Friday, May 14, 2010

More focus on well done but affordable solutions. please.

This article at Silver Planet is from awhile back (a post I never got around to finishing) but seems as pertinent now as last year. It does a good job of conveying one of my common themes--that our approach to aging is about one's lifestyle, not just about adapting to decline. The subject, Cynthia Leibrock, is a noted author and had large feature article in the New York Times that I also intended to blog on but did not get around to, so this is a second chance. The NYT piece is the better article in my view for its message about remodeling for aging. Cynthia and I have only communicated via email a few times, so I really don't have a sense of her personality as portrayed in the Times' article. What i know is that she HAS contributed some great viewpoints about appropriate home environments. BUT, what irritates me about the Times article in particular it this: it is easy to create an aging-in-place showcase when you have a $600,000 budget. That's great, lovely, I'm sure it fits her lifestyle well and the future buyer of a home like that can afford to rip out whatever they don't like and install what they do like.

The bigger challenge, in my mind, is one that our company deals with every day. How to make a good aging-in-place environment when your budget is 5% if that amount, much less the 1% that is a typical number for many of our customers.

Aging wisely (aging beautifully, as Cynthia puts it) needs its cheerleaders, for sure. But it also needs its guys who are good with a hammer and able to knock out nice, functional, value-oriented solutions. I see the same thing when the local paper profiles an AIP remodel--it's always higher end, seldom (never?) about lower cost, practical solutions.

Cynthia makes a related point on her website when she discusses volunteering as a way to provide solutions for the less well off. But volunteerism will not solve the problem. I got a similar response from Senator Ron Wyden when I asked why Medicaid/Medicare will provide a wheelchair but do nothing to ensure the person can get past the 5 step entrance to their home. He gave a dodging, "it takes a community" type answer. Not that I necessarily want the government to take on yet another role, but as a country we need to treat these issues more rationally and creatively. Providing one solution without the other is an example of waste.

We need more attention on mainstream solutions, please--and I don't mean recycling those same old CDC checklists with a few new items. We are seeing the business community come to the plate with more and better solutions for things like barrier free shower systems. But we need to move to affordable, holistic solutions that cover both public and private resources.

Here are links to the articles mentioned above.