinion and present options for them to consider.

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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.