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Ginzler: Making Home Safer

Living arrangement to support your loved ones’ daily needs and activities

you want her to be safe in her home. Add that grab-bars come in a range of colors and finishes that can match the decorating scheme of any bathroom. Tell her the days of "institutional-looking grab-bars" are long gone. Go with her to the store to look at what's now on the market.

In addition to the changes listed above, always remember to have a properly rated fire extinguisher in the kitchen area, and fire and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of each house.

AARP recently developed a video, "There's No Place Like Home." (Watch: Part One, Part Two.) It documents how easy and affordable it can be to update kitchens and  bathrooms to dramatically improve home safety. You can show the videos to your parents to help them understand that they can easily improve their safety and your peace of mind.

Extensive Changes

Since your loved ones likely want to live at home as long as possible, consider more extensive changes to the home so that it will be sure to meet loved ones’ daily living needs. Design features such as multi-level countertops and pull-out drawers in the kitchen provide easy access to pots and pans. No-step entries to the home may cost more, but they can make homes safer and more comfortable for everyone.

AARP and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) have collaborated to help develop a certification program for remodelers, builders, and developers who focus on the connections between home design and the needs of aging people. The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program teaches building professionals about the changing needs of people as they age. The curriculum also explores a range of products and building techniques that can be employed to remodel a home better support aging in place. There are currently more than 1,700 certified professionals in the United States.

AARP and NAHB also sponsor an annual "Livable Communities Award," in which remodelers, builders, and developers are recognized for excellence in a variety of categories. To see past winners, visit  www.aarp.org/homedesign.

Growing Consumer Interest

Realtors, interior designers, and architects have discovered that consumers are starting to show more interest in features and products that promote successful aging in place. People are also realizing that when homes are designed and constructed with these features, the homes’ value increases.
In Georgia, an "Easy Living Home" designation has been developed. It focuses on three key features of home design; All new homes constructed using the Easy Living Home approach have:

  • Accommodations for first-floor living, with the master bedroom and full bath on the first floor
  • At least one no-step entrance to the central living area of the home
  • A maximum clearance (up to 36 inches across) in all doorways for easy movement throughout the home


The proponents of the livable approach contend that their homes are "easy to build, easy to visit, and easy to sell." Across the country, builders, developers, and realtors are replicating elements of what's called "universal design"—basically, design informed by features that provide comfort, safety, and the ability to age in place. There is also growing consumer interest in aging in place and the type of home required for it.

Home Safe Home

No home can be "sweet" if it isn't "safe." The types of home features and fix-its described in this column make homes easier to use, which increases the independence of residents and makes caregiving easier. As I've described, there are a range of changes that families can consider to keep loved ones safe and comfortable.

I hope that these ideas prompt you to evaluate your loved ones’ homes and to make the kinds of changes that you deem necessary and beneficial. And be sure to enter AARP's "Recession Remodel" Room Makeover Contest in which we'll update one kitchen and one bathroom for two winners. We will also implement some of the easier, less expensive improvements, which can increase comfort and safety for everyone. Best of luck.

Take care,

Elinor

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