For me, an Occupational Therapy professional of over 24 years, I’m excited to hear more about how the WA State 50+/Accessibility Housing Council will support the role of OT’s. Click this link to view the event information for March 3rd during the BIAW’s State Winter Board meeting in Olympia. This is an exciting movement forward for to serve this quickly growing segment of the housing industry. Where will all these baby boomers live if we don’t have homes designed to meet their needs? It is more than a housing concern, it is a social concern, one that will effect all of us. As an Occupational Therapy professional specializing in this area it’s been a long, sometimes frustrating road with attempts to educate the importance of building or remodeling ‘right’ the first time. If I do say so myself, we have a lot to offer this unique client in terms of function and safety to keep them in their desired home.
Why should home designers and design consultants consider ‘fall prevention’ factors when designing new or modifying existing space? Do you realize that ‘falls’ are considered a national health epidemic by the Center on Disease Control? Approximately one-third of all documented falls that lead to hospitalization happen in or around the home. There are 4 primary factors that are linked to falls and being aware of these factors can provide an opportunity to prevent a fall, if you take the necessary steps to prevention.
The top 4 factors that have been identified by primary care doctors, fire departments and emergency rooms are:
1) General weakness
2) Environmental causes
As a Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant, Interior Design Consultant, and Certified Aging in Place Specialist, this is my passion and area of expertise. The general population desires to remain in their home for as long as possible and I want to help them achieve that goal! Unfortunately, the typical builder, contractor, architect and home designer don’t take these factors into consideration when designing for your new space. In their defense, it’s not their area of expertise. BUT this is why todays home design team should consider consulting with a health care professional who specializes in Universal, Aging in Place, and/or Accessible Design. Todays client should be given an opportunity to consult with a specialist who understands the unique needs of our aging population and the design solutions that can benefit them.
You don’t have to be ‘old’ to consider these design solutions. They are beneficial to EVERYONE, young and old. With the return of the Multi-Gneraltional family on the rise, there are important features that can make a home functional for everyones height, size, or ability. Even if this isn’t YOUR forever home, the thought that goes into your home design or modifications can benefit society at large and make that home more marketable to the vast majority.
Why is ‘fall prevention’ so important? It’s a matter of maintaining quality of life. As a rehabilitation therapist I’ve seen what how a traumatic fall can change a persons life forever. Unfortunately, most of these individuals never fully recover to their prior level of function, often deteriorate after returning home, frequently fall and are hospitalized again within 6 months. A large factor in why people deteriorate after returning home is because their homes present barriers to their independence. If a person doesn’t feel safe, fear will prevent them from mobility or completing activity’s of daily living, leading to the cycle of physical deterioration again. The truth of “if you don’t use, it you loose it” is true, whether the task is physical or mental. Mental deterioration also happens as our independence diminishes.
Solutions for maintaining your quality of life in the ‘fall prevention’ areas are;
1) Stay strong, active, and mentally engaged
2) Have your home assessed by an Occupational/Physical Therapy professional with CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist), and make necessary modifications
3) Have your eye sight checked every year, or after a traumatic event
4) Keep your medications up to date, and reviewed for compatibility by a pharmacist
Occupational Therapy professionals have unique skills that can benefit ‘the building team’. The need to build and remodel homes that provide long term ‘Accessibility’ is not only smart, but is also a sustainable practice by decreasing the use of natural resources.
The diverse education and training Occupational Therapy professionals undergo are directly related to how a person functions physically, psychologically, and socially. Our focus lies in maximizing peoples independence and safety within their environment. With an understanding of disease processes (many come with aging) and training in analysis of functional movement we are able to recommend environmental adaptations which would enhance these factors for all people despite any disability. OT’s have training in assessment of persons throughout the lifespan and specialize in awareness of psychological, social, emotional health related to life transitions.
The benefits to the homeowner would be:
1) An enhanced quality of life by having a home that suits there individual needs 2) Enable occupants to enjoy full use of their home 3) Maintain personal independence 4) They could welcome guests of different ages and abilities
Why the importance? Consider these Aging demographics:
- By 2020 – 25% of population will be 65 years of age.
- 85+% of these people desire to remain living in their homes
- Nearly 50% will acquire some health challenge, that will affect their functional mobility
- Nursing Homes/Assisted Living Communities $$$ = unaffordable for long periods
Who would benefit from my Custom Design Services
1) People desiring to “build their last home” or, “retire in this home”
2) A person with a disability, progressive disease, or ‘health problem’
3) Someone who is planning to have their parents move in with them at some point
4) Anyone uncomfortable making decisions in regards to coordinating their interiors
5) Someone overwhelmed by the building process or the choices they need to make
6) Anyone concerned with visitors being able to ‘access’ or ‘get around in’ their home
7) Anyone planning to downsize from their previous home
Why have we only been concerned with the principles of ergonomics related to office space? Wouldn’t the same concerns prevail in other areas of a home that we use frequently? Concerns such as; use of aggravated joints or muscle, personal safety when reaching out of our comfort, and repetitive movements that strain or challenge appropriate body mechanics.
These are all good reasons to consider thinking ‘outside the box’ when it comes to designing the important work spaces of your home, whether it be the kitchen, closet, bathrooms, garage storage, or office. Why should we settle for ‘standard’ size cabinets, back splash and wall cabinets heights? Are people ‘all the same size’ ? NO, and neither should our work space be designed as a ‘one size fits all’.
When you have the option to custom remodel, or build your new home consider having Trusted Transitions NW design and organize your work space to fit you! Your body will thank you when you can easily reach frequently used items without compromising your safety and comfort.
Allow me the opportunity to help you see ‘outside the box’ which is what ‘custom’ home design should mean. ~ Christine
Christine will be presenting at the Clark County Home Idea Fair April 25th at 2:00 pm on this topic. Come over and share with friends and relatives planning to build in the near future! See you there ~
It is for responsible people who want to ensure their quality of life and live it out in dignity, without being a burden to their family or community. Regardless of whether you have retired or not, it’s for you, right now! IF you haven’t retired yet, it means you have time to think about your needs, research your options and put together a plan that is good for you and your family. If you have retired, putting the time in to building a plan will help keep you in control of your life. Building a plan will help you deal with issues you will encounter down the road and ease some of the burden your loved ones will experience.
Choices you should make NOW are:
* How you want to spend your retirement years
* How you want your home to be set up (is it accessible, safe, and comfortable for someone at a wheel chair level?)
* What your health care choices will be (Medicare, Medicaid, Long Term Care)
* Which types of assistance are right for you (in -home care, adult day care, respite)
* What your wishes are for major life events (sickness, housing transitions, financial decisions)
Makin these choices gives you control over your independence, quality of life and dignity. Most importantly to note, aging in place does not mean you have to do everything yourself….that is where the plan comes in. It means you get to plan how your needs are met, who meets them and when.
Trusted Transitions NW is here to assess your safety and the accessibility of your home! We will provide solutions to modify your existing home, or help you with the design of a new home of which you desire to ‘age in place’.
I was recently featured in an article in The Reflector:
Aging-in-place is a growing trend among retirees, individuals with long-term disabilities and those with physical challenges who desire to remain in their homes.
Rising health care costs, a rapidly-aging population and resurgent housing market are creating a demand for home-based modifications and design/build services. In addition, an increased rate of falls within the home have created public health issues. Government agencies, aging-in-place (AIP) design consultants and contractors are paying close attention and providing solutions.
Depending on the needs of the family, design consultants and contractors apply universal or accessible design and build services. ‘Universal’ refers to a visit-friendly environment and ‘accessible’ addresses specialized and individualized needs.