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It’s The Little Things

| Owen Barclay |


As Certified Aging in Place Specialists, we take the broadest possible approach to planning and building the best possible aging in place environment. This means we not only focus on major home modifications;  sometimes it’s smaller changes that have the biggest impact on comfort, safety, and ease of access. The “art” of making homes work better for our clients comes from years of experience and solid knowledge of universal design and barrier-free concepts. We’d like to pass along several of our hard-earned lessons on the “little things” of aging in place.

Lever Up:  Swap out doorknobs!  As we age, doorknobs can become difficult to turn or twist. Lever handles, on the other hand, are always easy to manage, even when carrying packages. They’re inexpensive to install and substantially up the convenience level of your home.

Continuing on the subject of handles.  We like to remove cabinets knobs too and replace them with D-shaped handles. They’re much easier to grip.

What about rocker-type light switches?  Yep, why deal with an up and down flip switch when a simple push on a rocker switch will do the trick.

And a little lighting tip.  Install dimmer switches and motion sensors for added safety. Low lighting at night eases the path to a bathroom or kitchen; motion sensors can automatically turn on a lamp when entering a room. They’re inexpensive to buy and install.

Let’s talk bathroom and kitchen faucets.  Yes, there are lots of simple solutions here. We like lever or sensor style faucets instead of turn knobs. And a recent innovation is color sensor technology for water temperature alerts. Water too hot:  you’ll see a red light warning!

Still climbing stairs but not ready for the “lift.”  Consider installing railings on both sides of the staircase. It’s a small but beneficial way to reduce falls (and make climbing stairs a lot easier!)

While we’re holding on.  Let’s not forget inexpensive grab bars that are solidly anchored to the wall (no suction cups). Decorative bars are readily available and can be disguised as towel racks, soap holders, etc.

Adjustable shower heads.   Here’s a simple, low-cost solution that’s useful when seated or standing in the shower. It can be installed on a sliding bar to move up and down or can be used as a handheld device. The added flexibility is a safer option for people with limited movement.

Don’t have room for a wider doorway.  Consider a door with swing-away or swing-clear hinges to provide a larger opening. Pocket doors can also be used. We have other solutions to create wide doors for increased mobility.

Show them your address.  Aging in Place sometimes means medical emergencies, and that’s when you want responders to spot your home quickly. We recommend a highly visible street address that provides quick and unambiguous home identification. Often overlooked, it’s a critical (and inexpensive) home improvement that can save lives.

Home-Tech.  Home monitoring systems and medical alerts are “dollar-wise” installations that add a considerable measure of safety and peace of mind. Automatic fall detection and activity monitors are just a few of the features offered; we consider this a must-have if you’re living alone.

Put some color on the walls!  We’ve talked about this in prior posts. Using different paint colors for walls, floors counter edges, and stairs really help with transitions. The cost is low; the visual benefit is significant.

We enjoy discovering home improvements that are inexpensive but add safety, comfort, and value to our clients’ homes. Aging in Place doesn’t have to be expensive and with thoughtful planning, cost-effective solutions often rule the day. The above suggestions are just a sample of ideas that we bring to clients when meeting to design and build aging in place improvements. Give us a call at 604-259-9774 or shoot us an email at [email protected].