Age Forward with Universal Home Designs
Age Forward with Universal Home Designs
An average person’s lifespan is significantly longer these days than those of just a few decades ago-but with longevity comes an increased chance for one or more chronic conditions. Chronic conditions, which are persistent and impossible to get rid of, can limit what a person is able to do, and they include a wide array and disorders. Some common ones include hypertension, chronic mental conditions (like anxiety, schizophrenia or personality disorders), asthma, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease, eye disorders, HIV and diabetes. Some are embracing the concept of universal home designs, which basically means utilizing architectural, interior design and building techniques that can be used by any age or ability. We all can age forward in life with some useful modifications to age in place. It is more and more common for me to receive requests from people who want their homes prepared in advance for the likelihood they or loved ones could have chronic conditions down the line. It can be a real cost saver to have aging in place features included in the design process.
What Was I About to Say?…. I Have no Clue!
In addition to the following tips, If the person being cared for has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia like HIV related dementia, experts recommend additional actions, like the use of memory devices, to help calm and orient them.
These can be as simple as displaying mementos and photos in places they routinely see, to placing clocks with both the time and date in many locations around the house. Labels can help them remember to do important tasks like locking doors and turning off the oven.
There are lots of ways to prepare your house for chronic care management, so here’s my list of the most common options. And don’t forget, what applies to bathroom counters holds true for the kitchen counters too. These are good ideas for anywhere in the house.
In the Kitchen, with the Revolver:
• It’s a good idea to plan for the kitchen to be located near the front door – those groceries can be heavy.
• Make it nice and bright. Dim or uneven lights are a danger to people with vision and movement problem. highlights are easy to install, as well as lights in closets and stairwells.
• Lots of counter space in general is a plus. Heaving a turkey out of the oven and then having to carry it halfway across the kitchen isn’t fun for anyone, but can be dangerous for someone frail or disoriented.
• Keep dangerous objects and substances stored away safely, especially in the case of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
• Heat can be a big problem for people with chronic conditions, so a lot of thought needs to be given to preventing burns and fires. Heat resistant countertops, lights to indicate when the stove or oven is on.
In the Bathroom, with the Candlestick:
• Large spaces for easy wheelchair or walker maneuvering coupled with nonslip textured surfaces are critical. Properly installed handrails and grab bars are important. Easy to reach seats, ledges and toiletries are essential.
• Bathroom telephones and rounded counter edges are also a good idea. It’s also smart to enable someone to unlock the bathroom door from the outside.
• Handheld showers make things easier for bathing and cleaning.
In the Hall, with the Wrench:
• Some of the main pitfalls to avoid are things that could cause someone to trip and fall. Items to keep close eye out for are thresholds in doorways, loose rugs and carpeting, as well as any clutter lying around. All flooring and steps in the home should be selected to decrease the chances of someone slipping. Hardwood floors are your best bet.
• Hallways should be wide enough to allow comfortable easy of motion for someone who is wheelchair bound. A minimum of 36 inches wide.
• Thermostats, light switches, door handles, outlets, you name it- they need to be low enough for someone in a wheelchair to reach them.
The Secret Passages:
• Stepless entry is a good choice to make for chronic care management and for universal design in general. If your steps are there to stay, you may want to consider installing a ramp.
• Doors should be at least 32 inches wide and have door handles that are levers, not knobs. That goes for cabinets and closets too.
• Double sets of handrails are good to have on all of your house’s stairs, all with deep tread depth, frequent light switches and carefully planned landings. Reflective tape is smart to have on non-carpeted stairs, while carpeted in different shades can be helpful. If you do have carpet, shorter is better.
• The path leading up to the front door is another good area to focus. Ideally, the front should be visible from the street and have plenty of room for moving around. There should be a bench or shelf. An overhang is also a good idea, along with good lighting.
In general, when planning your home, ease and simplicity are the way to go. In fact, even if you are not experiencing any movement impairment, the best idea is to prepare the home so you can comfortably live using only the first floor, in any case chronic conditions worsen.
Being knowledgeable about the universal design concepts can enhance your lifestyle and you will be able to age forward in life!
Design is everything!
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