The place we call home can come in all shapes and sizes. Some are clean and simple, while others are filled with things we love. When we’re young and active, we never give a second thought about the need to feel confident and safe doing everyday basic things at home. It’s a given…right? We’ve set it up and decorated it exactly the way we love, and we should be good to go. So, how do you know when your home isn’t serving your needs?
How do we know when it’s time to make life easier at home for our future self? I’m here to tell you that 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, how 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 when we’re in our 40’s,50’s,and even 60’s we think we don’t need them. There is always the image of an institutional bathroom in our minds, and can’t face the thought of installing grab bars just yet.
Sometimes life throws us unexpected curves that send plans out the window. When my husband 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.
The next house would be correct all of these issues with a much better design. 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 own foot issues required surgery!
I learned that, to move around easily, a knee scooter and crutches were needed. 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 no one mentioned were some Basic Useful Tips For Any Age that we all know and just don’t think about.
- A curb-less 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 were 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.
- Lever handles on all doors are easier to manipulate when you’re carrying groceries or a toddler…or on crutches
- 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 have been be a struggle.
As recovery continued, life at home got a little easier each day. My “recliner office” was all set up, and I was 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?