Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Suppose We Could Only Make One Improvement To A Home"

As aging-in-place professionals, we want to help as many people as we can to remain living in their current homes and to help insure that those homes provide as much safety and comfort as possible.

Nevertheless, as we meet people to begin learning about how they live and utilize their living space, talk with them about issues they perceive as needing to be addressed, evaluate their living space to determine physical challenges that their homes present, and then decide on a reasonable budget that can be used to fund the improvements that are both desired and essential, we may determine that only one one or two necessary improvements can be made. There simply isn't the money to fund any more work that this.

Ideally, we would work with clients who had a good idea of the types of improvements that they would like to have completed to help make their homes more accessible, comfortable, enjoyable, and generally serviceable and functional for them. A reasonable amount of money could be allocated and spent for the project. Ideally.

But what about reality? How about all of the projects that really need to be done from a safety or medically necessary standpoint where the budget just isn't there? Then what?

Not everyone can fund a reasonable budget for the improvements that should be undertaken. There are several low-income deserving seniors that need work done but simply can't afford to do much.

It's much easier to work with someone who needs work done in their home to facilitate their mobility and access within the home and to accommodate weakening or diminishing sensory abilities who has the money to support such improvements. It still might be a matter of prioritizing the work so that the most urgent items get taken care of first, but most, if not all, of the items identified in an assessment can be accomplished.

As for those of more modest means, however, they still have just as urgent of needs - sometimes even more so. Often, it's because of their limited financial ability that many of the physical issues present in the home have arisen. They simply have not been able to address them as they have occurred.

Rather than walk away from lower income individuals who can afford to have little work done to their homes, what if we could do just one thing to help them live in their homes more safely? Maybe it would provide a little better access for them.

Granted there may not be a lot that can be done on a very low budget, but what if we could do just one improvement for every home we encountered? Maybe we could identify outside funds to assist the renovation effort, but even if we couldn't, imagine the difference that just one strategic improvement might make for someone who really needs it.

While we might like to make the entry doors wider, add exterior lighting, insure that there is a wide enough landing area to approach and easily enter the front door, that there are any serious obstacles or steps to overcome in reaching the front door, that the flooring inside is safe and provides solid footing, that the kitchen and bath areas are reasonably safe, that they can attend to the activities of daily living without their homes becoming a factor in limiting them, and that make sure they can operate handles and faucets in their home, it just might not be possible to do more than one or two of these items.

Still, making just one or two significant improvements to every home we encounter - even if they are not particularly large in scope or expensive to do - we would be helping so many people to have a chance at remaining in their homes more effectively. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C,E,A,C, 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.