|Posted on October 16, 2012 at 9:03 AM||comments (630)|
Periodically I like to check out the new and/or updated technologies for aging in place that are being brought to market. Here are a few I found interesting:
Microsoft, in an effort to improve its technology for people challenged by limited motor skills or for those visually or hearing disabled, has made changes to its new operating system, Windows 8, to significantly enhance accessibility. Both Microsoft Magnifier and Microsoft Narrator have been improved with touch capabilities making them much simpler to use and maneuver. To make these features easier to find, greater emphasis has been put on the Windows Ease of Access Center which will be clearly visible on the systems home page. The Ease of Access Center poses questions that are designed to direct the user to the features they need to be using. For example, “Do you have difficulty reading the screen?” will prompt someone to open the Magnifier function. And while not there yet, Microsoft’s journey is towards broader accessibility. Eventually users will be able to interact with their computer or tablet using the method they’re most comfortable with -- keyboard, voice recognition or even gestures – virtually eliminating any visual, auditory, or dexterity impediments they might have.
Care Technology Systems and Qualcomm Life have partnered to create is a cloud based system that enables provider and users to capture data for any wireless medical device and deliver it in a secure and reliable system. Information can be easily retrieved by physicians, caregivers, or other critical audiences, for use in healthcare decisions. The company provides fall detection monitoring, activity monitoring, and biometric monitoring (pulse oximeter, glucometer, weight scale, and blood pressure cuff) which is FDA approved and HIPAA compliant. Read more at www.caretechsys.com
Telikin is committed to helping people who are computer novices connect with family, friends and the world. Telikin makes the easy to use, all-in-one, touchscreen computer that integrates features such as video chat with integrated Skype, photo sharing with an integrated facebook application, email, contacts, weather, news, full web browser, word processing, built in video help and more in a virus free system. With the large monitor, intuitive interface, easy menu of popular features, and extensive customer support, Telikin helps people stay connected to their families, friends and the world. Find out more at www.telikin.com
With an estimated 36 million American facing age-related hearing loss and the hearing aid market estimated at $6 billion dollars globally, the race is on to apply current technology -- such as that used in noise cancellation and miniaturization -- to an inexpensive, user friendly hearing device. Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAP) are being marketed as less expensive alternative to a traditional hearing aid. PSAPs are classified as electronics and not as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration, consequently they are not regulated and do not require a prescription. While these personal sound amplifiers may help people hear things that are at low volume or at a distance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to ensure that consumers don't mistake them—or use them as substitutes—for approved hearing aids. "Hearing aids and personal sound amplification products (PSAPS) can both improve our ability to hear sound," says Eric Mann, M.D., Ph.D, clinical deputy director of FDA's Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, And Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices. "They are both wearable, and some of their technology and function is similar." There are a number of companies making PSAPs which range from well under $100 to around $1,000, unlike a typical pair of hearing aids which cost $3000-$4000. Able Planet, a $140 million consumer electronics company, offers a tiny, in-ear device, called Personal Sound, which has won numerous product awards. To read more see www.ableplanet.com/products/hearing-health
Susan Luxenberg, President
|Posted on September 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM||comments (42)|
Roll-A-Ramp® is an ADA compliant, portable, versatile ramp system great for use as a wheelchair or scooter ramp and for users looking for an option to chair lifts, permanent ramps or conversion vans. Roll-A-Ramp® is made of an aircraft anodized aluminum, is very sturdy yet light enough to carry by hand, and easily adapted to meet a variety of accessibility needs. The ramps come in 12", 26", 30", & 36" widths and can be built to any length desired. Add additional links to change the length with simple tools provided with each ramp. Ramps roll up like a sleeping bag for convenient storage and easy portability.
Homes – public buildings – visiting – appointments – restaurants – RV’s – Roll-A-Ramp® can go whereever you need it.
Note: Veterans may be eligible for a ramp at little or no cost through HISA and other funding sources. This can be used for service and non-service connected disabled veterans. In addition, Roll-A-Ramp® offers a lifetime warranty on ramps to all Veterans. For more information contact Roll-A-Ramp® or view their dealer network.
|Posted on September 4, 2012 at 12:07 PM||comments (86)|
We're back after a very busy summer filled with interesting projects. In the coming weeks I'll share some of the design challenges we faced in the hope they will motivate readers to share their own projects, questions and solutions.
My favorite project of the summer was done for Baby Boomers who live in an upscale oceanfront condo in S. Florida. Although they had recently redone their master bath, one of the spouses had since suffered a disability and bathroom modifications were needed so the bathroom would remain functional and attractive for both. Given that they had already spent quite a bit of money on the first renovation, they hoped to keep the accessibility modifications to a minimum.
1. The biggest obstacle to functionality was the curb at the shower entrance. The disabled spouse accessed the shower via a wheelchair, and while able to stand and pivot onto a shower seat, walking was difficult and the 5" shower curb made it extremely difficult to navigate.
Our preference when adapting a shower for accessibility is to remove the curb and level the shower and bathroom floors so there is a smooth transition between both. We pitch the floor and adjust the shower drainage to include trench drains at either the shower entrance or back wall to catch any water from "leaking" onto the bathroom floor. In this case however, while the pitch was good, the shower floor was actually 1/4" higher than the bathroom floor. Our client wanted a simple, inexpensive solution so that that the shower floor would not need to be dug out, re-plumbed and re-poured to match the level of the bathroom floor.
2. The disabled spouse was using a free standing shower chair which was in the way when their partner used the shower
3.There were inadequate grab bars in the shower to aid the disabled spouse in standing once seated in the shower
4.The lowboy toilet necessitated the need for a toilet commode which both spouses disliked.
5.The entrance door to the master bedroom/bath suite was 30 " wide and was a tight turn for the wheelchair when coming into the master suite hallway. As a consequence, the walls and door trim were getting pretty beat up.
BEFORE – EXISTING BATHROOM
5” shower curb, narrow glass door entry, free standing shower chair
Lowboy toilet with commode; grab bars placement ineffective for client
Narrow doorway created tight access for wheelchair
1. Shower entrance – the 5” curb and glass doors and panels were removed so that non-slip stone tile matching the existing marble was installed as a sloped threshold.
2. A built in shower seat extending across the back of the shower was built to eliminate need for a free standing shower chair.
3. All the glass, doors and panels were removed. The ½ wall between the vanity and shower was built up so that we could install a grab bar at an appropriate height for the client’s use on the interior shower wall.
AFTER – RENOVATED BATHROOM
Curb-less entry shower, 36” frameless shower door,
built in granite shower seat, additional grab bars
The old toilet, commode and grab bars were removed and replaced with a Kohler Cimarron series, comfort height toilet and new grab bars on either side of the toilet better located for the client.
There was no room to open up the doorway given the configuration of the rest of the condo. We were able however, to gain an additional 2” in the doorway by installing swing away hinges and cutting a pocket in the wall for the door handle so that the door would lie flat against the hallway wall.
|Posted on July 15, 2012 at 10:54 AM||comments (29)|
Roll-under sinks and vanities are a necessary feature of accessible bathrooms, and making a vanity roll-under can be done in many different ways. Most often the approach is practical where function trumps design, but a few companies are starting to offer vanities that go beyond a functional solution. Duravit, a German company, has created a bathroom collection that is really quite stylish. Its Delos Collection was intended to be light and minimalistic, working well for both master and guest bathrooms.
The apparently floating console has no visible supports, made possible by an invisible wall fitting that enables this straight-lined design to be showcased to full effect. Tall cabinets, semi-high cabinets, and drawer units complete the collection. The cabinet doors do not have handles. They protrude a little over the edge to facilitate opening. Delos drawers can be opened and closed with a little gentle pressure. A new, interior organizer system offers a particularly tidy solution for the interior.
The Delos countertops are simple and leave plenty of space below. The sink can be mounted under the counter for accessibility or set on top of the counter for a modern look. Towel bars can be attached to any side of the console, making them very easy to reach.
Delos is available in two wood finishes and in a high-gloss white. The real-wood veneers in particular highlight the comfortable character of the bathroom furniture. Choose from dark walnut or light oak.
|Posted on June 24, 2012 at 3:39 PM||comments (37)|
Question: We are about to remodel our kitchen and want to incorporate universal design ideas for aging in place. We’ve read that we will need increased room lighting, but we don’t know how standard lighting is calculated let alone increased lighting. Can you give us an idea of how to determine correct lighting for our new kitchen?
Answer: A well-lit kitchen layers and blends four different types of light: general or ambient lighting in the ceiling, task lighting over sink, cooking and work areas, display lighting in cabinets, and possibly some decorative lighting, like lamps, chandeliers, or wall sconces. The most important lighting to consider for the purposes of aging in place is both general and task lighting.
I recently worked with clients who also were remodeling their kitchen. They had already gone to a kitchen designer/contractor for a new layout but wanted me to review their plans with an eye towards aging in place, and one of the questions that came up was that of adequate lighting.
My clients' windowless, 10’ x 12’, galley kitchen had a single ceiling fixture and there was no task lighting at all. And while the new plan called for under cabinet lighting, there was no plan to change, or add to, the ceiling lighting
After researching the question of illumination levels, I found the simplest calculation to be 8.5 lumens per square foot – walls, ceiling, and floor included. This calculation pertains to general lighting levels only and excludes any under cabinet lighting, which is considered to be task lighting.
So here’s an example:
A 10’ x 15’ by 8’ kitchen has a walls/floor/ceiling surface area of around 700 square feet. An 8.5 in/sf target suggests you might want to build in the capacity to generate at least 5950 total lumens. A basic 50 watt PAR 30 bulb produces about 660 lumens, so I’d use about 9 of them to light up that kitchen.
As for task lighting, islands, areas over the sink and stove, and counter tops require more concentrated, direct lighting since they are work areas. Every section of kitchen counter top needs task lighting. Such lighting can be provided by under cabinet lighting attached to the wall cabinets or by small pendant
fixtures. When planning for task lighting, remember to allow for separate switches rather than a single switch which will allow you to turn on only that counter top lighting that you need rather than all the fixtures at once.
|Posted on June 15, 2012 at 2:24 PM||comments (23)|
June is Home Safety month highlighting the need for fall prevention within the home. Just to set the stage,
Outside of our homes we often have to deal with uneven pavements, crossing lights that change too quickly and force us to hurry, sidewalk and step materials that get slippery when wet, stairs without railings, and poorly lit entrances to name just a few commonly found hazards. Our homes, however, are under our control which gives us the opportunity to remove risks to our safety. So what can we do within our homes to reduce unnecessary hazards that contribute to our risk of injury and falls?
Home Safety Checklist
EXTERIOR ENTRANCES AND EXITS
Check driveways, sidewalks, and walkways to make sure they're free from cracks and
Steps should have a non-slip surface
Handrails are installed on both sides of stairs
Install outdoor lights at all entrances
Outside walkways and sidewalks should be well lit
Make sure the entrance threshold is not a tripping hazard
Door knob, lock, key, peephole & package shelf all work and are easy to use
Place stickers on glass patio doors to prevent walking into them
KITCHEN AND BATHROOMS
Sinks & tub faucets, shower controls and drain plugs are accessible & manageable
Under sink hot water pipes are covered
Task lighting is sufficient
Grab bars installed in shower/tub area
Non-slip treads or coating installed in shower/tub
Mirror height is appropriate to sit & stand
Kitchen shelves are reachable without step stool
There is a surface adjacent to stove for hot food placement
Scatter rugs are secured with non-slip, double sided rug tape
Adjustable height shower head is installed
There is a fire extinguisher in the kitchen
INTERIOR DOORS, WINDOWS, STAIRS, HALLS
Doorways are wide enough for entry
All windows and patio doors open easily, are easy to lock & operate
Stair railings run full length of stairs on both sides and extend slightly beyond them
Stairs have adequate lighting
Light switches are installed at the top and bottom of stairs
There is contrast/texture for floor level changes
Doorway thresholds are not a tripping hazard
Runners and scatter rugs have non-slip pads or rug tape
There are clear pathways in all rooms
Carpeting should lie flat and be securely fastened
All stairs to be in good repair, not loose, broken, missing or worn
Pathways, exits, and halls are clear of miscellaneous items, toys, and cords
HEAT, LIGHT,VENTILATIONS, WATER TEMP CONTROLS, SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS, PHONES
Thermostat is easy to read
Extension cords are tied and out of the way
Add nightlights to increase visibility especially in hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms
Maintain a light or light switch within easy reach of the bed
Always turn on a light before entering a room
There are no scald valves on all faucets
Smoke detectors/CO detectors are in place
Phones are located near bed, sofa, chair
Doorbell & phone are loud enough to be heard
|Posted on May 28, 2012 at 3:23 PM||comments (31)|
About a year and a half ago I posted a blog about housing trends for Seniors which included accessory dwelling units (ADU’s) like the FabCab and MEDCottage (aka Granny Pods). These self-contained units range in size from 300 to 1800 square feet, include features that support aging in place, and incorporate universal design along with electronic monitoring and medical care equipment options. All are pretty much built in a factory, prepared for on-site assembly, trucked to your location and set on a foundation. The advantages are obvious - these pre-built units take up no more space than an apartment, are easily assembled and disassembled, and allow for independence and privacy with family caregivers close at hand.
Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article, “In-the-Backyard, Grandma’s New Apartment” by SusanSeliger about the same topic with some interesting updates.
The article is about a doctor in Virginia whose parents could no longer live independently and decided to move in with her rather than an assisted living facility. The layout of her home however, proved to be physically unsuitable for her aging parents and so the family ordered a MEDCottage to be installed in the backyard. This month they will become the first U.S. customers to install this 288 sq ft pre-built, free standing unit equipped with assorted high tech devices (a hallway mat that lights up automatically as you walk on it), durable medical equipment (an integrated ceiling lift), and medical monitoring devices (technology that tracks blood pressure, glucose and heart rate and automatically shares this information with both the caregiver and the client’s physicians).
There are other prefab units on the market similar to the MEDCottage. Practical Assisted Living Structures (P.A.L.S.) are 280 sq ft, portable units that can be customized to an individual client’s needs. Some features include closet rods that can be lowered to wheelchair level, a night light system on automatic sensors, and bathrooms equipped with no-step showers and grab bars.
As for pricing, the MEDCottage costs $85,000/year new but the distributors will buy it back for $38,000 after 2 years of use. A P.A.L.S. starts at approximately $67,000 or can be leased at $1,700 per month.
Interested? You’ll first need to check your local zoning laws. At present only about half the states allow these units for family members, although there are additional states currently considering legislation that would permit backyard ADU’s.
|Posted on May 19, 2012 at 6:05 PM||comments (57)|
While there are many people who would benefit from home modifications, finding the money to pay for them can be difficult. Unless one has private funds, is entitled to VA benefits, has a long term care policy that pays for accessibility modifications, or can draw equity out of their home, there is little else that pays for adapting a home for safety and accessibility. Local governments used to be a source of funding for these projects through Community Development Block Grants (CDBG funds) but today most of that money has dried up.
The challenge then is finding resources to help families that need these type of modifications but cannot afford to pay for this work themselves.
Rebuilding Together is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization providing critical home repairs, modifications and improvements for America’s low-income homeowners. Their “Safe at Home” program addresses home repair and maintenance issues that may otherwise present a safety risk or that limit access to or within the home.
Safe at Home covers a variety of strategies, including:
Safe at Home modifications cover fall prevention, fire safety and general safety issues.
Rebuilding Together and their affiliates can’t do it all on their own so collaborating with national and local organizations is a critical factor in a holistic approach to service delivery. Community partners include but are not limited to:
Look for your local chapter of Rebuilding Together and find out more on their website: http://rebuildingtogether.org/whatwedo/how-we-help/safehomes
|Posted on May 4, 2012 at 4:37 PM||comments (26)|
Along with the desire to age in place comes the question of exactly where to age. Should you stay in your existing home or move to another? If you stay, should you renovate to improve comfort and safety and will those renovations add value to your home? If you move to a different location, should you purchase another home or is it more practical to rent?
No matter which option you’re leaning towards, you’ll need to factor in an evaluation of the current housing market along with emerging trends.
The Colton Housing Group recently conducted a national study among 3,005 homeowners and renters to better understand how Americans feel about today’s housing market and their aspirations for owning or renting a home in the future. The survey and six focus groups were commissioned by Hanley Wood, LLC, and its two main publications, BUILDER and REMODELING magazines.
The 70-question survey focused on attitudes towards the current housing market and problems encountered in the home buying process. Do Americans still view housing as a good investment? Is now a good or bad time to buy or remodel? How do consumers feel about obtaining a mortgage in today’s environment? Is homeownership still important? How do consumers compare owning with renting? Do consumer expectations vary among different age groups and socio-economic segments of the population?
The result of the survey paints an uncomfortable future for the nation’s housing market in the short term — a market where credit is tight and one where there is little urgency to buy now. It clearly identifies major bottlenecks in the mortgage market that are keeping many buyers on the sidelines and preventing any significant rebound in housing activity.
Over the long term, however, the survey tells a more positive story. Specifically, the survey findings show that the desire to own a home has not been derailed by the difficult economic times we're experiencing and that Americans generally understand the important role housing plays in creating new jobs, generating household wealth, and sustaining a long term economic recovery.
First, the question of rent or buy. While the dream of owning a home is certainly alive and well, renting is on the rise because for many it’s become the only option due to tough lending requirements. When asked what sort of housing they would look for if moving to a new location, 62% of the renters said they would have no choice but to rent again. In sharp contrast, only 10% of home-owning households said they would rent rather than buy another home. According to real estate website Trulia, buying was cheaper than renting in 74% of the country's 50 largest cities. In addition to a continuing decline in home prices, low interest rates have added a lot of weight to the buy side of the scale. Add in the tax perks of home ownership and for those who can afford it, it’s still a buyer's market.
So, what are the expectations for home prices during the next year? More than one-fourth (28%) of the homeowners expect to see some decline in prices in the year ahead, and one-third (33%) expect some increase in prices in their market area. Expectations vary from region to region. In the Northeast, 24% of the owners expect home prices to decline some in the year ahead, and 35% expect prices to increase. In the West and Midwest, about 30% of the owners expect prices to decline some, and another 30% expect home prices to rise. In the South, 27% of the owners are expecting prices to decline a bit more, and 34% expect prices to rise in the year ahead.
In response to the question, “Have changes in home prices influenced your home-buying decision?” 35% of owners and 38% of renters said yes. And while 50% of homeowners under the age of 35 reported that changes in home prices influenced their home buying decision, that percentage fell with age: 37% for owners in the 35-44 age group, 28% for 45- to 64-year olds, and 17% for owner aged 65 or older.
What seems to be sorely lacking in today’s market is not desire but a real sense of urgency to buy a home now. Two out of three homeowners and 23% of renters are comfortable with their current living arrangements. And both owners (40%) and renters (45%) cited “no urgency to buy now” as one of the principal reasons for staying out of the market.
Another trend reflected in the survey findings is the increasing number of people who are doubling-up with friends and family. More than one-third of the owner households and about one fourth of the renter households are doubling-up – young adults with parents, elderly parents with their adult children or grandchildren, unrelated adults living together. In order to project future housing demand, it is important to recognize the trend and understand why it’s occurring, whether it’s to cut expenses and ride out the recession, care for an aging parent, or for some other reason.
For those who question whether or not to renovate in order to remain in their current home, remodeling is becoming a more attractive option in today’s housing market. One out of five homeowners (22%) has recently completed a remodeling job or plans to remodel in the next two years instead of buying another home. Baby-boom generation homeowners are the most optimistic about the remodeling market, not a surprise given that homeowners over age 50 had a strong preference for staying in their current home throughout their retirement years. Among all respondents 50 or older, more than half (54%) said that they would stay in their current home for their entire retirement. Another 18% said they would stay in their current home first then buy another home later, and 10% said they would move to a different home (brand new or existing) before retiring or had already bought another home after retiring.
So all that said, what’s the bottom line? Home ownership remains an important part of the American experience and receives broad-based support from all age, ethnic, and income groups. And even though more than half of the homeowners surveyed experienced some decline in their home’s value over the past year, they still regard homeownership as a good, long term investment.
|Posted on April 24, 2012 at 10:27 AM||comments (27)|
Question: My husband and I recently retired and decided to move to another area of the country. We sold our larger, family home and purchased a two bedroom condo in our new location. I'm struggling with how to turn this much smaller space into something that feels comfortable. What can you suggest?
Answer: Decorating a small space can be a big challenge, so here are some tips for creating a spacious feeling in your new home.
Stick to a single color palette. A monochromatic room can feel clean and calming. Vary the tones and textures of a single color and keep all of your furniture in a light, muted palette. Break your color scheme with a few saturated accents.
Make your furniture multi-task. Look for furniture that does double duty - a cabinet that folds out into a guest bed, or a desk that expands into a table. These units are completely functional when opened but can easily be minimized when not required to save on space.
Create Illusions. Define different living areas with half walls or open room dividers which help to open up the space visually. Area rugs will do the same thing. Color and contrast also work to make a room appear larger or smaller. The more saturated the wall color is, the more the walls seem to advance towards you creating the feeling of a smaller room. The paler the color, the more the walls seem to recede, making the room appear larger.
Use vertical space as well as horizontal space. Do not ignore the value of wall space. Build shelves under staircases, install floor to ceiling kitchen cabinets, hang pots over your stove and utensils from a wall over a work counter. You can also install open or closed cabinetry over a desk and a built-in medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
Bigger is better. A lot of small furniture can make a room feel cluttered. Instead, arrange the room around a few prominent pieces to make the room feel sleeker. Lightweight pieces in simple designs work best. Furniture with legs make your rooms appear larger as do glass tables.
Work from the top down. An overhead focal point draws the eye upward and increases the visual height of a room. Choose a ceiling color a few shades lighter than your walls for an uninterrupted floor-to-ceiling flow.
Make every closet count. Custom designing your closets will give you maximum use of that very valuable space. Don't settle for a simple rod and shelf -- you'll be amazed at how much storage you can get in a well designed closet.
Select accessories you love. Keeping things simple helps a small space seem uncluttered, but a house becomes a home when it’s filled with things you love. Hang the chandelier you found at the flea market, display the carving from one of your travels, and hang that well loved quilt. Not only will your favorite accessories make your home more interesting to others but they will give you a sense that you are indeed still home.