Five Key Components to Aging in Place – Livable Homes

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Sally Smith:  Welcome to Age to Age.  I’m Sally Smith.  Let’s talk.  Today, we have Paul Franklin with us.  Paul is Chairman of Aging in Place, an organization that helps people plan and work toward aging in the place they want to age in, which is usually their home.  Paul, thank you so much for joining us today.


Paul Franklin:  Thank you very much.


Sally Smith:  We’ve been talking about the five key components to aging in place, and they are, according to your literature, healthy living, livable homes, financial and legal, supportive relationships, and transportation.  Tell me what you mean when you say, livable homes. 


Paul Franklin:  Well, we’re talking about, basically, having a home that matches your circumstances.  For example, what if you had a visitor to your home that has a walker, or wheelchair, does your home really accommodate that kind of visitor?  And, if something were to happen, say, for you or your spouse, how would you get in and out of the home?  In other words, are there steps that you have to go up and down?  Is there a way to accommodate a person to get into your house and exit your home easily? 


What about in the bathroom, in the shower, for example, do you have a shower where there’s no curb; you can just roll right in with a wheelchair, or a walker?  These are things that people don’t think about until they have to raise their legs, or whatever, to get into a shower, or to try to get up from going to the bathroom.  So, grab bars are important in the restroom and, certainly, in the shower area.  And what about lighting?  Many times people forget about being able to see when they open that medicine cabinet, and you can’t see those labels on those medication bottles.  It’s very important to be able to see things properly.


What about the aspect of just opening a door?  You know, the old door knobs are not very conducive for someone with arthritis.  So what we do, we try to look at a lever handle.  That’s much easier to grab.  In the kitchen area, for some reason people seem to think that you’ve got to stand up to cook.  What we need to do there is make sure that we have work areas in the kitchen that, if you’re in a wheelchair, or whatever, you can walk right up or just sit in a chair and do your work.


Sally Smith:  I never thought of that.


Paul Franklin:  The same is true with the washer and dryer.  Who says you have to bend over to put things in a washer or dryer?  Why not elevate them so that they’re at a level that you don’t have to bend your body, or hurt your back, in order to do your wash?  The same with the dishwasher, you know, elevate the dishwasher so you can get to it easily.


And what about a cabinet, let’s say that you want to get a dish and it’s way up high on a shelf?  They’re actually shelves, now, that come down to your level, that you can activate.  So, there are all kinds of things in the home that you need to do to be prepared for when circumstances change.  You can live very comfortably in your own home with very little accommodations, in many cases.


Sally Smith:  Well, you know, I think part of that too, Paul, is thinking outside the box, just as you’ve said, why cook standing up?  When you think about it, honestly, if I had a very low table, I could be in a chair.  And, thinking outside the box in the configuration of your home, sometimes a dining room might need to be converted to a bedroom, or something on a lower level.  I’m sure that there are many creative ways that people can help.  I’m thinking, too, what about with a low level of forgetfulness, are there certain things that automatically turn off the oven, or timers that lock doors at a certain hour of night, or turn things on, does that help someone stay in their home a little longer?


Paul Franklin:  Absolutely.  There are a number of things like that.  There are motion detectors, for example, to turn light switches, and different things, off and on.  And, actually, people don’t have to figure all this out by themselves.  That’s the reason we recommend that people have an assessment of their home done, to see how accessible it might be.  And there’s actually a specialization, a CAPs (Certified Aging- in-Place specialist).


Sally Smith:  Really?


Paul Franklin:  Yes.  And it’s a designation that has been set up by the National Association of Home Builders, in Washington DC.  So, people can actually take the course and receive this designation.  They’re usually engineers or contractors, or architects that, basically, have gone through this program.  They go into a home and help and do that sort of thing.  We have those people listed in our directory.  One is Citadel Enterprises, in Mount Pleasant.  Peter Lloyd, there, is a CAPs person.  We also have one in North Charleston, Atlantic Builders, Tori Martindale.  So, these are resources that people, again, can tap into without trying to, themselves, do all the research that it would take to really make sure that you’re covering everything you can think of to make your life easier.


Sally Smith:  Well, you know, it makes sense.  It also makes sense economically, financially, to build homes with a little of this in mind, looking to the future.  I know, my daughter, who is young and able, with little children, in Atlanta, they built a house, but they saved a stack closet so that, down the road, they can have an elevator that goes down to where the car is parked, things like that which aren’t needed at this point.  The house is equipped for what’s down the line.  The doors are all a little bit wider.  I mean, it’s just a smart way to make your house, actually, more valuable.   


Paul Franklin:  It is a smart decision and, actually, there’s a term for it.  It’s called universal design.  And one of the leading places for this is North Carolina State University.  They have the Center for Universal Design there, and that’s what they specialize in, so people can go there, and they have different models, and so forth, and they teach classes on how to do this for specialists in this area.  But, it’s all the things that you mentioned.  Building into a home the kinds of things that people don’t normally think of, that will really come in handy when you get ready to sell a home later.  And I think it’s a wonderful investment.


Sally Smith:  And it’s allowing that flexibility, and that future, which is just so smart.  I think it’s fascinating that there’s a whole specialty in this field.  It’s really curious.  As I saw, in your literature, you have something like thirty-three pages of resources on every facet on aging in place.  And what a world of information, how much entrepreneurship, really, this whole field has fostered, and given birth to, because people really do need this.  These things have not been thought of quite that way, in an organized fashion, before.  It’s neat to think you can get a specialist to come to your house, who knows what’s out there, knows all the options, and can walk through and say, you know, in your case, these four things would make all the difference.


Paul Franklin:  That’s right.  And, you know, we also include in our livable residents category, assisted living facilities, quite frankly, because, in some cases, you need that.  And they’ve done a lot of planning for you.  Even in continuous care communities, people that don’t want to go through all of the hassle, let’s say, of keeping up that yard, and keeping up with their homes, can, certainly, tap into other options. And that’s what’s so wonderful about America and the free enterprise system.


Sally Smith:  Yes!


Paul Franklin:  People have options.  That’s right, people have options. 


Sally Smith:  I love it.  I was hearing somebody speaking, and I’ve forgotten who it was now, they were saying, you know, we complain about this, that and the other but, actually, when you travel around, and you look at how people live in the world, you come back to America and say, this may not be perfect but let me tell you what, I love my freedom of choice.  I love my options.


Paul Franklin:  That’s right.


Sally Smith:  Paul, thank you so much for sharing that about livable homes.


Paul Franklin:  Thank you.


Sally Smith:  Thanks to all of our listeners too for joining us.  We always welcome your suggestions and comments.  This is Sally Smith, Age to Age, saying good-bye and wishing you courage and joy on your journey.  We are all connected. 


If you enjoy listening to Sally Smith, you can buy her book, The Circle.  It’s the story of how she personally responded to her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a wonderful gift of hope for anyone with a parent with dementia.  Just click on Sally Smith’s name under the Health Professionals tab on the Podcast home page.  All profits support research at the Center on Aging.  Thanks.

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