Regardless of when someone purchased and moved into their current home (or if it's a work in progress that hasn't been completed yet) - and even if they are renting their home or apartment because they prefer to do so rather than own a home - one definite long-term trend is apparent. people are staying in their present homes much longer than ever before. A half-century ago, the average family in America moved every five years. According to Census Bureau statistics, twenty percent of the population moved annually - meaning that each family moved at least once, on average, every five years.
Now, studies are showing that people are staying in their current homes - or plan on doing so - for at least fifteen years, up three years from the previous year. The implications for us as aging in place professionals are huge, and the opportunities to help people stay safely and comfortably in their homes are great as well.
Depending on which study is referenced, at least seventy-five to as much as ninety-five percent of people age fifty and over are planning on remaining in their homes long-term (indefinitely). Again, the opportunities for us are skyrocketing. Not everyone is going to want an improvement to the point that they will engage a professional to accomplish it for them - budgetary reasons, indifference, or a desire to do the work themselves. Still, there is no shortage of homes that need modifications - beginning at the street and going throughout the yard and the home.
Kitchens receive a lot of the attention in home renovations - both for people planning on staying in their homes as well as those who want to add value to the home for a future resale. Bathrooms, entrances, hallways, and devices that can help them retain their balance (grab bars and railings, for instance) rate high on the list also.
There is so much work that can be done in any of these areas to create truly functional spaces for the people living in the homes, future occupants of the homes (although this isn't necessarily why something should be undertaken), and for guests and visitors. Kitchens need to be created where people can congregate, prepare food (and clean up afterward), eat or snack, have a conversation, and move about freely without being restricted or impeded by others in the space or cabinetry or appliances.
Finding the right colors, patterns, textures, and furnishings is the fun part of any design or makeover. The design concept starts with the need as translated by designers, occupational therapists, architects, or contractors into a functional form. Then the fun part of choosing how it will look comes into play. Care is taken to accommodate any physical limitations that anyone in the home is experiencing.
Of course, seeing the finished result should be a rewarding and joyful experience.
Bathrooms, bedrooms, entrances, porches, patios, laundry rooms, basements, family rooms, hallways, and other areas of the home can be the subject of remodeling as well. Kitchens quite often top the list of areas for remodeling because so much goes on in the kitchen, and it is an area that occupants of the home as well as their visitors and guests spend a lot of time using.
Remodeling projects for aging in place clients may begin out of a need to upgrade or enhance a space and to make it safer and more functional for them, but making it look aesthetically pleasing when it is completed is part of the process also. Clients need to enjoy the experience.
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.