Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Moving Into Another Home Is Not Following The Spirit Of Aging In Place"

We often hear about following the letter of the law but not the spirit of it, or sometimes, the reverse of this. It means that someone approaches an issue legalistically and does what the law or rule says they must do, and not one ounce more. They do only what they must, and they are very careful to meet just what is required. On the other hand, meeting the spirit of the law is to accomplish what the ordinance or the thought behind it embodies - why it was created - but maybe not doing everything it requires.

In the same way, people often meet the letter of aging in place without conforming to the spirit or intent of it. As to the letter of it, aging in place means simply that a person enjoys safe, comfortable, and accessible living quarters where they are at any moment in time - in their parent's home as a child, at college, in their first apartment, in a starter home, going to a move-up home, having a vacation home, or finding their permanent, forever home.

Someone may move into another home at any age and begin aging in place in that new dwelling for as long as they remain there. For older individuals, they might move into a so-called active adult community (55+ age restricted), with emphasis on the "active" part. For people desiring a quiet lifestyle in an older neighborhood, this would not be for them. Some people seek or feel they need to have some type of a managed care environment with social events, meals, and other people to be around and interact with at their new home.

There is nothing prohibiting people from selecting a nursing home, assisted living, congregate living, or other type of group living environment. This option is open to anyone with the financial ability and desire to make it happen for themselves or a loved one. Nevertheless, the concept of aging in place says that this, while a viable option, does not need to happen. People can elect - consciously or by default - to remain in their current homes for the rest of their lives.

Some people find another home to live in as they get older because they find their current home to be too large, too much for to maintain, or too much in need of improvements to make it accessible for them. Then, they can age in place for the rest of their lives in their new home. For everyone else, they can age in place where they are right now - as the concept of aging in place suggests and why the concept began. 

Some people feel that they need to move into another home at some point in their advancing years - to downsize or to have a level of care that doesn't seem to be available living where they are. In years past, this was more true than it is today. With the level of care that people can receive in their homes from visiting nurses and other professionals, as well as the advances in connectivity to the outside world through devices such as Amazon's Echo ("Alexa"), Google Home, ElliQ, Samsung, and others who might be coming to market with a similar product, most people can choose to live on their own (single or with others in their household) indefinitely. Only severe medical issues requiring hospitalization or rehabilitation would be cause for them to leave their homes. 

Now, more than ever, people can choose to age in place in their current homes. The technology is rapidly evolving to where this will even be easier and safer to do so. This aligns with the intent or spirit of aging in place - staying put where we are - as opposed to finding another place to live for whatever reason.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

"It's Not Enough Just To Label Something As Being Universal Design"

It's not enough to label something as being universal design - it actually has to deliver. In fact, some things which are identified as universal design really aren't. Wishful thinking can't make something into what it is not created to be. Let's be careful that what we identify and label as universal design really is just that.

Universal design is the ultimate type of inclusiveness. It accommodates virtually any physical needs and a person's size, stature, intellect, or ability. If a product or design fails to be usable by someone that it seems should be able to use it, then it fails the universal design test and should not have the universal design label applied to it.

A great way to determine if a product or feature truly is universal design is to ask a simple question - is anyone excluded from using it because of how it is designed, of where it might be located, or how much effort or manual dexterity it might take to use it? A similar question to ask is how it looks - does it stand out where it is located as being something special or not really fitting into the overall design scheme but looking like a specific treatment?

Not every product or building feature or characteristic is going to be universally designed. If we wanted to achieve this concept, we would have to condemn the majority of the homes in this country - any home with a step or grade change of any type into the home (not to mention multiple steps or a series of them), bathtubs that aren't accessible, windows that can't be accessed or operated, poorly illuminated rooms, loose or slippery flooring, or many other features that might work for one age group, ability level, or physical height.

Some homes are going to be located in neighborhoods or areas where there is an architectural integrity to preserve that precludes any type of step modification anyway. For these, other treatments such as elevators can be a universal design solution. Elevators do fit our criteria that they can accommodate anyone. It's just that they don't align with everyone's budget and they don't apply to single-level homes without a basement.

For those homes where we can achieve universal design solutions, however, the issue is to create equal access to what we are including. Take a taller toilet (19" or so - often referred to as comfort height). Is this universal design? In a word, no. It often is labeled as such, but it clearly does not work well for children and smaller adults (people under 5' 6" or those with shorter legs). While they might be able to actually use such as toilet, it is not comfortable or particularly safe so it is not recommended for shorter individuals.

Another common solution is raising the height of the automatic dishwasher, thinking that this would accommodate wheelchair users better than a traditionally installed lower unit. In reality, the higher installation makes it more difficult for wheelchair users, and it looks out of place in the kitchen because the countertop has a distinct interruption (and raised as well) rather than being continuous. People with stiff backs or those with other issues that don't allow them to bend or lean over easily may find the raised dishwasher beneficial.

We must be more careful in what we call universal design to make sure that they really are features that anyone living in a dwelling - or coming onto it as a guest or visitor - can use. Otherwise, it is a different type of design or strategy such as aging in place and not intended to accommodate anyone but just the specific needs of the occupants of a particular home.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Friday, March 16, 2018

"Do We Really Need Participation Trophies?"

Who doesn't like being recognized for achievement or rewarded for hard work? Particularly at younger ages, but even as adults, who just can't stand getting trophies or plaques to display? If we are honest, most of us would take them. There are bowling, softball, baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, cycling, basketball, swimming, tennis, wrestling, sales, recruiting, and so many other achievements to honor and recognize. They are fun to get at the time, and it's nice to be recognized for our efforts.

However, upon reflection of earning, winning or receiving the recognition, was the trophy or the plaque the real prize - what we sought and what motivated us to go the extra distance - or was it in being among the best - coming in first, second, or third to be recognized as the top performer in whatever was being measured? Of course, along with the recognition came the satisfaction, and often the financial reward, of doing well.

Rather than focusing on the prize - the "trophy" - let's pull back and take a broader perspective at achievement and look at competing and receiving validation for our efforts but not specifically about receiving a specific prize for such achievement.

Looking at our aging in place business, there are national as well as some local awards we can win for design excellence and recognition we can achieve from advocacy and support groups for the way we serve their members and clients. Nevertheless, our real prize is providing that service when there are no awards and no recognition other than being paid for the job we agreed to perform and having our work appreciated by the clients we agreed to serve. As long as we created a living environment that helps them, we have received our reward. This is why we are in business - not just for showing up but doing what is expected of us, and more.

Being recognized by our peers and professional organizations that we belong to is a nice pat on the back, and no one is minimizing this type of recognition. Still, that type of formal, public acknowledgment is rare. What is commonplace, on the other hand, is the satisfaction we give to our clients and ourselves in knowing that we created and implemented a solution that will enhance the quality of their lives.

It's certainly nice to hear from our clients that we made their lives better and that we accomplished what we set out to do - possibly even exceeding what they thought they were going to be getting. This is reward enough for a job well-done. We don't need ribbons, trophies, or plaques to confirm that we did a good job - we already know it, and our clients, as well as others close to them such as their families and caregivers, validate our efforts.

We can provide outstanding solutions for our clients by being aware of available products and construction techniques and using this knowledge to suggest and design treatments for them that are going to be superior to what others in our marketplace might create. This alone should give us satisfaction in doing our jobs well, but the satisfaction of our clients makes it doubly nice and rewarding.

We can't rely on recognition of our work from outside sources like the media or fellow professionals to provide motivation for us to create solutions that are first-rate. We have to look inward and come up with such solutions because we know we are capable of them and that our clients on depending on us to provide them. That is where the trophies lie - in doing such an outstanding job that we never have to apologize for our efforts or feel bashful about requesting a referral from our clients.  


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

"There's One Aging In Place Premise, And Everything Else Is Negotiable"

The single guiding principle of aging in place is that people get to remain living in their homes long-term without any concern that they will eventually need to move from that home and find other accommodations - such as with family or in some type of a care facility. Everything that we do toward this objective serves the aims of aging in place. 

Once we are committed to helping people remain in their homes - and some people are going to be more receptive to this idea and to have us assist them to do this more than others - everything else we do is on an individualized, case-by-case basis. It's negotiable to serve the needs of our clients.

There are no mandates, standards, templates or anything else we must follow. Depending on our design treatments and the way we approach modifying their living space, we need to follow local building codes and manufacturer's installation guidelines, but that is all. Everything else is dependent upon what they want, need, and can afford.

It's nice to have a blank slate as far as the design is concerned - not blank in the sense that there are no budgetary constraints or limits on what we can do, but blank in the sense that we have no mandates that we need to adhere to in preparing our design. We evaluate the client's living space, assess their abilities, determine their budget, learn the desired outcome they would like to achieve, and then we design accordingly.

All the while, our guiding premise is keeping them in their home. We have many challenges to get this done, but keeping them at home is our principal objective. We also are seeking a qualitative solution that enables people to enjoy their home and lifestyle and not just reside there.

Some of the challenges we face are the physical constraints presented by the home - narrow hallways and doors, entry porches or stoops that are too small or unsafe, room sizes that are too small, poor allocation of internal space, and how to expand small spaces (kitchens and bathrooms, for instance) into adjacent areas of the home. Add to this outdated or inadequate wiring, circuits, lighting, plumbing, windows, and flooring, and the physical challenges that must be overcome or considered become a driving force in the design efforts. 

Other challenges we face are addressing and working with the physical needs presented by the clients. Some of them are going to have normal aging issues that affect their vision, hearing, balance, coordination, stamina, strength, and mobility. Others are going to have specific ailments, illnesses, and diseases they are contending with that impact their quality of life and must be considered in designing improvements for them. Their sensory, cognitive, or mobility limitations are going to be more pronounced and severe than just normal aging concerns.

Many people who want to remain in their current home - either through a conscious decision to do so or by just not willing to consider moving - are going to fall into the non-urgent needs category and may not desire us to do much to help them. It's not that they can't benefit from the work we would do. It has to do with their desire to welcome and embrace changes that are beneficial for them.

Regardless of whether it is the group of people falling into this non-urgent needs segment or those with progressive-based conditions, there is no standard approach that we need to offer them or none that they need to feel they must accept if they are going to have us provide help for them. Everything is negotiable after we get their buy-in that they want to remain in their home and that they could use a little (or more than a little) help from us to do so.


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. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"Distinguishing Ourselves From The Competition"

There are many things we need to do to be successful aging in place professionals, depending on the services we offer. Still, we can't serve our clients effectively if they don't know who we are, how we can help them, and how we are uniquely qualified to assist them.

We need to stand out in the marketplace and demonstrate that we are different than our competitors. One way that we can bolster our case for recognition and engagement is by creating such strong relationships with agencies and professionals who will refer us to their clients or use us for we are well-suited for that we don't need to do much of anything else to attract new business, 

In differentiating ourselves from our competition and others who might be lesser known but offer similar services as we do, we need to illustrate that we differ from them in a more professional, more dynamic way. We must give people who can use what we offer specific reasons to like us, to remember us, and to want to do business with us.

Additionally, we need to make our story personal for each customer. We should tailor our presentation to focus on what they need to hear to make a decision, not just on what we want to say.

Remember that the people we serve need to know, understand, and appreciate how the solutions we offer and suggest for them - whether on our own or in collaboration with other professionals we are partnering with for their expertise - are going to help them. We need to answer the question of what’s in it for them? Also, we need to clarify what specifically in our level of experience allows us to make these recommendations for them and why we are the best choice to provide this for them.

Marketing is an intangible. The people we want to reach will see, hear, or respond to our messages in various ways. Getting people we have served and those we have professional relationships with to share our message with people who can use what we provide certainly will help us attract more business. They have the ability to connect with potential clients in personal ways that less-personal web, social media, direct mail, and mass market messages cannot do.

Our marketing efforts, as well as the referring relationships and strategic partnerships we are able to establish, will enable us to connect with the marketplace as the expert professionals that we are and to have the people who need our services engage us to assist them.

Without the help of trusted professionals to spread our marketing message in the marketplace, we are going to find it harder to reach the people we want to serve. Being the best in our market and having the ability to truly help those we intend to serve is great, but it's just the first step. This only works if the people we want to engage know about us and reach out to us. We can't begin helping them until they (or their representative) connect with us. Being the best at what we do is one thing, but having people know and appreciate this is the challenge.

We are prepared to offer outstanding aging in place services and solutions to our marketplace, at an unsurpassed level of experience and professionalism, but people must know that we are available. It's our responsibility to push our message into the marketplace.

If we truly believe that we are the best at what we do, we owe it to the people we serve to make ourselves available to them and to allow them to find and contact us. It starts with our expertise, but it extends to the way we approach the assignment, interact with the client, respect their property, and solve their issues - in ways that we feel the competition would not be able to do.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging in place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Why Do We Continue To Use The Redundant Phrase ‘Handicap Accessible?”

We have reserved parking spaces in shopping centers and retail stores that require a “handicapped permit” issued by a governmental entity for authorized use. In fact, there are substantial penalties for misusing them. Additionally, the phrase “handicapped accessible” is used frequently to denote entrances and restrooms that can be used by persons in wheelchairs. That being the case, why not just call them what they are – accessible?

Adding the qualifier “handicapped” as an adjective does not change the meaning of the word or the basic concept of accessible. If something is accessible, it offers no barriers, restrictions, or limitations of use. It doesn't become even more accessible by pairing it with the word handicapped. Accessible means that anyone – able-bodied, visually impaired, or mobility-limited in some way – can use the walkway, entrance, passageways, restrooms, faucets, switches, controls, and other aspects of a home or business.

Still, the practice of redundant labeling persists. Calling something accessible is all that is needed. It's a little like using the term "PIN number" for identification, when PIN means personal identification "number." Mentioning the word "number" again really is unnecessary, but it's commonly used and accepted. By the way, how acceptable is the term "handicapped" when "disabled" or a similar term seems to be preferred?

If the term "handicapped" isn't a desirable one, and isn't necessary to qualify the term "accessible," why not discontinue its use? One might be convention - we just seem to use it. Secondly, we want people to understand that we understand that we have taken special measures to address accessibility for handicapped or disable individuals.

In trying to impress people that we have created a space that anyone can use - especially people that otherwise might be challenged - we seem like we have to label our efforts to indicate that they have been done to accommodate the "handicapped" - again, a term that may not be the most desirable to use. 

Calling something accessible is sufficient - if it truly is. It means that anyone - literally anyone - that is coming or going or moving about in the home (or public space as well) can use it the same as anyone else. Even with limiting conditions that someone might have, an accessible treatment or solution accommodates them.

In creating universal design treatments, we are establishing accessible areas. At the entrance, we eliminate steps, create a sufficient space for people to wait to gain entrance into the home (whether this is their home or someone is visiting), provide a covering from the elements to protect and shield the people as they are waiting to go inside, use door hardware that can easily be grasped and used (it might even be a touchpad, bluetooth, or fingerprint reader to minimize issues that someone might have with the hands or fingers), and swing the door so that it doesn't interfere with people as they are entering through it (with it being sufficiently wide - at least 36" - and with just a minimal threshold, if any).

Once inside the home, the same planning ensues so that anyone has unfettered access and use of the dwelling, whether they live there or this is their first time being in the home. The floors, switches, controls, windows, interior doors, transitions from room-to-room (if they exist), natural lighting, decor, furniture, cabinetry, appliances, bath fixtures, and everything else about the home allow nearly everyone to use it without difficulty.

Extending to the backyard, any facilities there would be usable as well - cooking and eating areas, sitting areas around firepits, pools or spas, gardens, walkways, decks, and other aspects of the property would be available to anyone.

This is accessible - not handicap accessible - just accessible. Anyone, with or without any limitations can use the designed space.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Safety In & Around The Home Is A High Priority But A Little Elusive"

Creating safe living environments is something most of us would agree is a major aim of remodeling and renovation projects, yet achieving that objective is much easier talked about than actually done. Partly, the budget is a factor, partly it's the style and age of the homes we work in, and partly it is up to the occupants of a home to have the work done. There are many ways we can create a safe living environment, but people have to be willing to let us help them.

For openers, just what is safety in the home, what makes a person feel safe where they live, and for that matter, what makes us feel safe where we live?

Safety can be interpreted and expressed in a variety of ways - both inside and outside the home. People want to feel secure, they want to be confident in their home and their surroundings, and they desire peace-of-mind living in their home - free from worry about personal injury or malfunctions of various aspects of their home. The concept of safety is quite comprehensive, yet at the same time, it is elusive. It is easily discussed but harder to create.

Safety stems from both the physical characteristics of the home and the way people use their home and go about their daily activities. As aging in place professionals, we have to be vigilant in anticipating how someone's home might fail to provide the degree of safety that everyone expects to have in their home and be proactive in suggesting changes that will allow people to be safer in their homes. Then, we need people to agree for us to provide those solutions, from simple helps to more complex renovations.

As for the physical attributes of the home, there is the basic design of it and the general degree of maintenance and upkeep. As with anything, there are going to some homes better able to accommodate people remaining in them as they continue to remain living there and some homes that are going to provide significant challenges for people as those dwellings are currently configured.

Some of the challenges in a home might be the number of steps going into the home from the outside, the width of the doorways inside the home, the floor coverings and the how sturdy the flooring is to walk on, the amount of lighting and whether it illuminates well or casts harsh shadows or creates hot spots within a room, how easy or difficult it is to grasp door knobs and drawer pulls, how easy it is to go from one room in the home to another without encountering obstacles, and whether the home is on one level or more than one.

Then there is the feeling of well-being or the challenges that come from using various aspects of the home such as the appliances, closets, electrical outlets, wall switches, water faucets, tubs and showers, toilets, windows, or controls such as the thermostat. Just getting items from the pantry or kitchen cabinets can be challenging if they aren't designed well for the occupants.

Safety can relate to how comfortable or confident someone is in moving about in their home and functioning well in it. When a home is particularly challenging for someone, they don't feel very secure about living in it - not from the fear of someone breaking in but just not having a good feeling about being in their home. In short, their home is not treating them well.

These physical characteristics of a home, and how well the home has been maintained over the years, have a direct bearing on how well people are able to live in and use their home and go about the various daily activities they have. These all contribute to how safe someone feels in their home.

Safety is a composite picture that takes into account someone's mental and emotional well-being from living in their home, their freedom from imminent injury from unsafe items, furnishings, or components in the home, their comfort level in being in and living in their home, how convenient various items and fixtures are to use, and how physically secure they feel from being in their dwelling.

These are some of the challenges we need to be prepared to observe and address as well for our clients. Establishing a safe living environment is a large task.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

"We Are Not Designing The AIP Improvements For Us"

We get to help people remain in their current homes by creating helpful solutions for them, but we should not care what the solutions actually are as long as we see them benefiting our clients. We aren't doing this for ourselves but for our clients. It's their home.

So often in sales - whether retail, direct sales, cars, appliances, intangibles, or any other types of selling situations - the salesperson seems to have an agenda. It might be driven by their company - what the corporation needs to sell to improve their bottom line, to reduce inventory, to prepare for a new shipment that is on its way, to move from one season to the next, or something else they desire to do. It may have little to do with what people want, need, or are requesting.

Sometimes it is driven or directed by the salesperson - there is a bonus or spiff attached to selling a certain item or achieving a certain size order, there is a sales quota or sales contest where performance numbers need to be met, it means keeping their position or receiving an advancement, or it figures into a company recognition program.

There may be telltale signs that either of these is the case in the language that is used by the salesperson during the sales presentation, the relative aggressiveness that is displayed by the salesperson, and the general lack of concern about what the customer really wants or is interested in having.

This is where the selling profession takes a big hit. Many of us have experienced salespeople who came on stronger than they needed to, didn't let up in their attempt to make a sale, and wouldn't take "no" for an answer very gracefully. They can get downright sullen or nasty when they don't sell what they intend - even if the customer doesn't seem to want it - because it is seen as a battle of wills. They are wagering that their company's position or their personal charisma or sales background is stronger than the customer's ability to know what they want or to resist such pressure tactics. Many times that is the case.

In our aging in place businesses, we must be responsive to our customer base. We have to be customer-focused and only be interested in providing solutions that are going to make their lives easier and more comfortable. It does us no good, and certainly doesn't enhance our personal brand or reputation, by attempting to push solutions onto people.

Of course, there are going to be various ways of achieving a result that might be indicated, and we might have a preferred way of approaching a situation that we are going to recommend. However, this doesn't mean that we are trying to tell the client that we know what is best for them or that this is what we would choose if we were the ones making the decision.

If the client agrees with our approach, that's great, but as long as what they want is going to solve their issue or go a long way toward alleviating it, it is within their budget amount, and it contributes to their overall safety, we should feel good about helping them with it - even if isn't our first or preferred choice for a solution.

There is nothing to be gained except a little short-term income from making a sale that doesn't benefit the client or isn't what they want. We are there to serve them, and it's their money or that of an insurance company, family members, or granting agency, so we need to respect that investment also.

We know that we can make a sale. That should never be the question or issue. The one that counts is whether we can show and sell the client something that will help them remain in their home longer and make them safer and happier in the process? When we can do this, we will have succeeded.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"Clients Can Tell Us Plenty, But Only If Are Listening To Them"

Listening is one of the most important things we can do to communicate effectively with other people, and as aging in place professionals, it's an essential skill to help us learn about the needs, interests, concerns, and desires of our clients. It's how we determine how to help and serve our clients, yet listening is one of the hardest things to master or do well.

March is "International Listening Month" and calls attention to this important aspect of communication. We may think that we are good listeners because we hear what people are saying, but effective listening involves really hearing, comprehending, and using what someone is saying to be able to benefit from what they are sharing. Just having the sound waves from someone's speech reach our ears does not mean that we are listening.

Often, we are preoccupied to the point that we can tell that someone is speaking because we hear the conversation but it doesn't register with us in any meaningful way - similar to hearing music in the background or having it on but not really paying attention to it or actually being able to tell what song is playing. Instead, we are busy thinking about what we want to express or share with them next, a humorous anecdote that we want to mention, or a question we want to pose. All the while, we are missing what they are saying to us because we only are thinking about our end of the conversation.

We know that our eyes are important for learning about the client's dwelling space and determining what might be needed to address their concerns from what we see and observe. However, that only gives us part of the picture. We need to ask questions to learn if our observations are correct, how our clients think the conditions that we notice are affecting their use of the space, safety concerns they have, and general updates in terms of design, color, or finishes they have been considering.

To supplement and complement what we are witnessing and observing, we must ask questions - to confirm what we might be seeing and to receive explanations or input about what the client wants or needs. It does us no good to ask these questions if we aren't prepared to actively listen to the responses and factor them into our assessment.

Often, one response that the client offers will suggest another question - for clarification or to ask for a preference when more than one solution or approach is reasonable to handle their concerns. We can't ask that additional question if we aren't actually hearing the response initially.

We need to listen to what is being volunteered by our clients also because they think this is important for us to know or they are sharing information about what they need, what they already have considered, or what they may not want in terms of colors, design, or assistance.

When we find out what’s important to them - by listening to what they are voluntarily sharing with us or in response to specific and direct questions we are asking - we can share with them how we intend to meet their needs or expectations. We might miss this opportunity if we aren't attuned to what they are saying.

We need to remember that effective listening requires participation. It's not like "listening" to music while we are driving or cleaning out the garage. We may even sing along to songs that we recognize, but mostly the music is on in the background. We don't specifically focus on it.

With our clients, we honor and respect them when we listen to what they are telling us. We show that we are interested in helping them and that we value what they are telling us.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Friday, March 9, 2018

"Beginning At The Beginning - With The Assessment"

Before we can undertake any type of home improvement for our aging in place clients, we are going to need to conduct a home assessment or home evaluation of some type. It can be specific to a need that someone is presenting or experiencing, it can be centered on a room or area of the home, or it can be more general in nature such as accommodating safety or accessibility concerns.

It can involve our observations and note-taking, primarily focus on a discussion with the client, or rely on what we note on a standardized evaluation checklist. There are various types of existing checklists and evaluation forms that can be used, or we can develop our own. Some are very detailed, and others are more general in nature. Some have a space for recording dimensions and specific notes about how the limitations are affecting the occupants of the home, and others simply use a series of check marks with little or no elaboration as to why the noted responses are issues. This is why we may want to prepare our own form that we aid us in doing the assessments.

The evaluation forms will help in establishing priorities - both in the severity of the issues present and the areas of the home that contain the most conditions that need to be resolved. From there, a plan of attack can be formulated and presented to the client. If a working budget already has been determined, the priorities will help align the budget with the pending work activities.

Interviewing the client is a great place to begin the evaluation or assessment. We need to learn what their concerns are. What is it about their living space that is not pleasing or acceptable to them? What is causing the challenges to the daily living activities? Where are the conflicts? Is it structural such as doorways being too narrow or the door swinging the wrong way for convenience? Are windows too difficult to open? Are stairs too step, too many, or too difficult to climb easily?

Do their needs cause us to focus on one particular room in the home such as the bathroom? For instance, is it difficult attending to normal activities? Is the space too limiting for effective movement in that space? Does using a walker or wheelchair make it hard to move about within the space? Is personal hygiene suffering as a result?

In talking with the client and then looking at the space to compare what they have expressed with what is observed, does what we see match what they expressed? To the extent that it does or does not, do possible solutions for what was noticed seem readily apparent, or does more thought need to go into suggesting possible remedies?

Does the client have a desired outcome in mind or is that left to us to determine? What should the space look like when we are finished with any solutions that we are recommending? If what we observe as being needed exceeds the expressed budget, and there are sufficient safety concerns that we notice, can we identify secondary sources of funding to supplement the budget?

Evaluations should also consider how long particular solutions are going to be required. In the case of progressive-based conditions where solutions are for more of a relatively short period of time before more extensive treatments will be required, does the evaluation allow for this? Is there a health care professional assisting in compiling the assessment? What is the role of the contractor in completing the evaluation? Is it a joint effort?

The evaluation is the cornerstone or foundation for suggesting and determining the work that will be done, so it must be given the importance it deserves. The success of the eventual modifications is going to be a direct result of the way the evaluation was completed and conducted. 


Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.