Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Universal Design Is Beyond Quantification Or Scoring"

Wouldn't it be great to create a set of defining criteria that we could publish and use to determine that a house was employing all of the universal design criteria appropriate for it? No, not really. It's not that simple.

While it sees like this would be a great way for homeowners to demonstrate that they have accounted for and included the ultimate accommodations for accessibility, visitability, comfort, convenience, safety, security, sustainability, and other characteristics associated with good universal design techniques, a standardized rating system is not practical - for several important reasons.

One has to do with the design of the home itself - and its age and architectural significance. Many homes simply cannot be modified - without a tremendous amount of cost and effort - to include a more reasonable entrance, elimination of steps, and better access route trough the home. In some cases, the architectural integrity of the neighborhood would suffer, This doesn't mean they can't score well in other areas, but there is no way they could score an acceptable rating for the entrance and approach.

Of course, budget is the main defining criteria on what changes can be considered and undertaken. Depending on the endgame and what one wants to spend to achieve it, they are many design changes that can be made in a home. Some will be desirable and readily embraced. Others will be less apparent to the owners.

This does not mean we shouldn't attempt to make as many changes as the owner wants or allows, as many as they can afford, and ones that will help the home to live better for everyone involved. It might mean a much smaller scale approach that what we would recommend or select with a larger budget or without worrying about accommodating the residents while they continue to live in the home.

The real point is that all home modifications are personal. There might be guidelines and standards that we want to achieve, follow, or emulate. Still, it comes down to what serves people the best in their home. Remember that in most cases, remodeling or renovating is purely an elective activity that is done consciously by the owner.

How they choose to approach this, what they set aside to invest in the project, and what they desire to achieve is entirely up to them - with some coaching and guidance from us as to what will help them enjoy their living space more and be safer in it.

Additionally, some homes are going to have a better starting point than others. Let's say there were 20 items that had been selected that every home should include or possess to make it a universal design home in the most basic sense. What if it already had five or six of them (or more)? Does it get credit for those? Does it have to add twenty more to the ones already present? Does it receive some sort of label or distinction for the items already included - even if no more are contemplated or undertaken?

What if a home already has several universal design features in it, but only a few of the items included in the list of essential items to have? How are the features on the list allocated? How many are on the outside of the home, how many apply to doorways, passageways, and windows? How many involve the kitchen area? The bath? Bedrooms? Closets? Laundry areas? Having a list of items by which to measure how well a home provides universal design features and attributes might well be a function of the person or people assembling the list and what they expect in a home rather than being a good cross-section of on an effective home.

Would the list focus on items that make a home safe, ones that make it accessible, ones that offer security, ones that provide comfort or convenience, ones that focus on another area of the home, or a blend of these qualities?

Having an objective list of criteria by which we could measure how well a home had provided universal design features might seem to be desirable if it was possible to create such a template, but deciding on the minimum number of items to include, overlooking design peculiarities among various homes (due to their age, location, layout, and style), ignoring budgetary requirements, advancing a checklist that would need to apply across the country (or an even larger geography), and taking the individual and their preferences and needs out of the equation would make this a very substantial undertaking.  


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Universal Design Is More Than Just Wide Hallways"

Universal design is a topic that many people are talking about today. It is widely accepted as a guiding principle, but it often is interpreted too narrowly. Yes, it means that a person in a wheelchair should be able to freely move about in a home, but it's more than this. It's more than just wide hallways and doorways.

Originally launched as a concept to provide freedom of movement in a residence, it is so much more. Actually, that notion is a good summary statement; it's just that there is so much more below the surface that is included in this idea that makes it so much more inclusive and meaningful.

Freedom of movement in a home - whether in a wheelchair, using a cane or walker, walking with some difficulty, or moving with no real issues or concerns - addresses all types of mobility that someone might experience. This includes arriving at the front door of the home, entering, moving about at will within the home, accessing and using storage areas (cabinets, shelves, closets), using appliances, preparing and eating meals (and clean-up), using the bathroom safely, sleeping, dressing, watching TV, and other common pursuits within the home - all while remaining reasonably safe in the space.

Universal design applies to current users of the living space, visitors and guests arriving at and using the space (for a very brief period to a more extended stay), and future owners and users of the space. This is what makes it universal - that it applies without serious limitations across the spectrum of individuals and time.

Now, there are more specific modifications that someone can undertake, and universal design does not specifically include color and finish choices (except those that can negatively affect our senses) or cause discomfort in some people, but so much is included in this design paradigm.

If we set out to make a home that could be used by first-graders and by grandparents, what would it look like - controls, lighting, heights of cabinets and fixtures, and more? Solving for this equation gives us universal design. 

We take into account the many facets of a home and home many varied people could be using it - residents as well as visitors and guests. Then, we look for all of the areas of a home that need to function well to provide safety, comfort, convenience, and access - flooring, lighting, doorways, controls, furniture, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, hallways, and more.

Making sure that certain areas of the home provide plenty of width and height for reasonable and fluid access is a great starting point, but there is so much more. People need to feel comfortable in their space - if they live there, if they are visiting from the house next door or across the street, if they are relatives from out-of-town, or if they have been invited to an event in the home.

The home must accommodate everyone who enters it, and the best way it can do this is by having universal design principals as part of its makeup. There are no certain number of improvements that need to be made in order for the home to benefit from universal design treatments, but all of them that are completed enhance the overall living experience for everyone who uses this home. From a few essential and easy-to-complete safety or access features to more extensive renovations, features that allow more unimpeded use of the dwelling can be undertaken - to the extent of the budget and desires of the owners.

Creating universal design improvements for a home is an overall strategy that we apply and not so much a template that we follow or overlay to complete a particular amount of change. There are many areas of the home that will benefit from our changes - including but not limited to basic accessways such as the hallway or doorways.

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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

"There's No Point In Being PC - We Are Aging - So Let's Face It Head-On"

Mention aging in place to someone not familiar with the term, and they may have a misconception about its purpose - maybe from something they have read or heard. Often, people get the idea that people need to plan in advance to age in place, that they need to have a lot of money to make necessary improvements, or that they can only stay in their homes until they require help to attend to their daily needs. Fortunately, none of this is true.

Money helps, and advance planning helps, but neither is a prerequisite for effective aging in place. Aging in place is as much a mindset or paradigm as it is is a physical treatment or process. Aging in place begins with the desire to remain living at home. From there, many paths are possible.

People can elect to do nothing but continue living in their homes. They may not afford as much light, safety, convenience, and accessibility as we would like for them to have, but they can continue living there indefinitely, and thus age in place. If it becomes a real safety issue, someone may intervene from the city, county, or a social agency. Otherwise, they are free to age in place on their own terms by doing nothing to modify, update, or modernize their dwelling.

Again, all of us are aging whether we are living at home with our parents, are away at college, have joined the military, have purchased our first home, have raised a family and easing into empty-nesthood, or are well into retirement.

Some people intentionally want to improve their home living environment. Depending on their budget, and the physical needs of themselves and their homes that they need address, they can make a few modest changes to several much more dramatic and impactful ones.

Those that are in a position to know that they want to make some changes to their home to make it more compatible with the way they are living in and using their home now - and way they envision it over the next few years - can enlist our services to help them.

Those who might not be aware of what changes they should consider or who need to address specific physical limitations they have should enjoy working with us. They have to find us first, then we can help them. This is where a network of referring professionals comes in handy.

Whether people make specific plans to age in place where they are (with a few minor or several major renovations), they just let life happen without embracing aging in place or trying to stop it, or they look for another home that they feel is better suited for where they want to spend the remainder of their lives, people are wanting to remain in a home of their choosing - typically where they are right now.

Thus, aging in place is a real concept - not a fad, if it ever was considered as such. People love their homes - or at least the idea of remaining in them when faced with the alternative of trying to move. The one constant in all of this is aging itself.

Look at the cosmetic, fashion, travel, entertainment, and so many other industries where the message is that we don't have to look as though we are getting older. We can retain our youthful appearance and deny that we are aging. Looking good is fine. Denial may work for a time, but eventually it will be time to accept that the years are passing.

Regardless of much we like to think and act young and deny that we are aging, the fact is that we are. Call it anything but aging - put a nice catch phrase on it, relabel it to something more PC if possible, or even ban the use of the word aging - nothing can halt it. SO, let's embrace that all of us are getting older and vow to do the best with each passing day (and year) that we are given - both to live in our homes well and to help our clients do the same.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-instructor and best-selling author of universal design 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, May 21, 2017

"Two Extremes Of Creating Aging In Place Solutions"

People at any age, in any geographic area, and with or without any type of physical, sensory, or cognitive limitations or impairments are aging in place on their own or with family by simply remaining in the homes they are in. This might be a short-term proposition or quite long-term. Some people remain their entire lifetime in the home they are born in. Others move very frequently.

Likely the two most extreme examples of aging in place solutions are found among those people who do nothing with their present homes but remain in them and those who demolish all or most of their present home and rebuild it. In the first case, people may not have the financial resources or connections to make the repairs necessary, but it is more likely that they just choose to continue going through life as they have without doing anything differently. Their are issues with safety, lighting, plumbing and electrical fixtures, and other issues that easily could be addressed, but they choose the path of least resistance and do nothing.

In the second case, people purchase a home in need of severe modification or decide that their present home can serve them better by keeping the outside walls and nothing else or leveling it to the foundation. Then they construct what they want for a longer-term solution.

Those who do nothing spend essentially no money on aging in place solutions (regardless of how much money they actually could spend), and those who do extreme renovations have a very large budget. These are the two most extreme examples of aging in place solutions and treatments.

Aside from this, the two extremes are those - primarily seniors - of modest means and those with substantial resources to invest in modifying and updating their current homes - short of major demolition.

It is these two extremes that give us as aging in place professionals the challenges of our calling. Obviously there is a range of treatments possible with budgets lying between almost no money to spend and almost no upper end to spend.

For the low income seniors, there don't necessarily have any fewer needs than anyone else, and in many cases may actually have more due to the general inability to address normal maintenance issues as they arise. Lighting, flooring, doorways, windows, hallways, operational controls, cabinets, bath fixtures, cooking facilities, HVAC systems, and more likely present some major safety, convenience, comfort, and accessibility issues.

How then do we approach households on a fixed budget or with little means to take care of some of the major issues facing them? If we can't do more than a couple of items, which two or three should they be? It might vary by the home, but these are worth considering in advance.

While we would like to do all we can, the budget just won't allow it. We must choose what to do based on a hierarchy of needs - priorities - that suggest the most important items first. Sometimes, an item we really would like to do can be sidestepped to allow us to accomplish two other items with only slightly less priority. Thus, the residents would get more solutions for their issues - provided the major issue that was overlooked in this case was not a significant safety concern. There are times when the budget will only permit one thing to be done. Still, this is better than doing nothing. It is challenging and draws out our creativity to meet and solve solutions the best way possible.

At the other end of the spectrum, we find people with ample means to accomplish renovations that they would like done and that we agree should be done. Picking colors, finishes, styles, brands, and models is enjoyable because there is the money to fund the choices - even luxury choices. We can do far more to effect changes in homes of this nature, and a more thorough renovation can be undertaken. We still may not get to do everything that is indicated, but we stand a much better chance of completing our checklist of recommended improvements,


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Putting Age Into Its Proper Perspective"

As aging in place professionals, we are interested in helping people of any age to stay where they are - for as long as they desire - at whatever age and ability they are presently.

We hear a lot of talk and focus on the Baby Boomer generation, and with good reason. Until recently, they were the largest market segment in America. That distinction now belongs to the Millennials, but the Boomers are commanding the attention of experts in insurance, health care, housing, lending, and so many other areas because of the size and buying power of this generation.

The Boomer generation is clearly defined, and all of the demographers, insurance actuaries, and others mostly agree on the parameters of this age group. Baby Boomers were born from 1946-1965 (although a few say the segment only extends until 1964). A generation is roughly a twenty-year (two-decade) grouping, but not always. The Boomers are the standard. Generations before it are measured around it, and the ones since are likewise configured, with much disagreement as to the years contained in each succeeding generation.

That said, Boomers are, as of today, age 71 or 72 at the oldest to age to age 50 or 51 for those in this segment who have not celebrated their birthday yet this year. We likely have seen it reported in many sources that Boomers are turning age 65 at the rate of 10,000 people each day.

The Boomer generation is largely targeted for aging in place products and services. The are nearing traditional retirement age, but as a generation they are redefining this aspect of aging also. They are continuing to work because they need the income to support the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed or they just like the idea of working. Many are professionals with their one practices or businesses.

Some of them have elderly parents they are responsible for. At a time in their lives when their adult children might normally be thinking about caring for them or looking after their needs as they age, they are doing this for their even older parents. This, in turn, is redefining aging in America and aging in place.

The parents or other relatives of the Boomers (cousins, aunts, uncles, or close family friends) are likely in their 90s or older. They could be as young as their early 70s (for those born in the World War II generation from 19271945), but most are probably much older. Some are even from the G/I generation (World War I era) born in 1926 or earlier. No one is thought to be alive that was born prior to 1901.

Each generation has its similarities. Those in their 70s or older largely do not use computers or email. They rely on the postal service for letters and other items that are mailed. They still have landlines rather than cell phones. Those with cell phones have the more traditional styles rather than the smartphones. They did not grow up with this type of technology, and unless they have consciously learned it, they are not using it. This must be factored into the way we market and sell to these age groups.

The older generations tend to be more formal in the way the dress and in the way the talk. They like to be afforded social courtesies in addressing and working with them. The Boomers are less formal.

Those who come after the Boomers - especially the Millennials due to their numbers - do not resemble previous generations in the way they make decisions, purchase property, form relationships, or communicate with each other. This must be factored into aging in place services. Many of them do not yet own their first home, and for them to even think of living in a home long-term is beyond their experience at this point. This is understandable.

Aging in place truly is for everyone, because everyone (regardless of their age or ability) deserves to live in a safe, comfortable, and easily accessible dwelling. It's just that the time they were born (their generation) will govern or suggest many of the decisions they will make about their housing and other lifestyle choices.


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

"Aging In Place Was Never Meant To Be A Two-Stage Process"

Aging in place is a very simple and grand concept. It means that people get to continue living in their current home for as long as they desire, and ideally for as long as they are alive. It is this notion that most of us embrace as a guiding principle to help people, regardless of their current situation, to remain viable in their homes.

Aging in place applies to literally everyone, whether they have any physical limitations that impact their mobility or not. It doesn't matter if they have sensory or cognitive impairments - as long as it is safe for them to live on their own, with a spouse or family member, or under the supervision of a caregiver.

Some people like to extend the idea of aging in place to a move that places the individual into another dwelling - an assisted living facility, group quarters, cluster housing, high density apartments, or some other type of congregate living. There may be good reason that someone would want to choose a move like this, but this bypasses the original intent of aging in place. After the move, people may then age in place in their new housing, but the idea of needing to move to find acceptable housing in which to age is not what the term suggests or implies.

Aging in place is not - and was never intended by definition - to be a two-step or two-stage process where people move from where they are now into a new dwelling and then age in place from that point. The whole idea is that people do not need to move, They can continue living in their current home as it is with no modifications of any kind - even though some are indicated and would make life more enjoyable and easier for them, or they can choose to make improvements to their present home to assist with access, comfort, convenience, and general safety.

While it's true that people can find a new dwelling and then begin aging in place in that new abode, and likely never move from there. This is counterproductive for the most part. Unless the current home is unsafe, in a neighborhood that is not conducive to aging in place there, or for various other reasons does not present a good lifestyle scenario for the occupant, they should remain where they are and age in place there.

Aging in place does not suggest that anyone needs to or they they must move-and-age-from-there but that they age in place - place being the operative word. It means wherever they are right now is where they continue to be, and they either make the most of it as it is, or they enlist the services of aging in place professionals like us (including contractors, designers, DME providers, and health care professionals), well-meaning family, friends or neighbors, or community-based or social service agencies to help them adapt their living quarters for their current and projected needs.

Aging in place is a strategy that takes people where they currently are living and determines what needs , if any, they have personally, or that their home presents to them, and then sets out to accommodate those needs, based on budget, medical necessity, and other priorities. It is based on meeting people where they are, where they are living. It does not mean that they should find another, possibly more suitable home, move into it, and then begin aging in place from that point forward. While technically they would be aging in place, they would be defeating the main premise which is to allow them to stay where they are and not need to move.

While moving into another home may have an attraction for some people, the whole idea of aging in place is make this unnecessary and allow people to remain where they are - in a home they are familiar with, in a neighborhood they know, with all of their "stuff" in tact, and all of their recent (or long-term, depending on the length of time living there) memories present.


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

"Our Email Address Follows Us Everywhere - Make Sure It Can"

One of the most important pieces of personal information we possess is our email address. This has replaced the mailing address and even the phone number as the most viable way of contacting someone.

We subscribe to email lists, we get newsletters and email updates from news sources, we have customers and clients (existing and potential) reach out to us this way, and we receive notifications (some we request and others seem to find us).

The important thing to remember is because the email address (or addresses, for those who have more than one) is a very personal way of allowing the outside world to connect with and engage us.

As aging in place professionals (or any other type of businessperson), we must have a reliable way of having people connect with us. We cannot afford to break the circuit. Just like an open switch on an electrical path, a broken water line, or a street that used to be continuous that now doesn't connect through a neighborhood, we cannot allow for people trying to contact us by email to be thwarted. This is not the same as unsubscribing to specific emails or lists or blocking spam. We're talking about not receiving email that we intend to reach us.

We used to rely on our mailing address as the constant in how people could reach us. If we traveled for a few months, went away to school or the service, or otherwise were absent from out regular place of residence for a short period of time, we could always depend on bills, statements, magazine subscriptions, correspondence, and other important information reaching us at that address. If we weren't there, it would be waiting for us when we returned (even with a hold or temporary suspension that we might apply).

The same would be true for parcels or express deliveries that we might request or expect.

There was no need to forward our mail each time we were going to be gone for a few weeks (sometimes longer) at a time. We knew that our regular (aka permanent) address would allow mail, parcels, and other information to reach us. It would either be there upon our return, or we would have someone tell us us what had arrived or even forward specific pieces of mail to a location we were at that time.

When we moved permanently to another address, we would notify the post office that our important (first class) mail should be forwarded to our new address and that the former one should no longer be used. We will notify magazine publishers and others to use our new address, Still, advertising and solicitation mail will still come to that former address for years.

This brings us to our email address. When it is tied to a company, and that is the main or only way of having people contact us, we can easily lose touch with the outside world when we leave that company. Unlike forwarding our mail with the post office, there is no such provision for email. Send something to a nonexistent or nonworking email address and it gets bounced (undelivered) if a service was used. It also could just float around in cyberspace forever.

For these reasons, an alternate, permanent email address - that people know because we tell them - needs to be used. Have a corporate address if this is required by the employer, but also have a gmail, yahoo, hotmail, outlook, or similar address that is not going to change locations just because we do. We might even change the name of our business, reinvent ourselves, re-brand our company, or start and additional one. When this happens, it's easy for people to use an old or outdated address - especially people we haven't contacted in a while. A public address (gmail and others) stays with us. Our mail will always find us.

Many years ago, having a public address was a sign that one did not have or could not afford their own domain name to use for their email. Now, it's a great backup plan and insurance policy - to guard against interruptions in service because we move, change businesses, or otherwise can't be reached at the main domain. It also provides some additional security benefits.

The main thing is to provide continuity so that people can continue to reach us by email no matter where we are or what name it may have on the office where we are at any given moment.


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Not So Fast On Forswearing The Forever Home"

A new report on Millennials suggests that they are not in favor of the forever home - the majority of them, as a group, don't seem to like the idea of being tied down that long to a single home. This is understandable. It comes with the generation. However, this is no reason to make the jump to say that the forever home is obsolete, as some might read into this or suggest.

First of all, the findings are from a survey, and while we love surveys and tend to place a lot of weight on the outcome or results, a survey represents just a few people of those that characterize a given group - regardless of the nature or general character of that grouping. Sample size has a lot to do with results also.

While the results of this survey may be accurate and really do apply to the Millennials generation as a whole - let's say that they are - there are several ways to interpret and use this data.

First, some of this age group is still in college and the oldest among them is just in their 30s. A lot can change in their lives over the next 30-40 or more years. If we think back to some of the attitudes we had a couple of decades ago - things we said we would never do or something we said we would always do - we may find that our attitudes have changed. Times change, people change, and our attitudes change.

Part of the question has to do with the way it is framed and the way it is interpreted by the younger generation. Since may of them have yet to purchase their first home, and a large number (a record number actually) are still (or again) living with their parents, it's entirely reasonable to hear that they can't think of themselves living in a home long-term. Also, the idea of a forever home does not mean that it needs to be purchased as their first home.

So many of us don't know what neighborhood we will want to live in or what type of layout we will want in a home until we have owned or lived in a few different ones. It is rare (but not unheard of) that someone remains in the first home they ever get. Some people make a great initial decision, and some people get lucky with their decision. Most people move once or twice, if not more, in their lifetime.

Another thing that we are overlooking in this premise is that the forever home is about aging in place, but so is living successfully and well in the current home - at any age, income level, physical ability, outlook on life, and other factors. Aging in place means doing well in the present home. If that home turns out to be a long-term residence, or if it is acquired with that in mind initially, then it becomes what we typically think of when we speak of aging in place. Nevertheless, we don't have to wait until our 50s, 60s, 70s, or beyond to age in place. It can begin now.

Still, projecting ahead a few decades to suggest what someone might or might not want to do is a lot to ask for someone who is just embarking on their adult life. It's not surprising that people aren't able to embrace the idea of having a long-term home - whether that is the initial home purchase or a future one.

Millennials are the largest generation in America, having eclipsed the Baby Boomers, and it's possible that they may redefine how they want to use their homes. For now, the Boomers definitely are wanting to age in place, and it's likely that many of the Millennials who don't think this is such a good idea now will change their minds over time.

Even if they don't have a long-term home because their attitudes don't change, universal design treatments and visitability fixes that they make to homes - or ones that are made by current owners to homes that they might eventually occupy - will mean that they are going to have homes that offer them a safe, accessible, comfortable, and convenient way to enjoy those living spaces.


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Keeping The Art (Not So Much The Science) In Design"

Many things are partially art and part science. Design certainly falls within that description, and it's good that it does. It's nice to know that there are parameters to stay within or that there are best practices to follow. It's also nice to know that we can take various liberties and leave to create designs that serve our clients and not a textbook illustration of what it needs to look like or follow.

Many people like structure so it's no surprise that they seek design standards - more than guidelines but actual prescriptions - of how to approach a given area in the home and what to include where. For instance, where do you locate a powder room - off the foyer, next to the kitchen, accessible from the living room, under the stairs, off the main hallway, next to the den? There clearly is not just one place to put it. It depends - on the home, the general layout, and the needs of the client, This is true for new construction as well as renovation. 

Some people like to have solid answers on where to locate certain features, how big or small to make them, colors to use, and more. There are commonly accepted best practices to follow, design guidelines, and even a few standards. For the most part, there are no requirements. This is why we call it design rather than compliance, fulfillment, or some other term.

One of the keys to design is to ask the question about how sensible a particular solution is - recommended or not. Even when something generally is included, the size, color, finish, and location (vertically, horizontally, or spatially) is often a matter of client desire or professional judgment. Does it make sense to include it at all or to put it where it is suggested? Unless required by code, this is a judgment call - something that makes design an art.

Instead of looking for ways that things must be done or have to be included, let's search for solutions that enhance the client experience and quality of life in the home. This is true for any type of renovation or design, but it's especially relevant for aging in place planning.

As we assess an existing space or review plans for new construction, we are evaluating doorways, windows, counters, accessways (hallways), hardware, cabinets, bath fixtures, and other treatments. We are looking for ease of approach and access and how well someone in the home (existing resident or future occupant) might be able to use what is included.

Doorways frequently cause issues. They are too narrow (even though they meet a basic, outdated code), the physical door slabs open into a passageway or block access within a room, or there simply are too many of them opening onto a limited space - creating congestion.

Windows are another huge area to consider. How easy are they to open, are they low enough to provide a comfortable viewing frame, and are the located where they are easily accessible without anything else being located in front of them? Can they be unlatched and used by anyone, or does it take a certain amount of strength and ability to use them?

If we are searching for easy answers such as where a window needs to go, how large it has to be, whether the door swings from the left or right or is hinged at all, if sliding windows can or must be used, the size of the shower, the location of the toilet, the type of faucets, the flooring that needs to be used in each room, the type of paint to use or avoid, and so much more, then we are eliminating the art part of design and looking more for a prescriptive approach where solutions presumably have been tested and decided upon for us to use. Fortunately, more most design, this is not the case.

While there are building codes and federal requirements that apply in some cases, we generally have the leeway to decide what works best for our clients and for the specific living space in which we are designing - pure art. This is what makes creating aging in place solutions so exciting and rewarding. Each case stands on its own.


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 or call 561-685-5555. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

"Is Aging In Place For The Average Person - Yes!"

Frequently a question appears online in a forum or blog post about the feasibility or advisability of someone aging in place in their current home. The question is often posed as "Is aging in place for me/you?" or "Can I/you afford to age in place?" To me the answer is "why not?"

For anyone living reasonably well in their current home, even with vision, hearing, mobility, cognitive, or other difficulties or limitations, aging in place is just continuing to do what has been working so far. There likely will be some challenges - age seems to bring that, regardless - but the fact is that the home is accommodating that person right now. They may not be as well off as they could be, or they might be doing quite well.

With caregivers, support groups, non-profit agencies, aging in place consultants, OTs and other HCPs, and educated and dedicated family members, helping people to remain at home is not near as difficult or challenging as it has been in the past.

Many appliances, cabinetry, lighting, flooring, hardware, bathing, and other options exist to help people do well as they age. It's a matter of finding solutions - often universal design ones - that can help someone to remain in control of their surroundings.

This really is the key - remaining in control. While someone's lifestyle may not measure up to what we would want or expect in a home, they are in full control of their environment and are managing it - even with physical limitations that cause them to adapt to their surroundings. Even without any outward improvement to their living space, it still may continue to work for them.

People on a fixed income or with modest means may have trouble justifying an expense to improve what they already deem to be an acceptable living space for themselves. There generally are ways to improve it - often low-expenditure ways - but they may not be open to it. This does not automatically mean that they are living poorly or that they cannot or should not continue to live in their home and age in place. There could be something better we can offer them, but they are making do with the status quo.

Some people may choose to leave their home of a few years to as many as a few decades of living there to move into an adult living facility. That's their choice, and people have various reasons for doing so. Nevertheless, it is not automatic that this happen.

There are so many ways that people can remain living viably in their present homes, and it doesn't have to cost much, if anything at all, to make this happen. People can just continue living where they are with what they have, no matter how recently they may have acquired their furnishings or what condition they are in. Of course, they can make an improvement or two, or they can do something more substantial to their home to make it even more desirable to live in as they age.

If we just one or two simply fixes to every home we saw - a doorway, lighting, flooring, rocker or push button light switches, improving safety by picking up or moving something that constantly is in the way, swapping out cabinet hardware, or anything of this nature, we would be so much further ahead will helping people remain safely in their homes over time.

Back to the original question of whether people can remain living in their homes as they age, the answer is a resounding "of course." How well they live and how easy it is for them to continue to navigate that living space becomes more of a concern for them and us. When we can make suggestions and actually create solutions along these lines, they will be better equipped to remain in those homes, but they can continue living there anyway. Determining ways to approach this is a way we can spend some of our time - assuming this aligns with our business model and delivery system.


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 or call 561-685-5555.