Getting Started with DIY Universal Design and Aging in Place

Sure you’re an “active adult,” but are you proactive or reactive?

In the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey focuses on the importance of character when defining effectiveness stating that the first habit for developing character is Be Proactive. Covey explains it this way:

“Reactive people are driven by feelings, circumstances, conditions, and the environment. Proactive people are driven by carefully considered, selected and internalized values. Taking the initiative …. means recognizing our responsibility to make things happen.”

This means that for many of us there are two ways to choose to live: either we are intentional and proactive or we can be habitual and reactive.  We can either consciously strive for a life that we really want or we can live in a default setting, unconsciously reacting to whatever life throws at us.How does this apply to universal design and aging in place you ask? Or why would I even choose to start this blog post with such a quote?

I have been asked by many to start discussing specific enhancement one can do to their home and make it more a home for a lifetime.  This will be the main area of blogging for the next few postings.  Before we get to what modifications we can do, I wanted to take a moment and explain why we should do them.

The Why…

We should all be considering including aging in place options into any remodeling – even in this economy – so that we can be proactive in securing our, and our family’s future. As we live longer, the chance of experiencing an unfortunate accident or other mobility or sensory impairment increases.  Given that it isn’t a matter of “if” but “when,” wouldn’t we rather go through those circumstances in our own homes while saving thousands of dollars as well?
Changes in ability can make our daily routines increasingly difficult.  Our homes can change to meet our new needs rather than us having to adjust our behavior to make up for its shortcomings.

True independent living is achieved only through proactive universal design that complements our individual life styles and protects our quality of life. Being Proactive means freedom and specifically a freedom and willingness to embrace change assertively!

The What…

So now that we have an understanding of “why,” let’s start exploring “what” we should look for when performing a home accessibility check. The main areas that Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) look at are:

  • Entry ways
  • Hallways
  • Bathrooms
  • Bedrooms
  • Kitchens
  • Garages
  • Stairways
  • Windows
  • Lighting
  • Exterior of the home

The solutions and suggestions that are developed after such a check are focused primarily on greatly increasing the comfort, safety and accessibility of the home.

Below are some questions you should ask about your home.  I consider it a “quick check” for universal design.  Let’s look at the hallways, bathrooms and kitchen.

Some questions to consider:

  • Are your entries barrier-free and allow for the use of a wheelchair, walker or scooter?
  • How about your hallways are they wide enough to allow the same?
  • Do they have adequate night-lights?
  • How about at the top and bottom of stairways?

Bathrooms

  • Do they have enough maneuverability for a wheelchair or a walker?
  • Do you have enough behind the wall support in case you need to install grab bars in the future?
  • Is there at least one no curb shower in the home with a hand held adjustable showerhead?

Kitchen

  • Are there any countertops at a height conducive for someone using a walker or in a wheelchair with enough clearance below?
  • How about the sink area, cooking surfaces, or storage?
  • How accessible are those areas or the appliances?
  • For example in some cases dishwashers need to be raised to allow accessibility an idea that is beneficial for everyone since it reduces the distance even disabled persons have to bend down and up when loading and unloading it.

As you can see, we have just started to scratch the surface.  There is a lot to cover in the area of modifications and options and this will be our focus in upcoming articles.

We will strive to discuss these important areas in our homes in depth and provide both no-cost / low-cost modification options anyone can do over the course of a few weekends.  We’ll also outline larger scale modifications that may require some outside help to make your home more livable and accessible.

About the Author: Raad Ghantous is the principal of Raad Ghantous & Associates and is an expert in luxury hospitality, wellness centers, and medical & day spa developments.  He is also the owner of Your Home For A Lifetime, an A.D.A/ Barrier-free/ Universal design/Aging in place, full service design/build firm with over 15 years of experience  specializing in developing integrating elegant and seamless designs/modifications to new or existing structures.

  • http://blog.brightstarhealthcare.com Erin Schmidt

    Thank you for covering this topic! Home safety is such an important issue. There are so many unavoidable accidents that occur in the home. I loved how you pulled from Stephen Covey’s book to make the proactive v. reactive distinction. I’ve recently found MySafeHome.net and thought it was a great, interactive resource for home safety.

    Erin
    @brightstarcare

  • http://www.raadg.com Raad

    Erin,

    Thank you for your comment. Yes as you say it is a very important issue and there are many things that done proactivly can reduce the risks our the home, work place or even our communities at large. Unfortunatly denial until its too late seems to be the motivation by which most people find them selves “having” to do something and do it on a firedrill in the eleventh hour too! Another favorit approach of mine is from Tony Robbins’s earlier series where he identifies that most people do things in an attempt to “minimize pain rather than maximize pleasure”…..I know that to be motivated to do the latter seems so subtle but wow talk about a good enough incentive to “recognize the responsibility to make things happen”!

  • http://www.raadg.com Raad

    Erin,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes as you say it is a very important issue and there are many things that done proactivly can reduce the risks around our homes, work places or even our communities at large. Unfortunatly denial until its too late seems to be the motivation by which most people find them selves “having” to do something and do it on a firedrill in the eleventh hour too!

    Another favorit approach of mine is from Tony Robbins’s earlier series where he identifies that most people do things in an attempt to “minimize pain rather than maximize pleasure”…..I know that to be motivated to do the latter seems so subtle but wow talk about a good enough incentive to “recognize the responsibility to make things happen”!

  • Ryan Malone

    Raad -
    These are great tips. One thing not directly mentioned is that small changes can often dispel big fears. The more people feel like the “can do it,” the more they are inspired to keep doing it.

  • http://www.kenbrooksrealestate.com Ken Brooks

    Thank you Raad,
    You are providing a very important discussion as we the Babyboomers approach the later stages of life. I have noticed there is a bunker mentality of most who insist:
    1) It won’t happen to them so they don’t prepare or 2) Accept disability and live with an existing, ill fitting home environment.
    Your blog does a great job of opening the discussion on the future or design.
    Thanks again.
    Ken

  • http://www.raadg.com Raad

    Ryan,

    Indeed as you say sometimes a small or simple change can make a huge difference especially when a person has first hand experience; That even in these life altering and difficult times of adjustment to new unexpected realities brought on by aging or even an accident there is no substitute to the empowerment that comes with a “I Can do it” sense and a “I DID IT!” reference after the fact.

    The future posting will start with some of these exact “I Can do it” simple options to start to hopefully enforce in people that even the most DIY challenged of us “CAN” in fact take steps, proactively, to change our living realities to the better…and through that personal reference shed our fears of the unknown and even of simply getting older!

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    [...] Getting Started with DIY Universal Design and Aging in Place -Inside Elder CareThe main areas that Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) look at are: Entry ways, Hallways, Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Kitchens, Garages, Stairways, Windows, Lighting, Exterior of the home [...]

  • Erniecan

    We baby boomers should study our parents. 12 years ago when I designed and built my house, I incorporated fixes to all the problems my parents had in the house I was raised in. I knew I would get older eventually. It came sooner than I planned. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. after living in the house 2 years. I am still tweaking and making the house a lot more friendly. It is easier and cheaper to do things before I have to. ( I am still working on my parents house)
    We all need to keep talking
    Ernie

  • http://www.smartbugmedia.com Ryan @ SmartBug Media

    Ernie,

    Thanks for sharing your story. You are one of the few that plans ahead and should be glad you. Have a great holiday.

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