It's entirely possible that no two solutions will be identical - similar to be sure, but not identical. Each one is based on the specific needs of the client. It's also a function of the dwelling. Take two people with essentially the same mobility needs with one in a 50-year-old home and the other in a 15-year-old dwelling. The solution will be based more on the living space than on their specific needs because their needs are couched within the framework of their home. While addressing their needs is our aim, the way they relate to their living space and the parameters of creating a solution will be specific to the living environments. That will be the larger factor than their physical requirements.
Regardless of what solutions or treatments might be necessary to accommodate their balance issues, ambulation, or other concerns, we have to evaluate how their living space enables or hampers their accessibility, mobility, and use of their space. Then we can formulate a strategy for moving forward. It can a simple fix or a much more complicated one.
Clearly, the needs of the client are important, but they cannot be evaluated or addressed in a vacuum. They have to be looked at within the context of the living space. This is why there is no template or overlay approach that applies to the majority of situations. We can't assume that we can come up with a single solution that addresses most concerns and then go about making sure that we sell this to everyone who doesn't have it. This is not aging in place design.
SImply, aging in place design means addressing the specific needs of a particular person or family and enhancing their ability to live in and use their home effectively. There can be hundreds of different solutions rather than just one or two.
It might be tempting to try to think of an overarching approach that could apply to nearly everyone, but this is outside the intent of creating aging in place solutions. A visitable or universal design approach would be a good place to look at having a comprehensive overlay that meets the needs of many situations without taking into account a specific application, but aging in place design necessarily means addressing the needs of the occupants of a particular home.
Therefore, we shouldn't concern ourselves with trying to create the perfect solution that we can use over and over. This would take a lot of time and would not prove to be productive as this is not aging in place. We don't have to overthink our solutions with trying to match the exact template with a need. We just need to create something - even if we have never used it exactly this way before or seen this exact situation previously - to meet the needs of our clients, one home at a time.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, 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.