Regardless of the source of such guidelines, if we were mandated to follow a certain set of rules for grab bars (assists, safety bars, assist bars, shower rails, or other names that might be applied) for instance, we would find that many of our clients would be underserved and they would be paying for something that was not beneficial for them - a poor value proposition. Many may need and want them around their toilet, but the question of where to locate them, what type to use, how high from the floor, at what angle, how long they should be, what color, and other functional and aesthetic criteria become important.
To make homes visitable, there may be items that we would like to use that pertain to the home as much or more than the occupants, but these are in general terms rather than as specific treatments or solutions. For instance, better lighting is almost always needed. How we accomplish this is where we have much room for creativity and meeting the needs of the various dwellings and our clients. Some people are going to want overhead or ceiling lighting, and the structure itself may suggest this same approach. Others are going to benefit from toe-kick lighting, wall sconces, area lighting, and special lighting such as on stairways, under cabinets, along the edge of shelving, or other such locations. The type of lighting fixture or product, the number of lumens for actual intensity, and the color output in terms of temperature, along with the shape, size, and brand of the lights themselves can vary from installation within the same home or between homes.
Flooring updates with hard-surface or non-porous products are going to facilitate longer wear, more comfort, increased safety, and an enhanced look. Again, the actual flooring product and color can vary greatly between applications. There are many manufacturers and finishes from which to choose.
As for doorways - another frequent item included in makeovers or modifications - many styles, sizes, and choices are available here also. Mostly we are trying to achieve wider openings and fill them with a hinged swinging door, a sliding door that closes within or over the space (such as a barn door), a pocket door that also slides within the opening but can totally retract within the door frame when it is open. Sometimes, the opening doesn't need to be filled and can remain as a finished cased opening or archway. These can be quite wide if needed to be. The door choices can be one piece, dual, or even more sections to add variety, fit a decor, and cover the space effectively.
Plumbing fixtures, faucets, bathroom fixtures (sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and showers, and whether all of these or just some of them are included) cabinets, door hardware, and kitchen appliances (stoves, ovens, cooktops, microwave ovens, refrigerators, range hoods, garbage disposals, trash compactors, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers - depending on which ones are selected) offer us an opportunity to craft just the right solution for our clients.
We create each design based on the needs of our clients, the requirements and parameters of their living environment, their budget, their expectations, their timing, their preferences for a particular product or brand name (when this matters), and other factors that separate and distinguish each design that we do from the next one. This is why no two modifications are exactly the same.
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.