Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Maybe there is a reason we aren't more proactive about AIP

We in the industry like to say that there is a lot of denial out there when it comes to home modifications and planning for aging in place.  But maybe denial is the wrong term, the wrong behavioral sin.  What if we aren't in denial, and instead we just care less? What if apathy is a natural part of aging?

I came across this interesting blog post today which makes that case. 


Perfect. We have another reason to bang the drum about acting earlier rather than later.  And another reason for family to pay attention.

Apathy certainly resonates with some of my own behavior these days.  But I'll probably deny that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Showers as furniture

Thanks to a comment on a recent post, I came across some very interesting showers from Roca. Roca offers a variety of showers that are basically conceived as pieces of furniture.  One offers storage under an integrated seat (creative dubbed the "Hide and Seat" line)

Another integrates a wash basin with a step-in shower--potentially a very space saving design easy to fit into a small space where a bathroom is needed.

While not fully barrier free, designs like these could have great applications in aging-in-place updates. You can see these and other innovative designs at the Roca website:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nice overview of UD Kitchen Features

I came across this article today that gives a nice overview of a kitchen remodel incorporating a number of universal design principles and features.  I really like the pull-out shelf with the power plug in the back--great functionality.


I do have one bone to pick--the two tiered counter, all in the same black surface. I like designs with different work heights, but that transition is going to get missed by a lot of folks, especially those with low vision. I prefer them to be distinct areas/counters or there should be some sort of visual cuing.  In my home, the lower surface adjacent to the island is actually a table with a wood top that nicely contrasts with the dark green stone (which also has a matte sheen to minimize reflections.)

The white-on-white bathroom shown has a similar flaw in its lack of visual cuing.  But those issues aside, there is a lot to like in this design--we've incorporated a lot of these same features in our remodels (and you can bet that pull-out will be seen in the future.) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Innovative shower/bath--and innovative marketing

In keeping with the recent theme about the practicality of more universally designed bathrooms for everyone, I came across this post today, featuring an interesting line of bath/tub combos from Europe:


For some reason this design makes me more worried about leaks than a lot of walk-in tubs, maybe it's the glass door.  Still, it's pretty interesting.  But what is even more interesting to me is the marketing brochure.  In the states, walk-in tubs tend to be positioned for the Ed McMahon set.  But if you look at the Artweger brochure (beware, bare bottoms shown) the models are young and there is a clear "family versatility"message.


These obviously are not fully accessible, and the bath still requires the ability to fully lower oneself and then rise.  But that's not the issue--it provides flexibility in use (principle 2 of universal design).  It's not a tub for someone who can't really use a traditional tub.  Rather, I can have my tub and shower in one flexible unit, even if I might only ever use the shower part. And that can simply be a matter of preference as much as ability.

Another example of innovative, "cool" design transcending the mental barriers around more accessible solutions?

And I bet the kids would really like the aquarium feel of that glass door.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The importance of mindset

I'd like to thank Tim, a PT in Northern CA for catching my colleague Brian on a very valid issue of proper mindset.  A while back Brian was interviewed for a video segment on aging-in-place. You can see the video at the link. As Tim said, some good information.

But Tim makes a great point, to wit "I could not help but to cringe on the 3 occasions when the term "wheelchair bound" was used.  As you know, a wheelchair allows for independence and therefore does the exact opposite of 'bind'."  Tim's exactly right.  While I'm sure there are some people who, once fully ambulatory, now feel "bound" to their chair, in reality it is their chair that enables them to get out and about in the world, it is only binding from the perspective of what was, not what will or can be. Mobility is key to our wellbeing. 

His comment made me think of some wheelchair racers who passed me by while I was running a 10K some years ago. While they were moving too fast for me to ask, if I should have had the inclination to do so, I doubt that they were feeling tethered.

It also made me think of what can truly bind the wheelchair user--ineffective access.  While instances of barriers and poor design are rampant in our cities, many chair users can more effectively navigate in much of the public world than in their own home.  And our public policies don't help much there. A few years ago we were called to urgently build a ramp for a couple.  The husband needed twice a week kidney dialysis and had recently lost his ability to walk. Medicaid provided the wheelchair and the transportation, but would make no accommodation for getting him in and out of the home.  And this was not a couple of small steps that could be bumped down. Like providing a car but no key and no way to open the garage door.  Their frustration (and fear of what would happen if they could not get a solution) was palpable.

Assistive devices and modifications go hand in hand as things that cut the ties that bind us and make our lives easier.  But we need to have the proper mindset of what they bring to our lives when built or used well, rather than thinking of them as symbols of loss.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rethink suburban AIP

This article raises a topic that has been under consideration for some time--that the suburban environments our country has developed over the past 60 years are often poorly suited to aging-in-place largely do to their lack of services and resources within walking distance, something that forces continued reliance on the automobile and the potential for isolation.

I did some research awhile back for the engineering firm EDAW where we looked at urban areas as an environment for aging and the inherent advantages were clear--not only for walkability but for the vibrancy of the arts and entertainment scenes and access to continuing education. And it need not be a big city--modest college towns can be great locations for the same reason.  But some of these lessons could be applied to age-restricted communities--why do so few of them have a central village design that can house shops and services? 

I live in a close-in neighborhood but even then walking can be difficult because of lack of sidewalks and people driving way too fast on residential streets--the same concerns that keep families from letting their kids walk a few blocks to school. The more reasons we have to walk, and the safer it is, the healthier we all would be.  Hopefully a greater emphasis on creating those sorts of neighborhoods will go hand-in-hand with the aging population--another positive force our getting older might have on the country.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Universal design gaining ground but not yet accepted for everyone.

While I might challenge the assertion in this article that "Everyone realizes they are going to need an accessible home someday" I agree with the larger premise that universal design is becoming more commonplace.  I'm regularly seeing TV ads about getting rid of unused bathtubs in favor of more functional showers, using gutter covers to keep off ladders, the joy of getting a Hoverround, and so on.  You'd almost think these companies were running for office by the frequency of the ads. However, I also keep hearing plenty of denial.  A friend of our family recently bought a new home and is having the bathroom redone with a stylish barrier free shower--while my much older in-laws have a tough time understanding why she feels she needs it.

As the article states, more and more companies are offering UD products.  However, we still can detect the undercurrent in the article that UD is for folks with disabilities or the infirm.  The reality is, when well done, it is simply easier for everyone.  I think the real market movement will come from two fronts:

1. We will be led by those in need. Really well done UD implementations that are constructed for people with needs will prove how much more enjoyable a UD environment can be--and will show lasting value for all.

2. Nice bathrooms.  Modern, no threshold, "Euro-style" bathrooms are cleaner, more functional and great to look at.  It is in the bathroom that we are seeing a lot of innovation related to UD and acceptance of it.  As more people opt for these designs, I expect that will start to look for similar UD elements elsewhere in the home.