Guest Blog: Aging in Place

homeBy Mary Jane Carroll

Home modifications are a big issue for many older adults who wish to age in place. Questions about the types of changes that can be made to a home, and the expense of these changes are common in my type of work. For those living on a fixed income the prospect of making home modifications can be worrisome. Frankly many older adults just don’t know where to begin. So it will come as no surprise, then, that one of the questions that I have asked myself as a researcher, designer and professor over the past few years has been how we, as an academic institution with a focus on undergraduate research, can disseminate information on affordable, practical home modification solutions to homeowners in a meaningful way. And additionally, how can we educate the next generation of designers to realize the importance of this emerging area of design? This issue of knowledge transfer is the focus of my talk at next Thursday’s “It’s a Wrap” symposium hosted by the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research. The program for the day is focused on technology and aging in place and is really a celebration of both the accomplishments of the Centre over the past six years, as well as a look at what’s next. My talk is called “Keeping it real: Aging in place for the next wave of seniors,” and I’ll be sharing with the group an exciting new home assessment project that we have developed in response to these questions and that we plan to launch in January 2017 with the Bachelor of Interior Design students. Here’s how the project works: Interior design students in groups of 2 or 3 will be matched with homeowners to evaluate the aging-in-place readiness of that homeowner’s current residence. The students will be using a pre-determined checklist, generated by Sheridan and with student input, and they will be looking for potentially hazardous areas in the home – areas that could pose a real challenge for homeowners as they age. The end goal is for students to provide the homeowner with a home modification plan as well as with a breakdown of estimated costs of products and services associated with these modifications.

The idea for this project began some years ago with a research thesis by one of our fourth year students. From there we launched a pilot project that asked students to assess two ranch style bungalows owned by older adults who had expressed interest in aging in place. The project proved so successful, and was so helpful to the homeowners that we have decided to expand the scope to include at least 10 homes this spring. And as part of my talk next Thursday I will be sharing the results of the pilot project with the session.

In late November we will begin our recruiting efforts in search of local homeowners to volunteer for the project. If you are interested in a free home assessment, or in more information on what to expect if you do volunteer your home, please don’t hesitate to contact me at maryjane.carroll@sheridancollege.ca. Or better still, join us next Thursday on the Trafalgar Road campus at the “It’s a Wrap” conference and ask me about the program in person!
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Mary Jane Carroll is a professor in the Bachelor of Interior Design program at Sheridan College. She developed a specialized post-diploma program at Sheridan called “Aging in Place Design Specialist”. Mary Jane was published in “Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments,” and has presented her papers on Universal Design in England and the USA.

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