Thursday, June 8, 2017

"Results Are More Important Than The Labels We Use To Describe Them"

In creating our aging in place solutions to create safer, more comfortable, convenient, accessible, and enjoyable living environments for our clients, we utilize several strategies to accomplish this - and call them by various names.

We have universal design, adaptable design, visitable design, preemptive design, and other terms that we use. While they are all valid and useful concepts, and we talk about them frequently, the objective is creating results for our clients rather than just employing various techniques because they are part of a design style.

Our clients don't necessarily care that we use a strategy that carries a descriptive name attached to it. They want results. If it happens to be universal design that we are employing - and they like our approach - they are fine with it. On the other hand, if we try to sell the process first, they may have notions of what it is and reject what we are trying to do before ever giving it a chance.

While we know that we are using universal design to improve their home and make it as usable as possible by anyone who might live in that home or come to visit it, they want results that fall within their budget framework. They are interested in purchasing the end product and not in hearing about what label is attached to it and what that might mean to them.

Occasionally, someone will ask specifically for universal design or aging in place renovations. That is great when this happens, but the opposite is more often true - they want the results without needing or wanting to know what it is called. Sometimes we can get in our own way by trying to sell something that sounds like a total approach, but they have other ideas about what the name or label means - ideas that create an obstacle to our potential working relationship.

When someone needs to modify their living space because they can no longer do everything in it they could just a short while earlier - bathe, cook, prepare meals, use various controls in the home, or other tasks like these - they describe the issue, and we suggest a treatment. It's adaptive design, but they don't need to hear this label. They just need to see our proposal, and then our results.

If we want to create a better streetscape for someone and allow their friends and neighbors to visit them easier and more readily, we know that we are talking about visitability or visitable design. Likely, they have never heard either of these terms before. Instead of trying to explain to them what we are talking about, we should just go ahead and create the design. It doesn't need the label for use to create it, sell it, and complete it.

When we are planning for future use of a space or making an area ready to be used in a certain way months or years from now, we are using preemptive design. Not only will this term mean little to our clients, it will take some explanation and may even get some pushback because of its name. Again, we know what we are doing and why. They know what they will be getting and why - and for how much. All is good, and we didn't burden the process with a label.

We know that we attach labels to design processes and possible approaches to issues our clients face, and we generally know what we include in each of these categories of design. This is fine - for us. For our clients, however, they just need to hear that we can help them, see a proposal to solve their needs within a budget that works for them, and understand that we are completely capable of completing the work we are proposing. We can live with this.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master 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.