Do you ever get the feeling that you are working for your home? I am not talking about the many years you spend paying for your home. The question is how often do you find that your home makes every day life easier for you?
In the 1950s and 1960s, kitchen appliances, dishwashers, garage door openers, toasters, microwave ovens, and washer/dryers for our clothes started to make our lives easier and give us more time for our family, community, or just for ourselves to enrich our lives. Many of these items were considered luxuries when they were first introduced, but would you consider living without them now?
What can your home do for you? Many of us have decided that we want to live in our own home no matter what our current or future health or abilities. In fact, in a recent BusinessWeek poll, 89% of America has decided to live independently in their current home or their next home. The challenge is that homes typically don’t work to help you live in them. Before you make a move or consider remodeling, here are some of the improvements that are becoming commonplace and necessities.
Most of the improvements are focused on the areas you live in the most. Your garage, front door, stairs, kitchen, bathroom, and your bedroom are where you spend the most time but they have many obstacles. Let’s take a tour through the accessible home.
Most home have steps and swinging doors with locks in the garage or the front door. You can add railings, electric locks, automatic door openers, and ramps to make each entry easy to walk to, and allow your home to help you get inside. Railings eliminate falls as we climb steps. Electric Locks can eliminate keys and work with an automatic door opener to make getting into your home simpler. What about that door from your garage that shuts on you every time your hands are full? You can add a simple $7 magnetic door stop that holds the door open, but will allow that door to close itself with just a touch of your fingertips. Ramps can be an easy way to eliminate steps and provide a seamless entrance for everyone.
Doors can be a problem around the house, mainly because they are too narrow. The main problem is that when you open a door, the door takes up almost 2 inches of space in the doorway. Can you believe that a different set of hinges will remove the door from the doorway and give you an additional 2 inches of room?
Stairs can be a big issue, as they are the place that we have to work the hardest in the house. A solid railing can make these easier, but climbing a mountain can be easier than that long flight of stairs to your bedroom or bathroom. Adding a stairway lift can eliminate the danger of a staircase, and can also be used to move laundry, groceries, or other items between the levels of your home. A Stairlift is a foldable seat that climbs up a small rail that is attached directly to the tread of your stairs. Stairlifts can be added without any remodeling or damage to your home, and they work with remote controls to be exactly where you need them. The best improvement is that they work even when your electricity fails and fit any stairs. Also, prices have fallen in recent years, and used lifts can be a great value. Elevators are also becoming popular in homes with more than one level, and while they seem like a luxury, many homes are now being built with elevators because they have become affordable, and the resale value of the home increases immediately.
Your kitchen is the center of your home, and usually starts and ends your day. Most of us have seen pull out shelves, deep drawers, or lazy susan cabinets that eliminate that lost space at the back of your cabinets. What about your dishwasher or oven? Would it be nice if they were more on the level of your countertop? Many kitchens use elevated ovens that eliminate the stress on your back as you get hot food out the oven. Also, combination ovens/microwaves are eliminating that huge oven door by offering a smaller door or a side opening door. Faucets can be mounted on the side of sinks and offer pull out faucets that can make your cleaning chores faster and easier.
Kitchen cabinets can be updated with D shaped handles for easy gripping, and even pull down shelves for those upper cabinets. Now you don’t have to get on a footstool to get to those hard to reach places.
The bathroom is the most difficult room in the house, because most homes use small doorways and small spaces to provide a sink, a toilet, and a tub/shower. But there are several additions that can make the bathroom work for you. The two biggest obstacle are a small toilet and a small step into a shower or a big step into a bathtub/shower. Most new homes are built with a taller toilet and many are 4-6 inches higher. Every other chair has arm rests, and why shouldn’t a toilet offer these to make sitting down or getting up easy?
There is quite a bit of interest in walk in tubs, which offer a complete bathing experience and hydrotherapy. They replace your existing tub and have a door that opens to allow you to get in and out. A much less expensive solution is a bathlift. It is a seat with 2 flaps on either side that make a bridge on the walls of your bathtub. You sit down on the wall of your tub, and slide over into the seat, thus eliminating the danger of falls, and allowing you to slide instead of step into the bathtub. Then, with the push of a small button, the seat lowers you into the hot water for a great bath. The best part is when you are finished with your bath, you push the up button and rise up to easily get out of the tub.
A walk in shower or barrier free shower is a good option for those of us that like showers, however you want to plan carefully. A walk in shower has a step at the front of the shower, where a barrier free shower has the floor of the shower at the same height as the rest of the bathroom. Before you put in a walk in shower, consider all your options as well as your long term plan. For about the same price, a barrier free shower may be a more convenient and safer alternative, while adding the look of a custom shower to your bathroom.
Most of us have seen the adjustable beds that can be adjusted up or down for height, and raise our head/shoulders as well as our legs. These are a good addition to your bedroom as they prevent falls, add circulation and blood flow to needed areas, and can do all the heavy lifting in our bedroom. Small bed rails, or standing poles can make getting in and out of bed easy, save, and independent. If you have ever tried to get up late at night, good lighting, and a steady hand can make all the difference.
You can see and try all these improvements in the world-class adapted showhome in Englewood. Located at 3025 W. Jefferson Ave, tours are free, and we can demonstrate how a home can work for you.
Homes have come a long way to helping us enjoy an active life. With small improvements and innovative solutions, your home can work to keep you safe and make your life fuller and simpler. AND, you can achieve the American Dream of enjoying your independence in your own home into the future.
Written by Nathan Colburn, co-owner of Accessible Systems. He can be reached at (303) 693-7787 or at Nathan@accessiblemed.com.