‘Universal Design’ Posts

Aging in Place: Safety Tips for Your Kitchen

March 3rd, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Aging in Place: Safety TipsBecause 90% of us do not want to leave our homes but to age in place, we need to pay attention to places like the kitchen that can be unsafe for us as we grow older. The kitchen is the heart of your home—and it’s also one of the most important spaces to remodel when it comes to aging in place. You’ll need to be able to make regular use of your kitchen, and the harder it is to access important appliances, locate your cookware, or even walk across the floor, the more dangerous it can be. Your kitchen can remain inviting and stylish while being loaded with accessibility features and convenience that will make it ideal for your senior years.

The Floor 

When it comes to your kitchen floor, you have to start with the floor plan. Make sure that it’s wheelchair accessible, with plenty of room to maneuver. Place cabinets conveniently, so that they’re close to the counters and stoves where they’ll be needed, but keep them out of the pathway so that it’s easy to move around them. Next, look at your food preparation areas. You’ll want to be sure that countertops are at the right height for use from a wheelchair. Adjustable countertops can make it easier for you to keep using them as usual until you need a wheelchair and make it more comfortable for others who might share in food preparation responsibilities.

Next, look at your seating. While you don’t want to clutter up your kitchen or make it impossible to get around, you do need to have readily-accessible seating to make food preparation easier. Make sure that you have comfortable, sturdy seats: you don’t want to have to rely on a bar stool if your legs get shaky! Leave plenty of room around the table for a wheelchair, but don’t skimp on comfortable seating, either. You can always move a chair away to make it more easily accessible later.

Your kitchen flooring is almost as important as the floor plan. First, accept that the cute rugs that you enjoyed in your earlier years are a thing of the past: they can lead to trips, slips, and falls. Next, begin your search for a kitchen floor that will be durable and slip-resistant while still looking great. Cork, rubber, and linoleum are all excellent choices for seniors, as are smaller tile that have more grout lines—see here for some ideas.

Lighting

 While aging eyes can be exceptionally sensitive to bright lights, you still want to be sure that you can see clearly enough to accomplish all the necessary tasks in your kitchen. Make the most of natural light: big windows that are free of curtains and blinds are ideal for the brightest possible room. Next, install ambient lighting that will illuminate the room at a comfortable level. A dimmer switch can help make it easier to reduce lighting if your eyes are feeling sensitive. You should, however, make sure there’s plenty of task lighting over the stove and in food preparation areas so that it will be easier to focus on your current task.

It’s also important to ensure that you’ll have the light you need when you’re navigating the room at night. Make sure that light switches are available at every entrance to the room. Consider installing motion sensors on the lights so that it will kick on automatically if you walk into the room in the middle of the night. If this is impractical, you can also put in nightlights to help provide some light if you’re just taking a quick trip to the kitchen.

Appliances 

The appliances you choose for your kitchen should reflect your changing needs as you get older. Your microwave, for example, should be simple to operate, with big, visible buttons that are easy to press. An electric stove with large dials and simple operating instructions is best, but if you do have a gas range, make sure that it has a pilot light and auto-shutoff feature. Your dishwasher should be positioned conveniently next to the sink. Consider installing one that’s higher off the ground to make it easier to load and unload as your mobility decreases. Senior-friendly sinks are shallow and easy to reach from a wheelchair. Choose a refrigerator that reflects your needs: large enough to hold several days of pre-prepped meals if necessary. Think about the layout of your refrigerator and where the doors will open as well as the shelves that will be accessible from a wheelchair.

Cabinets

 Organize your cabinets carefully so that they will remain fully accessible. Place items that you use most frequently in cabinets that are easiest to reach. Consider drawer pull-outs in cabinets that may be difficult to access from a wheelchair or as your mobility decreases. You should also make sure that your cabinets are shallow enough that you can easily reach to the back.

Accessories

 Knobs, switches, and faucets can be some of the most frustrating items in your kitchen when your fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. Look for knobs that are large and easy to hold, switches that can be operated simply, and faucets that use one lever to switch between hot and cold to make it easier to adjust the water to the right temperature. Make sure that any labels on levers and switches are in clear, large fonts that you’ll be able to read even after your eyesight begins to decrease.

Your kitchen is one of the most important rooms in your home. You need to be able to prepare food, eat, and host guests with ease. Luckily, there are plenty of products on the market that are designed with an aging population’s needs in mind. Take the time to think through your future needs now to ensure that when the day comes, you have a kitchen that will allow you to maintain your independence and age in place, at home where you want to be.

Home Modifications to Support Aging In Place

November 21st, 2015 by Doris Bersing
gero technology TO LIVE AND age WELL

LIVING WELL PIONEER OF HIGH TECH IN HOME CARE

Aging in place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. Most adults would prefer to age in place—that is, remain in their home of choice as long as possible. In fact, 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 report that they would prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.

The focus of aging in place is to help seniors ensure they can live where they choose and get any help they need for as long as they can. The goal of an elderly person (or anyone) wanting to age in place should be to maintain and/or improve their quality of life. In order to do that, a good plan that focuses on quality of life and covers your self, home, finances, care and other items should be created as early as possible. This plan should be maintained over time as your situation changes. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change, including safety monitoring, home care assistance, or home renovation, while maintaining their quality of life. Some examples of home modifications include: increased lighting, accessible switches at both ends of the stairs, additional railings, grab bars, nonskid flooring, a hand-held, flexible shower head, walk-in bathtubs, and the removal of throw rugs and clutter. In most cases, home modifications can be simple and cost-effective, while simultaneously offering substantial benefits to the individual.

We thank Liz Greene [1] for her ideas about home renovation. She proposes 5 home modifications to support aging in place. She said “…It’s not easy to choose which living arrangements will suit you later in life. So much depends on your health, mobility, and family situation. However, with the cost of senior living on the rise, many people are choosing to grow older in their own homes rather than moving into assisted living communities. Nonetheless, aging in place comes with a host of considerations, not the least of which is modifying your home http://www.ageinplace.org to accommodate your changing needs. If you’ve decided to stay in your home for the long haul, think about implementing some of the following modifications to make the transition easier.

Pull-Down and Pull-Out Shelving

Bending, stooping, reaching — these motions become harder on your joints as you age. Regular exercise can help alleviate pain and increase mobility, but it’s not a bad idea to eliminate situations where you’re putting more strain on your body than necessary. Installing pull-down and pull-out shelving in your closets and kitchen cabinets will allow you to reach out of the way items without having to strain or use a step stool. These devices are inexpensive, easy to install, and an almost effortless way to improve accessibility.

Grab Bars

Grab bars are an absolute must have if you plan to age in place. Install grab bars next to the toilet to provide balance while sitting down, give leverage when rising from a seated position, and help transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet seat and back. Place them next to the bathtub and in the shower to help maintain balance while standing or moving, assist in maneuvering into and out of the enclosure, and help reduce slips and falls. Put in floor to ceiling grab bars, or security poles, in the bedroom to assist in getting in and out of bed. While many grab bars tend to have an institutional look, some manufacturers are releasing newer models that are more aesthetically pleasing. This allows you to add stability and safety to your home without sacrificing personal style.

Walk in Tubs

Traditional bathtubs can be 20” or higher from the bathroom floor — clearly not designed for those who suffer from mobility problems. This is where walk in tubs come in. Walk in tubs offer a watertight door that opens so you can easily walk into and out of the tub. Most walk in tubs include a chair-height seat for a comfortable and secure bath and a non-skid floor to minimize slips and falls.

Curbless Showers

Curbless showers are designed to provide a safe and convenient alternative to traditional bathtubs. Curbless shower floors are flush with floors in adjoining spaces, allowing you to safely walk or roll a wheelchair into the shower without getting tripped up by a raised threshold. Curbless showers are a favorite in universal design as they are not only stylish, but friendly to users of all ages.

Sinks

Sinks can prove especially inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Luckily there are accessible sink options for both the bathroom and kitchen. To provide space beneath a bathroom sink for wheelchairs and other mobility devices, install a wall-mounted sink. Wall-mounted sinks have no vanity cabinet or supporting legs underneath to get in the way. For the kitchen, consider a push-button, adjustable-height sink that gives each user a custom fit. The sink can be raised and lowered between 28 and 36 inches with the simple push of a button. This is ideal when you live with people with varied heights and mobility.

It takes some fore thought when designing your home to adapt to your needs as you age. However, if you do it right, you’ll find you’ll be able to live a happy, comfortable life in your own space, free of the cost and ordinances of retirement communities and assisted living centers.

[1] Liz Greene is a writer and former preschool teacher from Boise, Idaho. She’s a lover of all things geek and is happiest when cuddling with her dogs and catching up on the latest Marvel movies. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene

Areas of the Home Where Automation Can Help

September 22nd, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Room Thermostat VaillantFor many of us, staying at home while living as safely independent as possible is the greatest challenge and simultaneously the greatest reward of aging well. Recently, we published an article about ways to make daily tasks easier around the home for seniors and in this post, we’d like to take it a step further and touch on the advancements of home technology.

Advancements in technology that may at first seem complicated can, with just a little understanding, become options that enrich and make living easier. Consider implementing these home automation features to the home that can help seniors not only save them time and convenience, but energy costs as well.

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats, when given the chance, can help you control the temperature of a home, reduce your energy usage, and help you save significantly on annual energy costs. Not all programmable thermostats have the same features, so here are some key aspects to keep in mind when deciding which programmable thermostat is best for your needs:

  • Intelligent Learning. Your energy use at home may differ throughout various times of the day. Programmable thermostats allow you to use less energy heating or cooling an empty home or during dormant times such as while you’re asleep, then automatically alter settings based on your activity and routine. You will rarely have to adjust settings throughout the day because the thermostat will do the adjusting for you.
  • Device Operation. Surveys done in most recent years show that while majority of the population owns a smartphone, of those, seniors are the fastest growing group. So for those that have adapted to the convenience smart devices offer seniors, a programmable thermostat may be right up their alley. Most of today’s programmable thermostats also come with app-operated features, allowing you to receive alerts and adjust setting from the convenience of your own phone or device at just about any location.
  • Multi-Day Models Not all seniors spend their days at home; many may find themselves away for a few hours most days or for several days when travelling. We know that not everyone’s daily habits are the same, so air conditioning experts suggest multi-day models for those seeking to implement programmable thermostats. These allow operators to set a suggested schedule during the weekdays that differ from weekend. Whatever your natural routine is, there’s a model for practically every type of lifestyle.

Automated Lighting

For many seniors, it’s migrating from one side of the home to another that can be more of a task than it is for any younger adult. So the convenience automated lighting offers can help make the “flick of a switch” as easy as it sounds once again while simultaneously saving on annual energy costs. A relatively simple system can:

  • Switch interior and exterior lights both on and off without having to be in the same room. Most automated systems, similarly to programmable thermostats, are app or device-operated, allowing you to control the light settings in one area of the home while occupying another.
  • Prepare your home with scheduled light settings while away for extended leave. For those that travel, automated lighting can be the perfect solution to illuminate the home during your leave to deter any unwanted guests. And just as with daily light operation controls via app or device, this is also another feature that can be managed using a handheld device.

No matter how readily we embrace technological advances, there comes a time when problems can best be addressed with the help of skilled professionals. Most of modern day technology and innovation is created with the intention to make living easier and more efficient. By automating certain features in a home, seniors may find technology on their side to assist them in their daily living without the sacrifice of dignity or independence and add long-term savings in energy bills.

Aging In Place: New Initiatives Around the Country

October 24th, 2012 by Doris Bersing

Aging in PlaeRobin Stone, Researcher and Former Assistant Secretary for Aging wrote that “…Aging in place isn’t as easy as it sounds … she continues…Of course, we can’t yet guarantee that aging in place won’t be an exhausting struggle for older adults and their families. We have a lot more work to do before every older American can grow old easily wherever they choose…”

What Ms. Stone refers to has also to do with new initiatives that around the country are growing to pay more attention to the physical environment of our seniors to help them age gracefully, in place. Most important, she says,  “…we want to make sure that older adults … can look forward to living their later years exactly the way they want to live, in the place they want to call home.Read the article

Costs for Adapting a Home for Senior Living, Disabilities or an Illness

January 9th, 2012 by Doris Bersing

dollar-sign-30959_150By Marc Mendelsohn, Sageing in Place

Statistics show that most people would do almost anything reasonable to avoid moving from the comfort of their home yet in many cases their homes are not adapted to accommodate their current and changing needs. The question arises as to what is necessary and the associated costs to make the modifications to enable an individual to continue living safely and as independently as possible in their homes. Read more