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Independent Living Strategy

by Louis on August 24, 2007

My foundation skill, developed over the past 19 years, is helping families and individuals make over their homes to better match their personal abilities and conditions, enabling them to live in their homes more easily. When I started down this path the idea seemed so good and obvious, especially in view of the booming senior population, that it could not fail.

Over the first half dozen years I did not find it easy to get this business up and running. I had some clients, but communicating my capabilities and value was difficult. One person said ‘We are not trying to sell folks a better light bulb, we are selling light bulbs to folks who don’t even have electricity in their homes.’ The difficulty I had selling a service of such a clear and obvious value started me studying the bigger picture behind what I was trying to do.

I began to learn more about the competition – typical senior housing options, about the medical, social and financial systems behind senior housing and the attitudes, training and motivations behind those who work with seniors.

Now I understand why it is hard selling home modifications. Knowing why, I am more dedicated to making sure this good idea becomes real. I am recognized for my expertise and perspective on the infrastructure, marketing, business management and socio-cultural issues. Most importantly I have worked with many clients on personal needs and solutions.

After some years I realized that my key value to my clients was not the typical value of a contractor – managing the project efficiently, making sure the windows and the plumber show on time and in sequence. I determined my most important value was helping clients decide what to do. I call that Independent Living Strategy. It is the consultation process that empowers clients to make good choices about a mix of remodeling and services. A good strategy makes good use of assets over time preparing for Aging in Place. Strategy is the significant word. I chose it because there is always more than one way to proceed. Deciding -feeling empowered to decide – is the adoption of a strategy knowing the benefits, costs and consequences. That is important because the process of exercising choices confers respect and self esteem on my clients.

The process starts by assisting the client to articulate the problems and issues they want to solve. The strategist helps to couch the problems in a context of changes common to aging.

Next the strategist surveys resources. This includes the house and condition, family an community assistance, financial assets and includes reference to physical conditions, needs and prognoses.

The strategist is then charged to use their experience and imagination to draft a list of possible solutions. The client and strategist use this list to explore a strategy that uses the assets over time to meet the expected needs. Implementation follows.

There are usually some choices about how to get into and out of your house. You can use the front door or come in the back or the garage. Sometimes a new entry through a wall or window is a good idea. Sometimes a wooden or concrete ramp can be employed. Sometimes a berm and path landscape ramp is best. In other cases an electric lift is the simplest, cleanest and least expensive solution. Each of these approaches is a strategy.

Where to plan the bedroom and bathroom can also be a strategic decision. Should an elevator or stair climber be used to access the second floor without needing to use the steps? Is there enough room to maneuver and shape a safe bathroom up there? Should a room be added with these elements, can it have an interim or future use that adds value to the property? Should the use of existing main floor rooms be changed, such that a seldom used dining room becomes a bedroom and a powder room and closet be converted to a full bath?

Each of these strategies has costs and benefits. Time frames, neighborhood values, and personal preference contribute to the decision. That is Independent Living Strategy

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