Friday, July 21, 2017

"First Impressions Count - Even For Homes"

We all know the importance of first impressions. It has been instilled in us from a very early age. We also know that we usually don't get a second chance at making a good initial or first impression - although sometimes we might get a do-over.

We are so aware of this on the personal level - from establishing connections with people, interviewing for a position, trying out or auditioning for a part, or having someone decide that they might like to get to know us better. Part of it is the way we are dressed, some has to do with our grooming, some is conveyed through our body language (posture, eye contact, and smile, for instance), and some is just the general air of confidence in ourselves that we project. 

As important as initial impressions are for establishing, creating, and building upon personal and interpersonal relationships - and in getting to the next step in the process - initial impressions are important in other areas as well. Homes come to mind, especially in the context of aging in place, livability, and visitability.

When someone visits a home where they have not been previously - because they were specifically invited by the people who live there, they are being neighborly and just want to introduce themselves, it's a sales or service call, or they are soliciting for a cause, issue, or event - they form an instant impression of how easy, friendly, or inviting it is going to be to actually attempt to enter this home.

We are talking about more than how attractive the home is from the outside. This is more than a curb appeal or streetscape concern, We are looking at the home from how approachable it seems.

What is someone's initial impression of a home about how easy it is going to be to get to the front door and then to get inside? This is true whether they are approaching on foot from their home in the neighborhood or whether they park in the driveway or on the street in front of the home.

First impressions are key as to how well someone is going to enjoy entering this home - regardless of why they have been invited or why they are there. They are going to look at how steep the walkway is to the front door or the number of steps they might have to negotiate to get to the door. They are going to factor that into their physical ability (or lack of ability) to walk to the door or climb the steps in front of them. For some, they may be totally overwhelmed by what they see based on their physical limitations of the amount of effort that is going to be required to get to the front door.

Some homes have front doors that are quite challenging to access but provide an easier means of entry from the side or rear door. Being a visitor to the home, this might not be immediately known or apparent.

Assuming someone is able to get up the steps or climb the walkway to the front door, do they find that it is a smooth, continuous surface walkway or is it a series of separated concrete slabs or stepping stones? Is it supposed to be a continuous surface that has deteriorated into one that is cracked or overgrown with grass or weeds? Is it intentionally supposed to be hard surfaces separated by grass, mulch, or crushed rock?

Then at the front door - assuming someone can get there easily - how inviting is the stoop or porch and does it provide any weather protection or place to stand to wait for the entry door to be opened for them? Sometimes getting to the door is not a significant challenge but actually waiting at the door is.

First impressions of how inviting or practical a home is going to be to get inside once someone has arrived is quite important. Regardless of what we do on the inside to make the home visitable or accessible, the outside deserves attention also.

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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.