Monday, March 13, 2017

"Aging In Place Choices Anyone Can Make"

As aging in place professionals we love working with people who are ready to make their homes serviceable for themselves for the long-term. We like it even better when they have a nice budget for us to work with to help them.

But we don't have to limit ourselves to just those who are the most ready to step up and ask for our help or those with the most money to spend on a project. In fact, many of those people truly needing a makeover may never call upon us or spend any real money on a project. That doesn't mean they count any less toward our overall mission of making an impact on people desiring to remain safely in their homes as they age.

It does mean that there are going to be people in our markets that will be under-served because they don't make a point of calling to our attention work that needs to be done or they have limited resources with which to accomplish any changes that be warranted or necessary.

While we may not profit directly from helping those on low budgets or without a great desire to improve their homes, we still can be advocates for aging in place renovations, accessibility, visitability, and safety - for everyone, and especially low income seniors. As such, possibly some of our influence will filter down to those who need it but might otherwise be resistant to accepting it or financially incapable.

To this end, there are many choices someone can make for their own homes that really don't involve us except as a catalyst for urging those changes. There are plenty of people who need our help, but there aren't enough of us to serve all who require some help. Therefore, let people begin to accomplish some minor changes that they can do themselves.

The biggest element of change that people can make - and the one that will be the most obvious to them - is the area of safety. Let them begin by changing out every lightbulb in their home with an LED one. It doesn't have to be done all at one time if cost is a factor, but the price of bulbs has dropped dramatically in just the past 3 years.

In addition to saving money by operating more efficient lights, the home will have more uniform lighting. They also can afford to have more lights and to have them one more often to provide greater safety through better illumination.

Flooring is another area. Loose throw rugs should go. There is no safe way to have them in the home - runners also. While they are decorative, they invite many trips and slips. As people use walkers and canes, or walk with increasing difficulty, loose rugs that aren't stable under foot become a serious safety concern. The same can be said for worn, stretched, high pile, or loose carpeting. 

Swapping out the round door knobs for lever handles will make a huge improvement. These may have to be spaced out over time due to the expense of them, but it is doable over a few months. Rocker light switches is a similar type of improvement, but there is electricity involved in this so more care is required to accomplish it. 

None of these simple fixes takes away from the more comprehensive treatments we offer, and we can't get to every home that can benefit from these simple changes anyway. Let's let the consumer partner with us to do what they can, and then we can do the larger tasks. 

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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. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.