Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Moss grows while homeowners delay

Why is it that the longer we ignore something, the tougher it is to take action?  That’s certainly the case with writing a blog, as evidenced by the length of time since I last wrote.  But its also true about a host of things around the house.

In particular, I’m thinking
about roof care.  Here in the Pacific Northwest we do live up to our reputation as a wet climate, at least for 7 or 8 months of the year.  And if there is one thing that loves the wet, moss is its name.  Moss is beautiful growing on an old stone wall or as a verdant carpet in the Japanese Garden.  But it wreaks havoc on roofs, degrading shingles and retaining water. We do have hot, dry summers, but that does nothing to slow the moss down, it sleeps and then resumes its growth with the first mists of fall.

With regular treatment, it’s actually pretty easy to control.  But if you aren’t treating it regularly, the moss is going to get the upper hand.  And then you have to pay to have it removed.  And that costs a heck of a lot more than just having it treated on a regular basis.  In my case, a professionally applied spray product will last about 18 months—but removing a fairly light build up triples the price of the treatment.

And if I had regularly (2-3 times a year) applied home store products, I could have avoided the professional treatment.  But that is a lot of time on ladders, and it is hard to hit the entire roof with a hose-end or hand sprayer which means there is always some portion that is getting a buildup.  My roof is too tall and too steep to walk on with a safety harness—and even on a flatter roof, one misstep and I’m in the hospital or worse.  So, I’ve decided to let a pro with the right equipment do the job this year.

So, like so many other aspects of home maintenance, it really is cheaper in the long run to do it regularly, before the problem gets worse.  And I won’t have to keep looking at it getting worse and thinking that I better get something done.

Kinda like this blog has been since April. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Remembering the empathetic side of aging-in-place

I came across this post the other day and thought it was better then the average repost of aging-in-place checklists and maxims (tho there is a link to the CDC list).  What I liked was the way the author, Rob Tufel, reminded us that decisions around aging-in-place are about a whole lot more than fixtures and floorplans. We have to maintain an empathetic approach if we want to be able to get past initial denial and resistance to a good plan.

And, I love the sentiment he conveys of "Better barley soup in your own home than a roast in someone else's home."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

International approaches to AIP

It's hard to believe that in current political environment it would be possible to get funds for such programs that provide support for aging-in-place.  But certainly if there were a policy shift from supporting facilities to supporting in-home care experiences from countries like Norway and the Netherlands could be very valuable. 

It certainly could address the impracticality of measures like Medicare providing a wheelchair to someone who has no accessible entry to the home.  When I complained about this to one of our state senators a few years ago he said "well, that's where you have to rely on the role of the community."  At the current rates projected for growth in needs to support seniors in the community, that's not practical--it's not even practical today, lots of needs go unmet.  And with that philosophy, why provide policy support to assisted living when the payback and number served is much lower.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

When work is part of your lifestyle

At In Your Home we talk a lot about the home environment fitting one's lifestyle, which encorporates our family situation, our stage of life, our hobby's and passions  as well as any impairments we might deal with. And increasingly this lifestyle view includes a suitable home workspace or office. 

Architect and author Charles Schwab had a good article on the topic you can read here. If, like me, you work from home (even on a part time basis) then designing a functional home office is an important part of keeping the home environment in step with your lifestyle.  A few key themes in the article for me are:

  1. Ensure there is an egress path that does not take you through the house.  This can be purely a safety concern (if the house is on fire you can get away) but it also helps to make the office more professional and set off from living areas, which is good both if you plan to have clients visit you and also to create a mental seperation between work and home. My office is actually in a detached former garage, so I commute 15 feet across the patio.  I find it much easier to turn off work for awhile than if my computer is in the house.
  2. That mental separation is great for stress reduction and balance.  Build in other design elements that will help you manage stress, such as access to a nice exterior space, a couch or comfortable chair for a change of place during the day, maybe a music system or a good surface to practice your putting.  My office includes a small kitchenette where I can get up and make a cup of tea without getting too distracted.
  3. Having a bathroom handy is also a great idea--and a dedicated half bath is especially important again if clients will be coming to your home office. I find it also give flexiblity.  I often start work in the wee hours of the morning and wind up squeezing shaving or showering into a mid-day break. If you are adding a bath or powder room in the design of a your office, ensure it is visitable (a wheelchair user can easily navigate in and out.)
  4. Natural light is important--ensure you get plenty of it.  Charles says to face the desk away from the windows to avoid glare. That's a good idea, but my preference is to face out where I can see the weather and the hummingbirds at their feeders. It also encourages me to look up from my computer screens regularly, which is good for the eyes. So, my desk sits up against a bank of windows that is protected on the outside by a large eave.  In the winter when the sun is low (and the clouds part), I have a roll-up blind on the outside to block the sun--in the summer the angle of the sun and the shade trees take care of that for me.
There are a lot of other issues covered, from electrical requirements and lighting to landscaping.  Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The cumulative effect of small risks

While shower safety is not really his point, Jared Diamond provides a great example of how we mentally minimize risks by not factoring in how many times we are exposed to them:

“Really!” you may object. “What’s my risk of falling in the shower? One in a thousand?” My answer: Perhaps, but that’s not nearly good enough.
Life expectancy for a healthy American man of my age is about 90. (That’s not to be confused with American male life expectancy at birth, only about 78.) If I’m to achieve my statistical quota of 15 more years of life, that means about 15 times 365, or 5,475, more showers. But if I were so careless that my risk of slipping in the shower each time were as high as 1 in 1,000, I’d die or become crippled about five times before reaching my life expectancy. I have to reduce my risk of shower accidents to much, much less than 1 in 5,475.

Now, one way to mitigate this risk is to only shower once a month, whether I need it or not.  (Need, by the way, seems to be a subjective judgement.  It seems I'm quite content stretching the interval between showers out quite a ways--but my wife and children prefer I adhere to a much shorter cycle. Apparently they don't have my safety in mind. Humpfh) 

A much smarter way to address the issue and reduce risk is to change the environment in which you shower.  Modern surfaces with better slip resistance, nice grab bars, alcoves to keep things tidy, controls in easy reach.  These and other things will make for a much reduced cumulative risk.

The same applies to other areas--small changes, reducing what seem like small risks, that over time have a high likelihood of happening and bringing about nasty consequences.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Universal what? Smarter showers, please.

I try not to slam other people working in this space, but sometimes I see things that are held up as proper when they are not.  Now, the home in the article has some good things--pocket doors, for example.  But look at this "Universal Design" bathroom as it was called in the article in the Glenn Falls NY Poststar.  What's wrong?  Well, in my mind three things:
  1. The shower has a threshold.  Even if it is not to be used by someone in a wheelchair, it is an unnecessary tripping hazard. An integral shower pan, or even a no-threshold fiberglassunit like those from Best Bath, would have been a much better choice.
  2. The seat--small, irregular and slippery, and at the opposite end from the shower controls.  Those little built in seats are best used by young women propping up a leg to shave, not to sit on.
  3. Looks to me like the toilet is going to go right in front of the shower--further restricting access and potentially making the toilet slippery if it gets wet. 
We can learn from the mistakes of others as well as our own, so I'm posting the negative review of this work.  I hope there are not negative consequences for the homeowners here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's about spirit

I came across this post today from Universal Design Partners in Virginia.  Watch the videos--I was really moved by the spirit exhibited by the rehabilitatioin patients.

To me, that is one of the goals of our business-helping to maintain spirit. We hope that our clients who have impairments find them much less troublesome and that their environment is supportive. Constant struggle erodes the spirit, so we hope that minimizing the struggle helps maintain it.

And really, I applaud the patients at the Shepard Center (and the staff) for being willing to have some fun and put themselves out in the world.  Inspirational. Every remodeler and builder who works to create environments better suited to their client's abilities could stand to watch these and be reminded of the human spirit they are charged with protecting.