We know that aging in place solutions focus on two major areas - the home and individual. Sometimes, it is all or mostly based on just one of those two, and sometimes, there is a blend. For instance, the home may need serious modifications to provide a safe and habitable dwelling space. The electric may be insufficient. There may be a need to widen doorways and hallways. The flooring and lighting may need to be upgraded. The bathroom facilities may not suffice.
Depending on how extensive the required or suggested improvements and modifications are, and what the clients are willing to undertake, the budget may need to be large. This may deter people from doing all that would truly help them to enjoy their home as they continue to live there. In fact, they may elect to do very little.
Nothing mandates that people have to agree to any improvements - even though we think that they could benefit from them. Unless the home has been cited by code enforcement for noncompliance with local safety or building codes, there is nothing forcing people to undertake any improvements. They literally can age in place without making any modification - or only minor ones - to their homes. While this is not recommended and will not enhance their general quality of life, it is their choice.
Making changes to the dwelling may be more difficult for people to accept and agree to have done than making functional changes that will accommodate their mobility or sensory needs in their home. Because they have lived in their home for many years and have come to accept and adapt to many of its shortcomings, they may not be willing to hear from us that changes should be made, and they be uninterested in doing much with the physical condition or appearance of their home.
Nevertheless, if there are physical aspects of the home which are affecting how they can use it because of their ability to stand, walk, sit, squat, rise, reach, retrieve, or perform other normal mobility functions, they may be much more interested in hearing how they can make changes to make their lives better and easier. While they may be disinterested in having us talk about making improvements to their homes for general safety, appearance, or energy benefits - and even defend their homes to us - they may be quite interested in having us create a bathroom or kitchen experience that serves them better.
Their needs may have nothing to do with the quality or condition of their home, or it may be impacted in a rather significant way by their current home. If they have difficulty standing or walking (or they use a mobility device), have vision or hearing impairments, or lack the physical ability to operate light switches or faucets, open drawers and cabinets, or use their appliances or bathroom fixtures, the quality of their home is likely less of an issue than addressing their physical requirements. Making improvements to their home, in this case, would allow them to live better in their space and would not reflect on anything about the condition of home except on how they can function in it better with a few improvements and modifications.
Homes that we evaluate may present relatively few issues, or they may be ones that have not been updated recently and require many changes to make them more livable for our clients. On the other hand, our clients may have several conditions that limit their ability to get around well in their homes and to use them to their fullest extent. It could be a combination of needs the homes are presenting and ones that the clients have which collectively intensify the type of work that needs to be done to help our clients remain living in their homes.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.