Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Renters Need Aging-In-Place Solutions, Too"

When we talk about aging-in-place and creating effective strategies and solutions for people to remain living in their homes successfully for as long as they choose, there is a tendency to think just of homeowners and ignore the renter segment. However, many aging-in-place concepts work equally well for renters.

We know that homeowners - those with the financial means to do so or those who are provided financial help through family, friends, or outside sources - will invest in their homes to improve their quality of life. These modifications and improvements might be rather simple, easy-to-complete changes such as light switches and drawer pulls or more elaborate fixes such as flooring, cabinetry, lighting, or windows.

We typically don't think of renters as being interested in doing these activities because they don't own or control their living space. Still, many of them are living in their rented space for many years so it makes sense that they would want them to provide as much comfort, safety, and convenience as possible for themselves - even if they were paying for it themselves without any rent concession or reimbursement from the property owner.

Even for people living in a rented apartment for a relatively short period of time, this doesn't preclude them from wanting to invest their own money in safety improvements such as grab bars, lever handles, and better lighting fixtures. If they only got limited enjoyment from these improvements because they were not going to be remaining in that space, the next occupant could benefit from the changes they made.

A renter will not be making structural chances to their living space because they don't have the authority to do so, but they can, do, and will make improvements that enhances their quality of life - for however long they are going to be living there, from a short-term lease to an indefinite period of years.

Many people choose to rent a home or apartment rather than purchase one, so it makes perfect sense that improvements for safety, comfort, convenience, and accessibility would be considered and undertaken. Again, walls aren't going to be moved, space isn't  going to be added, and exterior changes such as windows or skylights aren't going to be undertaken because they don't have the authority to undertake such improvements.

Nevertheless, many flooring, cabinetry, countertops, plumbing, doors, light switches and other wall mounted controls, appliances, and similar items can be changed by the tenants the same as a homeowner would do as long as the actual owner concurs with the changes. It's less a function of how the space is held than it is in making it more comfortable and enjoyable to accommodate aging in that space.

As we look for homes that require aging-in-place solutions to allow their occupants to remain living successfully in them long-term, let's not just think of ones that are owner-occupied but expand our outlook to include renters as well. This dramatically increases the opportunities available for us to be of service to people.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, 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 stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.