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.
Randi, I can so relate. I broke my leg and knee 5 years ago and couldn’t walk on it for 4 months! After 2 weeks in the hospital, I was able to go home.
The first 2 days, I spent most of my time in a recliner and slept in a hide-a-bed. By the third day, I just had to stretch out during the day but the couch was too narrow. Fortunately, my clever son suggested bringing down his trundle – ahhh.
For 2 weeks, I sponge bathed and washed my hair in the kitchen sink. I had true appreciation for our forefathers!
I’m sure there are lots of people who could use your help and there are more of us everyday!
Finally, I crawled up the stairs on my hands and knees so I could sleep in my own bed and take a shower. Fortunately my shower stall had a seat in it because I was too weak to stand on one leg long enough to complete the hair washing and luxuriating in the water spray.
When I exited the shower stall, I didn’t lift my leg up high enough and banged the heck out of my toe on the edge of the shower. That hurt for months.
I was fortunate that I had replaced my downstairs carpeting with laminate flooring the year before and was able to scoot around on a desk chair. I was also lucky to work from home and could continue working away.
Within a year, I realized that my long-term house plans had to include a 1 story house and I’m very happy to say that I moved into a wonderful 1 story house just last month. Ahhhh!
Randi – What a great story. We are about to add a full bath in our lower level (3 story home) and I hadn’t given thought to these issues, but it might just be a better investment – as well as necessary to any one of us for the future. Thanks for giving me more to think about!
Thanks to all of you for your comments and contributions! I’ve just experienced another use for small grab bars on a garden tub. I often let my granddaughter play in the garden tub as part of her bath. It would be much safer if I installed a grab bar for her as she stands up to be lifted out.
It is a wonderful fairy tail! So much of the opposition to Aging in Place is the words we use. People may not want to have a lower vanity area to make it easier to see in the mirror, but they are happy to have a safe place in their bathroom to change their new grand child’s diaper when they come to visit.
We had a customer who installed a Wave Bar (www.greatgrabz.com) in his shower to humor his designer and wife. He called after he had rotator cuff surgery and raved about how great it was to have a secure place to hold in the shower. Our lives are all about change!
Randi, I love the conversation you’ve started — even though I’m not a baby boomer, my mom is! And thinking about these issues/opportunities is something we’re all having to do. Thanks for that 🙂
Randi, very insightful story. Love your website, thanks for visiting mine and writing me through linkedin. i love what you’re doing for empty nesters in transition, you’ve got a great little niche there.