By Louis Tenenbaum
As a carpenter and a long time advocate of simpler I generally check for the low tech solution first. Sometimes a nail or screwdriver is plenty. A nail gun or a power drill/driver is not needed. The tools costs less, the fastener costs less and the time to do it, the effort expended is much less (by the time you get it out, plug it in and put it away). A way to discuss this is Appropriate Technology. My example: When you need to haul lumber a pickup truck works. When you go out with friends a sedan works. The right tool for the job.
The obvious example for Aging in Place are well placed grab bars and grips. These simple, inexpensive technologies save broken hips (money & misery) at lower cost than high tech monitoring. That makes them a great investment. Capital and effort used very well.
Two further examples for Aging in Place:
1. Design Modifications support independence and provide ergonomic caregiver environments. This reduces the injury risk for residents and scarce caregiver resources (both paid and family/informal). Reduced injuries saves medical dollars and misery. That is good value for our effort and investment.
2. Self care and self management are current words for behavior interventions. Some see it as an update to old fashioned self -reliance. This is enlightened use of our resources. It requires the best of social marketing. The cost is low. The reward is high.
Hints to this discussion are found in the Shift Left/Andy Grove/Eric Dishman/Intel thinking summed up well in a new Deloitte report Connected Care. Yet these advocates abandon their own thesis. They are stuck in high tech mode. Low tech/low cost solutions like grab bars and behavior interventions extend Shift Left further.
Green meets Aging in Place
The same approach saves energy and increases comfort in homes. Improved insulation and caulking saves and delivers at the lowest cost. Sure, you can replace the windows and siding, and add solar collectors but if the insulation was not too good to start or has shifted over the years and construction joints leak (wall to ceiling, floor to foundation, etc.), that is probably not the best way to spend your conservation dollars. The low cost solution should be considered first. It is usually the most efficient investment.
Yes We Can!
Finally, I encourage President-elect Obama to think this way as he works the converging goals of saving energy, revamping our medical system and increasing jobs. Train workers to install grab bars, build ramps , insulate and caulk. Lets update and improve our housing stock before we invest in windmills, solar panels and EKGs. The cost is low and the reward is high.
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Louis Tenenbaum, Independent Living Strategist, is the nation’s leading authority on Aging in Place. He has years of experience helping individual families, builders/developers and communities set the stage for folks to remain safe and comfortable in their own homes. Louis is a Certified Age in Place Specialist (CAPS).