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.