A (True) Boomer Fairy Tale

A (True) Boomer Fairy Tale

 

Well, it finally happened!  The need for me to put into practice what I’ve been helping my clients to do for the last few years.  Unfortunately, it’s too late.  Are you wondering what I’m talking about?  Let me tell you my story………..

Once upon a time a young, healthy Boomer couple purchased a three-story townhouse.  They loved their spacious new home.  But knowing they wouldn’t live in it forever, they chose not to modify it.  After all, they were relatively active.  The stairs were no problem.  They were good exercise!

Then one day the husband could no longer tolerate the pain in his knee.  Walking had become unbearable, which meant no sight seeing on vacations.  Once he decided to have his knee replaced, the questions began.  Where would he sleep and bathe and live during his rehab?  “Of course,” they said,”the lower level is perfect!  It has a bedroom, a bathroom, a family room, and the ever important TV and recliner.”

But when he returned home from the hospital reality set in for everyone.  The walker he required could only fit sideways through the bathroom door.  The bath tub had a sliding glass door, no grab bar, and no hand-held shower.  The floors were high gloss ceramic tile, and the toilet was too low for the knee that couldn’t bend.

This made the wife worry that he would fall.  His world shrank, and he became dependent on others to bring him everything he needed.  While the wife was being “nurse”she began noticing other areas of the house that should be changed to make life easier for her husband.  Wider doorways into every room, roll out trays in all the cabinets, smooth flooring to move the walker easily.  So many changes needed for one unexpected surgery.  If they had only thought ahead when they bought the house, or made the changes when they moved in, they wouldn’t be facing these challenges today.  Oh how they wished they had been proactive!

The moral to the story:  Life is full of changes, and our environment affects our life.  Think of areas in your home that could be changed to make life easier for someone else.  Universal design doesn’t only apply to the elderly or physically challenged.  When you lower a vanity cabinet so your small daughter can wash her own hands, brush her own teeth, and learn independence, that’s universal design at work.  And when you add more lights to your kitchen because your eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were, that’s universal design.

Basically, Universal Design is changing lives, one room at a time, and allowing us all to age gracefully in this place we call home.

How To Know When Your Home Isn’t Meeting Your Needs

How To Know When Your Home Isn’t Meeting Your Needs

 

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 home 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, 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 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 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 own foot issues kept getting worse and worse.  I put off 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 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 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.

As recovery continued, life 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?

 

Design For Aging Parents

  Retired elderly couple cooking food together in the kitchen

How many times have we worried about our parents living alone in the big “family home?”  Or maybe it’s not that big, but we worry anyway?  Since most houses have been built for growing families and not growing old, staying in the home that we love, in the community we’re familiar with, gradually becomes a problem for us.

Master suites are on the second floor requiring many stairs to climb.  Laundry rooms are in the basement, where we face even more stairs…and the poor lighting is often the norm.

Our parents want to remain independent, and we want this for them too.  But often this requires making modifications to their home that they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge even if it would make life easier and more convenient.    Because, after all, who wants to admit that they aren’t as “quick on their feet” as they once were?

Are they still active and want to make these decisions for themselves?  Do they resent the fact that you’re concerned and turn down any ideas that you come up with?  This seems to be a common complaint from the adult children I’ve spoken with.  But I guess that if the roles were reversed, I would feel the same way.  Who wants to be told by their children how to live their life and where to live it?

There are 5 levels of dependence that each require different methods of care.

1.  Still active and independent – appreciate the concern but want you to stay out of it and let them live their life, even if you can see some ways to modify their home to make life easier and more convenient

2.  They recognize a need for modification and are beginning to feel less confident or secure living as they have been

3.  Assisted living or nursing care has been agreed upon and the family home needs to be modified, redecorated, or staged to sell

4.  Your parent has decided to move to a smaller home in an active adult community, independent care, or assisted living community and needs help with the downsizing process.  There’s a lifetime of  possessions to sort through, redistribute, move, and set up in their new home.

5.  Your parents are moving into your home and you need to make modifications or remodel to make life comfortable for everyone.

In which of these groups does your parent fall?

 

A (true) Boomer Fairy Tale

Boomer Fairy Tale 1


Well, it finally happened!  The need for me to put into practice what I’ve been helping my clients to do for the last few years.  Unfortunately, it’s too late.  Are you wondering what I’m talking about?  Let me tell you my story………..

Once upon a time a young, healthy Boomer couple purchased a three-story townhouse.  They loved their spacious new home.  But knowing they wouldn’t live in it forever, they chose not to modify it.  After all, they were relatively active.  The stairs were no problem.  They were good exercise!

Then one day the husband could no longer tolerate the pain in his knee.  Walking had become unbearable, which meant no sight seeing on vacations.  Once he decided to have his knee replaced, the questions began.  Where would he sleep and bathe and live during his rehab?  “Of course,” they said,”the lower level is perfect!  It has a bedroom, a bathroom, a family room, and the ever important TV and recliner.”

Boomer Fairy Tale 2

But when he returned home from the hospital reality set in for everyone.  The walker he required could only fit sideways through the bathroom door.  The bath tub had a sliding glass door, no grab bar, and no hand-held shower.  The floors were high gloss ceramic tile, and the toilet was too low for the knee that couldn’t bend.

This made the wife worry that he would fall.  His world shrank, and he became dependent on others to bring him everything he needed.  While the wife was being “nurse”she began noticing other areas of the house that should be changed to make life easier for her husband.  Wider doorways into every room, roll out trays in all the cabinets, smooth flooring to move the walker easily.  So many changes needed for one unexpected surgery.  If they had only thought ahead when they bought the house, or made the changes when they moved in, they wouldn’t be facing these challenges today.  Oh how they wished they had been proactive!

Boomer Fairy Tale 3

The moral to the story:  Life is full of changes, and our environment affects our life.  Think of areas in your home that could be changed to make life easier for someone else.  Universal design doesn’t only apply to the elderly or physically challenged.  When you lower a vanity cabinet so your small daughter can wash her own hands, brush her own teeth, and learn independence, that’s universal design at work.  And when you add more lights to your kitchen because your eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were, that’s universal design.

Basically, Universal Design is changing lives, one room at a time, and allowing us all to age gracefully in this place we call home.