Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dates set for 2008 Aging In Place week

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 25, 2008) – The National Aging Aging in Place Council announced the Fifth Annual Aging in Place Week, from October 13 to October 19, 2008. Building on the success of last year, where over 100 educational activities were organized throughout the country, this year is expected to garner even greater local support and attention.

We've watched these events get more and more popular, it will be interesting to see the scope of this year's event--hopefully the trend of public and private sector participation will continue.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Aging-in-Place is about designing for dreams not just disability

I bumped into a former work colleague the other day and we got to talking about career choices in later life. This sparked one of my pet issues—that when we think about aging-in-place modifications, too often we only think about infirmity and disability rather than creating spaces that support us in broader, more fulfilling ways. Michael and his wife Eve recently decided that her long standing passion for painting and sketching should be a business as well. But to accommodate this, they needed to make a few changes around the home.

When they first moved across the country to Oregon, they downsized from a 4000 square foot converted barn to a 1500 square foot efficiency home, a common pattern for empty nesters. But the size reduction was a little too severe and when they decided to launch the new business, they had to look for some additional space. They found a new home that met their needs fairly well:

  • There is a large loft that serves as the studio and instruction area. Being above the level of the rest of the home gives them a sense of privacy. The business and the home feel distinct.

  • While the home is not large, it does have three bathrooms, one of which is easily accessed by students from the loft area and further supports the sense that the business is a separate entity.

  • They did make some modifications to the home—adding skylights to the loft area, which not only provide natural lighting for the studio but can be opened to let warm air out at night during the summers. They replaced the flooring with a high grade of linoleum for ease of cleaning in the studio environment, and they added storage to make access to art supplies easy. This sort of customized storage is something we do for many customers, providing easier access to everything from hobby materials to medical supplies to kitchen pots and pans.

  • Storage was also added to the garage for more efficient use of space—while the new home is larger than their last, it’s still smaller than their old converted barn and they had materials that they did not need to have quick access to that could be stored in the garage.

Throughout this process they’ve made conscious choices about their environment. They are working very hard to stay fit and don’t expect that the stairs will present a major obstacle in the future. But if they do it’s a single straight flight, unlike the three flights of stairs in the old home. They’ve considered low maintenance and flexibility in the design of the space. They had to make some trade-offs—they’d like one more large room for living space away from the loft and the master bath has a "useless two person tub.” But overall the new home environment is well suited to this new phase in their life. This is what good aging-in-place design is really all about in my opinion.

And if you happen to be interested in Eve’s business, check it out at

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Helping Boomers plan and adapt

The Boomer Advisor just published the first in a series of articles we've written on how to adapt the home. The targeted readers here arethe boomers who are more typically going to be concerned about these issues for a parent or grandparent. But, as the article notes some of us boomers have started experiencing the need already or will soon.

In the article we take the design of a typical modern bathroom and point out a variety of issues and tips for better design.

Read the full article at the Boomer Advisor and let us know what you think.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

When it comes to assistive technology, expect convenenience and benefit to win out.

At the National Aging In Place Council (NAIPC) regional meeting in Denver this week I heard Nathan Colburn of Accessible Solutions in Denver give a good discussion of assistive technology. Like us, Nathan feels that increasingly many needs can be met by technology rather than remodeling. But until the worst happens, and sometimes after, there are few people who will proactive seek out assistive technology.

The catch is that if you think about it, we all use “assistive technology” everyday. What about the television remote control? While it may not always be the easiest thing to master, there are not many people these days who get up and change the channels manually. (When I was a kid, kids were the assistive technology—I can still hear mom directing me to get up and change the channel for her. Young knees and all that.)

Another great example, the garage door opener—everyone in the audience who had a garage also had an automatic opener. Even simple things like eyeglasses and cell phones can be categorized as assistive technology. How about artificial joints? And all of them met with resistance and had their share of new technology issues, but we eventually embraced them because of the obvious benefits they offer. Convenience, safety, status--you name it. As we begin to embrace assistive technology for aging, the “mature market” will increasing experience the benefits. And that will lead to more widespread acceptance which will yield benefits for all.