Homes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are spacious, and some are small. Some are clean and simple, while others are cluttered with things we love. When we’re young and active, we never give a second thought to feeling confident and safe doing everyday basic things around this place we call home. It’s a given…right? You’ve set it up and decorated it exactly the way you love. So, how do you know when your house isn’t serving your needs? It happens when you least expect it, and not always when you’re ready.
Several years ago I became a Certified Aging In Place Specialist (CAPS). During the two day course we learned how to modify homes so that clients can live there as long as they choose. Basically, we learned how to make life easier in our homes as we age. Little did I know that, several years later, we’d be needing these design tweaks in our own home!
Since helping clients remodel their kitchens and baths is my all-time favorite thing to do, I always recommend putting these Universal Design principals into place in these rooms. But I also know that as aging Boomers, we think we don’t need them. We still have the image of the institutional bathroom in our minds, and can’t face the thought of installing grab bars just yet.
Well, that’s what I thought too, until the unexpected happened. When my husband, Tom, had his knee replaced a few years ago, we discovered all kinds of design issues with our three story townhouse. This was certainly something we never considered when we bought it. The doorways were only 28” wide when a walker is 30”. There were no grab bars in the bathroom, and too many stairs to maneuver that required him to stay in the lower level for weeks. Check out my blog post to learn more about it.
I was determined that all of these issues would be corrected when we designed our new home. Every shower wall and toilet area was prepped for grab bars. No need to actually install them now. We’re healthy and active. Doorways are 36”…check. Plenty of good lighting…check. Wide open walkways…check. Appliances at a user friendly level…check. We are good to go!
Or so we thought. Until my foot issues kept getting worse and worse. I stalled the much needed surgery for as long as I could, asking friends what to expect. I learned that I needed a knee scooter and crutches. I learned that to maneuver the stairs, sometimes you just have to sit down and scoot. Crazy, I know. But sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to make it all work.
What I didn’t hear from anyone was some basic advice that we all know and just don’t think about.
- A curbless shower would have made entering the shower so much easier, and I would have felt more confident. No problem with the actual showering, because a bench seat and hand held shower have made it so easy.
- The beautiful accent rugs gracing our floors had to go. Yes, they are rolled up and sitting on the sidelines waiting for full recovery day. Again, safety and confidence is an issue.
- Grab bars in the shower would help the fear of losing balance and falling.
- Grab bars next to the toilet, or even a temporary raised toilet seat with built in grab bars, would make life easier.
- And this one thing, that has nothing to do with your home but everything to do with your physical body, is to exercise. For me it’s yoga…a strength building intense yoga…at least two days a week. Had it not been for my yoga instructors Karen, Nancy, and Caren always stressing the need for balance and strong bodies as we get older, this journey would be a struggle.
So recovery continues, getting a little easier each day. I’ve got my “recliner office” all set up, and I’m plugged in to all my devices trying to get work done. Life’s an adventure, I always say. And now I know how to be prepared for “the next time.”
Your Design Homework:
- Take a walk around your home. Check the doorways, the bathrooms, the floors.
- Now make a list of the little things you can put in place that will make your life easier if you need to have an unplanned surgery…or an accident. Can you add grab bars to you shower or toilet areas? Are your doorways at least 32” wide? Do you have rugs that might cause you to trip if you were on crutches?