Meet Leon Watts, a Learning and Development Specialist for USC’s Fall Prevention Center of Excellence!
Before he replaced the wall-to-wall carpeting with wood floors in the Hancock Park home of 89-year-old widower Irving Anderson, Leon took pictures.
Leon captured the location of every piece of furniture in the house, recording the placement of every miniature enamel box in the collection of Anderson’s late wife so he could put them back in the same place.
“With older clients, it is important to make sure that changes are not more disruptive than they need to be,” Watts said. “You want to make sure to maintain the familiar and sentimental things that bring them comfort.”
It’s this attention to detail that makes Watts a sought-after specialist to oversee home renovation projects.
After serving in the U. S. Air Force and studying public administration at USC, he started his company, Guardian Home Services, in 1979, offering concierge services for home maintenance and other personal needs to busy executive-level homeowners. Anderson initially hired him as a manager to oversee general construction jobs.
As Anderson and his other clients grew older, Watts stepped in to handle age-friendly home modifications, pulling up carpeting to prevent tripping, adding bathroom grab bars to create stability and widening doorways to allow better access. As a longtime, trusted presence in their lives — he calls himself a personal advocate — Watts is also enlisted to help with banking issues, cable bills, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and family disputes.
At the age of 63, Watts enrolled in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, home of the nationally recognized Fall Prevention Center of Excellence, to earn his master of arts degree in gerontology.
“As I got more involved in helping my clients with their lives, I could see that I needed a little more academic research support to go along with my experience,” he said. “Getting my degree in gerontology has also helped me see gaps that need to be addressed and how to fill those gaps. And now that I am older, it is helping me understand what I need to plan for down the line.”
Leon plays an integral role in USC’s home modification efforts relative to raising consumer awareness of aging in place and teaching professionals about ethical issues related to modifying homes for older adults.