Friday, December 23, 2016

"Visitability Is No More Visible Than Now"

Over the next few days, people are going to be opening up their homes to families, neighbors, and close friends to visit as they celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or the New Year. This is also holiday bowl season for college football.

As people are venturing out of their homes and going to the homes of friends, neighbors, or relatives - or having them into their homes - the question of visitability arises. It is no more visible at any other time of the year than now.

There are other times during the year - Super Bowl, various races or other sporting events, backyard cookouts, pool parties, birthdays, and other celebrations - when people invite one another to visit their homes, but this is a time each year when so many people drop in on their friends or are specifically invited for a visit.

Over the next several days - and perhaps the preceding few days as well - visiting close friends and family is expected. It's something that is done as a way of celebrating the holidays, expressing love for each other, and finishing out the year.

In the case of relatives, it may have been a while - possibly this same time last year - since people have seen them. They may not realize how well their guests can walk or climb steps. Maybe they are using a walker now even though no one who hadn't seen them recently were aware of it - it may not be something they discuss. Maybe they are less steady on their feet and haven't made a point of talking about this with anyone. Maybe they had some minor surgery recently that affects their mobility or balance.

The same can be true for neighbors and friends. Maybe people are less knowledgeable about physical conditions their potential guests might have that would limit the way they could enter and access their homes. Maybe they had visiting friends or relatives also that accompanied them to visit someone else.

This clearly is a time when the need for safe and easy access into homes is required. If it hasn't already been addressed, the next few days will make it abundantly clear. It's too late to do anything about it for potential clients for this holiday season, but we can make sure that this is the last time they have to worry about how people will be received when they visit in the future.

Beginning next week, we can start conversations with people we know or those who are in our target market area about the need to improve the general visitability and approach-ability of their homes. It isn't just an inside function, access, and flow concern either. It begins on the outside.

What people experience as they arrive, where they park, how they make their way to the front door, how comfortable it is for them to wait to enter, what the process is of going through the front door (or the rear or side door if that is what is used for close friends and family), and then what they experience after they go inside are all parts of visitability.

This is an issue for so many people, and we can make a huge difference. People may know about the shortcomings of their homes in terms of visitability but just don't know what can be done or how to go about making changes. Others may not be aware of how their homes are affecting their guests.

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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 stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.