Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Home Improvement Standards Don't Allow For Individual Differences"

Many people seek defining standards to apply for aging in place solutions. That would be an easy approach - too easy actually. If it really were as easy as picking up a book or a set of guidelines and then just following them, many homes in America could be completed to basic aging in place standards, but they wouldn't necessarily serve their occupants well.

There is a major difference in complying with a set of guidelines designed to apply to a large portion of situations and in meeting the specific needs of our clients. Fortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all guidelines for aging in place solutions They all are client-centric - based on the specific needs, desires, and requirements of the people we are serving, regardless of the age, ability, or physical size.

While it might seem that it would be great if there was an overall set of criteria that we could use to create effective spaces for people, we really don't want this.This would negate our ability to interact with our clients and choose a solution tailored to their needs and budget. They might not need what others require - even neighbors of theirs.

Some people are going to need assistance at the entrance to their home - the approach, walkway, porch or stoop, lighting, entrance doorway, door hardware, and security. Others are going to have a lesser need or perhaps no need in this area. While it's common for homes to be deficient at the entrance, not all of them are. This applies regardless of the physical needs and requirements of the occupants of the homes, but their condition may highlight work that needs to be done.

This is the entire point of rejecting a uniform or universal set of criteria for conducting aging in place renovations. Even with trying to meet universal design or visitability objectives, not every home or every individual will require the same approach. Some homes will already have the desired improvements. Some budgets just won't allow an approach as extensive as others.

Moving on to others areas of the home - hallways, closets, doorways, kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas - the same is going to be true. Each home is going to be different and have various needs. Some will be able to serve the needs of the occupants better than others. Again, budget, age of the structure, and work that already may have been done will be mitigating factors in deciding how to approach any renovations. Then, the physical needs, requirements, and desires of the people occupying that space will further refine what should and could be done to make the space more effective and efficient for those living there.

If there were to be any set of criteria that we would attempt to apply across homes that we work with, the range of physical ability alone in the people that we want to serve varies so much. Some people have no urgent medical needs or requirements but may have mobility or sensory limitations that come with aging that may not require any specific modifications to accommodate them but would be happier with homes that make it easier for them to navigate them.

Those living with progressive conditions, resulting from an acute or traumatic episode that now remains or one that they have had from birth, are using assistive devices (wheelchairs, canes, and walkers, for instance) or finding that their home needs to be specifically adapted to address and meet their needs. People without these issues may not need or benefit from the same type of treatments so to approach all homes the same would not be something we would want to do.

It is improbable that there could be - or ever will be - a national or international set of criteria to be used for all homes because the living spaces are just one variable. The people occupying them are the other. Adding the two togther presents still a third.

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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.