Monday, January 23, 2017

"Not All Aging In Place Solutions Are Created Equal"

Not all aging in place treatments, solutions, approaches, or modifications are equal - nor can they be. If for no other reason, they can't be the same because they are designed for individuals in different age homes and people with differing abilities. They have different budgets to invest on the projects.

Even at that, not all treatments look like they are very effective. Some are grounded in sound practice. Some deviate. Nevertheless, an intuitive approach is much better than a rigid set of guidelines and principles.

While something may have a good basis in design or purpose, it may not be executed that well, or it may suffer in the translations. Intuitively we need to examine an approach and ask if it really makes sense, if it promotes safety, if it makes something easier to use, if it indeed will be used by the intended person for who it was created or installed, and if it is the best solution for the observed or expressed need.

At a time when we strive for equal treatment of all, hearing that not all aging in place solutions are equal may offend our sense of fair play. Nevertheless, the whole idea of creating aging in place renovations - not universal design - is that they focus on the individual needs of the client and the specific parameters of the building in which the design is being implemented. While two designs can be similar in approach or properties, they can't be equal in the sense that they look alike and can be overlaid on top of each other.

On the one hand, two 50 square foot bathrooms (5' x 10') can be designed by the same remodeler to look exactly the same, but if the needs of the two clients are different, they really shouldn't be exactly the same. Allowing for the personal desires to have certain colors and finishes used, and the type of fixtures and faucets both preferred and indicated by need, and the bathrooms likely will look different even though they are the same size. When budgets are factored in, unless they are identical and the clients want exactly the same things done or consent to them, they likely will be different because of the approach.

If we are creating universal design solutions for two roughly equivalent spaces, it's possible to use the same components and get approximately the same results. Even with this, the personal desires for one type of faucet, sink, tile, color, and hardware will lead to different looking rooms.

While no two solutions are likely to look exactly the same - allowing for budgets, physical needs and requirements, personal desires for decor, the age and style of the home, and the character of the neighborhood - this does not imply that people are being any less served than anyone else. People aren't purchasing a solution from a catalog with only a limited number of choices. 

The whole idea behind creating aging in place solutions and treatments for people is to meet their needs where they are, accommodate their desires for aesthetics and function, interpret the space for what can be done, be sensitive to the design already present in the rooms not being affected, and make the space more enjoyable and usable.

This is why solutions differ from home to home. They really can't be identical.

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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.