There is no "one-size-fits-all" basic approach to designing and creating aging in place solutions because each situation is different. While there can be similar approaches to solving needs, and universal design treatments can be employed as a way of addressing many of these needs, the solutions we create are tailored specifically to what is needed each time, one home and one client at a time.
Aging in place solutions are supposed to be created for the specific needs of a client, whether they have no obvious or apparent urgent (immediate) needs, or they have a progressive or traumatic condition. These solutions are not to be supposed to be created generically and just delivered or installed.
There are going to be pervasive issues that affect many people that we work with - involving entrances, doorways, flooring, lighting, and controls - but each home is going to be different because the occupants of each are different. Even if several homes built at the same time, on the same street, by the same builder, all with the same layout or floor plan, they are going to differ by accessories that have been added by the occupants, as well as furnishings and personal item in each home.
People are different. They live in their homes differently from each other - even their closest friends, adult siblings, or nearest neighbors. They furnish their homes to their own personal tastes. No two homes are exactly alike - similar perhaps, but not alike.
People age differently because they have different backgrounds, family histories, and life experiences. Even brothers or sisters with a shared family history will develop different personalities and live their lives somewhat differently from each other.
This is why each solution is going to be unique even though the circumstances, household profile, the age of the home, and the layout of the home may be similar to other homes where renovations have been completed. While new solutions and treatments may resemble ones that we have done previously, they will have been designed and created for a specific application - no matter how much it might look like other homes where a similar need existed.
Budgets also are a big factor because as much as a particular solution that seems to be called for may seem like others that have been done, it may have to be scaled back due to budgetary constraints or parameters of the client. There just might not be sufficient funds to do everything that we would like to do to alleviate or address the needs and requirements that we observe or that are shared with us.
Therefore, aging in place solutions are not something we can look at as being routine or something we can mass produce. We might have similar approaches for similar situations, but we must focus on the individual needs, budget, and lifestyle of the client as well as how long the intended or projected lifespan is of the project - and suggest and create solutions this way.
If two solutions or treatments happen to look identical, it would be because the needs being addressed, the materials being used, the size and layout of the rooms being modified, the budgetary demands, and similar factors matched up between two different renovation projects.
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.