If you were wondering why I didn’t write a blog post last weekend – well I was in Florida on my bi-monthly visit with my Mother. This visit was especially important since during it we celebrated her latest birthday! Yea Mom!! While I was visiting my Mother I got to thinking that I should write a blog about how your age impacts the design of your house. So here it is.
You may have heard the term “Aging in Place,” meaning you design or renovate your home to accommodate future physical mobility and strength issues to enable you to remain in your home as long as possible in old age. An added plus to implementing “Aging in Place” measures during your healthy years is that you’ll make your home safer now and thereby prevent potential accidents and falls (which are the root cause of many senior mobility issues in the first place!).
You might be wondering what specific knowledge and expertise I have in this area. Well, I studied all these ADA and Universal Design guidelines in design school, and have had a few clients over the years where we made deliberate changes to accommodate mobility issues. But it all came into practice in a huge way helping my mother reconfigure her apartment after a major fall more than 2 years ago. Talk about “up close and personal and immediate!” After a long stay in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility, she came home with permanent balance issues which require her to use a walker, wheelchair or scooter. She gets around great with her walker, wheelchair and scooter, and she continues to live life independently, but boy have life and previously simple tasks changed for her. Here we are at her place just last week when I visited for her birthday—we had a lovely time! She is such a treasure, and it was nice to see her feeling well and happy.
This getting older is truly a bummer…but that’s the reality of it. I’m sure many of you have older and/or disabled relatives and friends whom you worry about and look after. It’s amazing how once a relative’s physical infirmity impacts you, you see your home and all its “danger zones and hazards” in an entirely new light.
So, what can we do when we’re healthy and contemplating a remodeling project to make good design choices that could enhance safety and livability later -- WAY down the road?
Here are 6 Simple Remodeling Choices to Make NOW That Will Benefit You Aging in Place LATER
So, a little dose of practicality in today’s blog, just some things to think about if you are doing a remodeling project and want to use some good design principles. Actually, “Aging in Place” principles go hand-in-hand with “Universal Design,” the idea that products and buildings should be both aesthetically appealing and inherently usable to the widest possible audience, including people with disabilities and mobility issues. And if you sell your home and buyers are attracted by the fact that your home is already conducive to handle a visitor with special needs, perfect!
Above is a photo of my mother’s shower area in one of the two bathrooms in her apartment. You can see the rocker switch on the wall and the extra vertical grab bars we had installed inside and outside the shower to enable her to safely step over the threshold. It was a simple matter to install a hand-held shower head to her original wall-mounted shower head and add the plastic shower seat. It might not look so pretty with all that silver hardware, but the bathroom was designed large enough she could maneuver with her wheelchair to access the toilet, sink and shower, so the changes were straightforward and low-cost. We didn’t have to move any walls or do any major construction in her apartment remodel, thank goodness. We just had to add the grab bars, improve the lighting (so important), rearrange things to lower cabinets for accessibility, install low (commercial style) carpeting to allow for easier wheelchair use, move the washer/dryer, and basically “rethink” every task and unsteady step she would need to take. The occupational therapists were superb and helped us in planning for this new reality.
In addition to all my other efforts I am currently working as the “On-Site Designer” with One Wingate Way in Needham, MA (http://onewingateway.com/), an independent living community very similar to my mother’s. It’s a great concept, and as a family member, a living arrangement I highly endorse for safety, peace of mind, and enjoyment. At One Wingate Way, I provide new residents with any interior design services they may need to make their well-appointed luxury apartments their own. It’s certainly a pleasure to partner with One Wingate Way and get to know their residents! Above is a photo of the showroom I have set up in one of the apartments at One Wingate Way:
For more information on Aging-in-place, I encourage you to visit the following website from the National Council on Aging Care and check back on my blog for future posts. Next time we’re in this category I’ll cover super-helpful gadgets. Who doesn’t love a gadget in this day and age? Here are some great tips on making sound decisions for your bedroom redesign:
If you would like to read the detailed report prepared by Marianne Cusato, HomeAdvisor’s Housing Expert and a Professor of the Practice at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, you can find it here:
In addition, here’s a terrific article from Jon Gorey published in the Boston Globe on Nov 25, 2016 “Don’t wait until it’s too late to make your home accessible”: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/25/how-build-your-home-now-accessible-for-all/HzVhDRFlKQy6naihhQGaFJ/story.html
That’s all for now. If this “Aging in Place” subject is of interest to you, write to me and tell me what issues and questions you have, and I’ll address them in future posts.
Until next weekend - be safe and happy!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.