Is your remodeling contractor really qualified to design for aging in place and senior living?

We all knew it was coming and you’ve seen the headlines. Boomers are getting older and life expectancies are growing longer. It comes as no surprise to anyone that we have an aging population challenge on our hands, which will continue to grow over the coming decades.

Whether planning your own retirement years, seeking the best possible living environment for your parents, or facing big decisions that impact the residents in a senior living community or care home you manage, I think it’s safe to say we all want to ensure seniors stay as safe, happy, healthy, and independent as possible in their later years.

However, I’ve noticed a disturbing problem that concerns me as someone who specializes in aging in place remodel design and senior living interior design. As economists, business analysts, and popular media outlets squawk about the coming “silver tsunami,” many companies are looking to cash in on what they see as a gold rush opportunity.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with paying attention to economic trends and serving the needs of a particular market segment. The more we can do to make the “second chapter in life” more secure and enjoyable for seniors, the better.

But as an experienced and credentialed senior living interior designer and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Certified Aging in Place Specialist, here’s why I’m concerned —

Senior living and aging in place remodel design is about far more than making spaces look pretty and putting in a few handrails. It involves using science, art, and evidence-based design principles and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) codes for improving physical environments to promote physical, psychological, and emotional wellness.

Recently, I’ve noticed a growing number of firms hanging their “aging in place” shingle, adding it to a long list of services, without investing in appropriate training. I also see builders targeting seniors in their marketing and care homes opening when they haven’t even worked with a senior living designer or certified aging in place specialist. And while I can appreciate their desire to tap into a growing financial opportunity, I worry that some professionals and business owners are overlooking the highly-specialized knowledge and skills required to develop spaces that are not only beautiful but also functional, safer, and reliable over time.

Properly qualified aging in place and senior living interior designers have highly-specialized in-depth training, gain industry-specific knowledge, and have a breadth of field experience that allows them to effectively safeguard these vulnerable members of our society–whether leading projects for large senior living communities and care homes or consulting privately with families about how to keep their loved ones in their own homes.

My passion for this population stems from my struggle in getting my dad in the best possible living environment during his later years. In that challenging personal ordeal, I discovered a new calling and passion, got specialized training and hands-on experience, and immersed myself in the industry. Since January 2018, I’ve been serving on the board of directors of the Professional Association of Senior Referral Specialists (PASRS), and continue being an advocate for older adults.

Not only has my firm, 55+ TLC Interior Design, been able to make an impact in the lives of our individual clients’ families and the residents, caregivers and staff of our senior living community clients, we’ve also been recognized nationally and regionally with a long list of commercial and residential awards for senior-living design, aging in place design, and universal design from the National Association of Home Builders, Chrysalis Awards for Remodeling Excellence, the Kitchen & Bath Association, the American Society of Interior Designers, HGTV.com, and Kitchen & Bath Design News. (You can view the full list of design awards here.)

So, I will leave you with this advice–design matters, because we can’t afford to put our seniors at risk, even by well-meaning but uninformed professionals. Our seniors–whether they are relatively independent, need assistance, or need special Alzheimer’s or dementia supportive living environments–deserve our highest regard for their wellbeing. This is a wonderfully rewarding career and I feel honored to celebrate 5 years at the helm of 55+ TLC Interior Design.