Sunday, January 15, 2017

"An Aging In Place Home Doesn't Have To Fit A Certain Template"

While there are many adaptable, visitable, accessible, and universal design features that can be found inside and around a home where some is aging in place quite well, there is no textbook definition or template that can be purchased to overlay on top of any particular dwelling to identify it as one for aging in place successfully. In short, there are no boilerplate solutions. It's all one-at-a-time although there are many similarities in approach that can be used and implemented.

Each home presents different opportunities for us to create effective solutions. Some will be based on particular characteristics of the home - its age, location, architectural style, general design, and other features. Some are going to be the result of the physical, sensory, or expressed needs of the client. Many are going to be a combination of these.

The home can have a lot to do will how well it meets the needs of the occupant, regardless of any range of motion, mobility, or other limitations or restrictions they might have. A home built several years ago can have narrow doorways and hallways that make it difficult for anyone to use them easily. There can be door and cabinet hardware that is hard or difficult to grasp or use well. There can be a general lack of closet or storage space. The bathrooms may be small or poorly configured.

The space and usage considerations of a home can have to do with its general design to the point that it would affect many people in this same way. Alternately, it might be limiting to some people. Regardless, there can be suggestions made for renovation that are primarily due to the age and original design of the structure as well as those specific to the way the people living in such a home will use it.

This is why there can be no overarching template or approach to home renovation and modification. There just are too many variables.

One of the big factors that determines how well a home serves those who reside in it and therefore how well they age in place is known as human performance characteristics. By this we mean the physical attributes of the people living in the space, their abilities, and how they use the space they are living in at the time.

It's one thing for a home to have generally weak, poor, or inconsistent lighting so that most anyone would notice that certain areas of the home are harder to navigate than others with the overhead lighting provided. The home would need supplemental lighting provided by the owners with their furnishings. However, it's quite another matter for a home that is reasonably well-lit to present lighting concerns and issues for its occupants because they have aging, sensory, or cognitive issues that make seeing well difficult or require more than what is considered to be normal amounts of light in a space.

When people are taller or shorter than the home is designed for, they find that using the counters, appliances, shelving, cabinets, bath fixtures, and other areas of the home are more challenging than would be the case for more average sized people. These present issues that aren't solved by a one-approach-fits-all design either.

Aging in place modifications need to address the specific needs and requirements of the people be designed for and not try to measure up to any type of typical treatment or approach .

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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.