Posts Tagged ‘Seniors’
What is a Lifetime Home?
Any “house” can be a Lifetime Home. Regardless of square footage or type, a Lifetime Home will accommodate you and your family no matter what for as long as you choose to live there. In other words, a Lifetime Home adapts to you, the opposite of Peter Pan Syndrome, which produces houses designed and built as if nobody changes. A Lifetime Home isn’t a style, but an essence, a smart, high performance house regardless of climate or geographic area.
Does that mean it’s expensive? Could be depending on your choices and preferences. But making sure throughout the house that no outlets are lower than 18 inches nor any switches/controls are higher than 48 inches doesn’t cost an extra cent. NOT building steps could actually save money by…..not building steps. So as with so many questions, the answer “depends” on what you make it.
However, even if you want the latest and greatest in your Lifetime Home, you need to assess the total cost (i.e. actual expense and opportunity cost) over the long term. The Gizmatic might cost more today but what if it performs flawlessly, lasts forever, keeps you active, secure and comfortable longer? Or maybe you can live without. So cost is relative, particularly compared to the continued rising cost of long term and assisted care.
Finally, a Lifetime Home could be your dream house or “the last move” but not necessarily. More importantly and regardless of life stage (e.g. imagine children), a Lifetime Home is convenient, comfortable, efficient and secure for everyone (including visitors) no matter their age or abilities. A Lifetime Home is multi-generational for YOU throughout YOUR decades. A Lifetime Home is about ANY-ability not inability/disability. It’s simply smart.
Questions? Email me.
Lifetime Home Survey
I was on a mission and took six months developing the Lifetime Home Survey (LTHS), which was born of a single negative comment following a post class, feedback form. Without ever knowing his name, I still picture the disgruntled attendee with arms crossed, an engineering type who frowned the entire presentation.
His comment? “Didn’t give specific measurements!” I purposely avoided getting technical to reduce the likelihood of audience slumber; but, after reading Mr. Unhappy Engineer’s feedback, I vowed, “Metrics you want, measurements thou shall get!”
Call me obsessive compulsive but, with Mr. Unhappy Engineer’s scowl burned into my mind, what began as a simple checklist grew (out of control?) into a whole house assessment. I referenced 17 documents and architect teammate Charles Hendricks proofread the final product, what we believe to be THE most comprehensive Universal Design home assessment resource currently available on the web.
Accessorize Your Home
“How can we afford the cost?” Many families stare at their budget and wonder how they’ll pay to help care for a family member. According to the 2010 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the median (half below/half above) annual rate for a private nursing home room was $75,190, the expense compounding annually 4.5 percent since 2005.
In many cases, budget-buckling cost leads to the early institutionalization of a loved one simply because family members don’t have homes equipped or designed to deal with health/mobility challenges, or extra occupants, and the parent’s home has become unsafe or unlivable for various reasons as simple as navigating between rooms. The “solution” becomes limited to selling the elderly owner’s home and using the proceeds to move them into some level of assisted living. Families often feel forced into this option even though they would choose to do otherwise if they had more money.
But what if you used the amount that would’ve been devoted to moving your loved one and instead restructured their home or yours so they could “age in place”? If retrofitting the current home isn’t feasible, build on your property an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU), also known as a “granny flat” or “in-law suite”.
Easy Access 5 to 95
If you were in a wheelchair, could you pivot in the hallway of your home? Easily enter the bathroom or take a shower? Escape a fire? Architects and builders address these problems by following Universal Design (developed by North Carolina State University School of Design). Included within the BuilderFish mission of recycling homes, we inform clients about these livability options while work is being planned, recommending they take the long view about accessibility and ease even if the owner eventually plans to move (i.e. attractive features for re-sale).
Universal Design (UD), as the name implies, is a common sense method of making house features comfortable and convenient for as many different people at as many life stages as possible, whether a child, Senior “aging in place” or someone with a physical, even mental, challenge. UD makes homes hassle-free from ages “5 to 95″ in a manner of speaking.
Former building code and design standards assumed occupants being an “average person”, based on a definition of typical health, height, etc. UD employs simple, proven concepts to make any home more comfortable for a wider range of people including families with young children, people who use walkers/wheelchairs, those taller or shorter than average or those who desire to simplify housekeeping (who doesn’t?).
UD is comprehensive yet flexible. The approach begins with three primary trouble spots in the typical home, the entrance, bathrooms and kitchen. I’ll add that UD does not exclude ANY area of the home, including landscaping, and fundamental to doing it correctly is realizing that every household’s circumstances are unique. UD uses check-lists and guidelines but those in the building trade must simply LISTEN to the residents and be prepared to customize based on the person’s needs. Let me assure this isn’t complicated but it does require thought. You begin by examining the most likely areas of inconvenient, everyday barriers and that’s typically the entry/exit, restrooms and kitchen. Obviously you don’t ignore anything.
Let’s look at an entrance for some basic examples or “essentials”. Entryway doors should be at least 36 inches wide to allow for a 34-inch clear opening when the door is open at a right angle. Lever-style door handles (instead of round knobs), good lighting and ample landing space inside and outside (5 feet by 5 feet for the latter), a covered over-head (e.g. roof, canopy or awning to protect from rain, ice and snow). No split-level entry or raised thresholds, common sense stuff, imagine accessibility by baby stroller and wheelchair/walker.
Optional features worth considering to make life easier: lighted doorbell, intercom, push-button power door or handy shelf just outside door to set down a handful of items. Each room and area of the property has must-haves and nice-to-haves depending on the unique circumstances of the residents. Timers are a perfect example of what could be optional to one household yet critical to another. Someone with memory deficiencies from a traumatic brain injury (e.g. wounded war veteran, accident victim) might absolutely require timers to prevent accidents with systems around the home.
“Oh this sounds expensive.” Let me rebut in two sentences, it can be (e.g. high tech security cameras) but doesn’t have to be, many items can be purchased at the hardware store (e.g. door hinge extensions). And it’s less expensive building new or if you’re improving another aspect of the home at the same time. For instance, UD doesn’t add cost to simply move a receptacle if you haven’t installed the sheet rock.
UD is involved but not rocket science and I’ll blog later about specific scenarios. But I’d like for you to contemplate the inside and outside of your home and how you’d contend with different scenarios (e.g. aging, accident/illness, in-law/grand parent moving in or new baby) and I’ll wrap up with:
The Principles of Universal Design:
- Equitable Use
- Simple and Intuitive
- Perceptible Information
- Tolerance for Error
- Low Physical Effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
None of us will beat aging (“none of us will get out of here alive”). And the unfortunate truth, accurately pointed out by the disabled and the organizations which assist them, “Our membership continually grows”, an ironic consequence of the efficacy of modern medicine because we survive everything. As we modernize our aging residential housing stock, “going green” and improving energy efficiency hogs the headlines but, no less important and maybe more so, housing professionals must understand and practice Universal Design to ensure homes don’t become obstacle courses with our passing years.