Friday, August 5, 2016

"Helping Renters With Their Aging-In-Place & Accessibility Needs"

As aging-in-place providers, there might be a tendency for us to focus just on the homeowner and owner-occupied properties. While aging-in-place does limit itself to residential property, it is not confined to only owner-occupied dwellings.

There is quite a bit we can do - without a lot of expense for the renter - to help people enjoy their apartments or homes even though they may not own them. Clearly, major renovations such as adding plumbing or electrical lines, redoing flooring, or moving walls would be something beyond the ability of the renter to consent to having done - even if they did want to pay for it. Mostly, we're talking about convenience and safety issues that can be added or installed for renters - most likely, though not necessarily, at their expense.

The same type of safety and comfort issues apply to renters and homeowners alike. Just because someone does not own their dwelling is not a sufficient reason for having them do without improvements that can be beneficical to them. They may elect to pay for those improvements themselves - particularly when said improvements are not particularly expensive, the occupants are planning on remaining there for the foreseeable future, and they rationalize that they would be making such improvements to a home they owned if that were the case.

Perhaps the exterior of the apartment is not something we can work with, but the entry door handle (if the building owner approves) could be down. Then the other door handles throughout the apartment or home could be replaced also.

Faucets, door pulls, drawer handles, light bulbs (going for the LED bulbs, with color appropriate for what is going to occur the space), light switches, dimmer controls, digital thermostats, and similar items can readily and easily be replaced for renters. These are not such drastic or dramatic changes that the building owner would  be concerned about having them done.

Depending on whether the owner of the home or apartment would need to consent before work was done, other improvements that could be done would involve items such as mirrors and safety grab bars at the entrance of the tub or shower.

Renters are going to have their share of items that they are holding onto as keepsakes or in preparation for someday having a home of their own. The fact that people are renting does not mean that they don't have a lot of items that they need to find suitable storage places to house those items.

Without adequate ways of storing and organizing seasonal clothing, books, important items from their past that they want to hold onto, furniture or accessories that they aren't currently using, sporting goods, foodstuffs for future use and consumption, cleaning supplies, linens, recreational equipment, and other such items, apartments are going to become cluttered and present safety issues to their occupants. Maneuverability through hallways and freedom of movement within rooms could become a concern.

Many people choose to live in a rental apartment, condo, or home - for a variety or reasons including not wanting to deal with maintenance issues. Still, they deserve a living environment that is safe, uncluttered, comfortable, and accessible. We can help them achieve this even though they don't own the space. Except for major components (flooring or walls, for instance), a rental apartment does not need to be any different than an owner-occupied home in terms of helping the residents enjoy their living space.

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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.