Let’s Look At 2014 With New Eyes

I'm OK. My environment needs adjustment.

I’m OK. My environment needs adjustment.

Many years ago when my daughter Tracy, now 26, was in elementary school she loved to do the hidden pictures puzzles in the Highlights for Children magazine. One morning we were doing the puzzle together and we couldn’t find some of the pictures that were supposed to be there. We became more and more frustrated until one of us had the brilliant idea of turning the magazine upside down so we could see the picture with new perspective. I don’t remember if we ever found everything we were supposed to, but I do remember that all of a sudden Tracy exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, the bus!” We’d gotten so wrapped up in the puzzle that she missed the school bus that morning. It’s given us something to remember and laugh about for years.

The puzzles in life have changed, but we still face challenges. Suppose we pledge in this new year to see life from a fresh perspective? Suppose that instead of beating ourselves up for aging, for being less strong or energetic than when we were younger, we look at what adjustments can be made to the systems and environment around us? We aren’t failures. We’re human beings who need support. Perhaps the environment that surrounds us and the systems that order our lives are at fault. Instead of deciding that we can’t continue to live in our homes because we have trouble with stairs, for example, why not decide to modify the home? Replace the front walk and steep steps to the porch with a nicely landscaped walk that gently slopes up to your front door. Are you worried that one day you won’t be able to get around without a wheelchair or a walker? Instead of just freshening up the paint in the bathroom and maybe replacing the old vanity, take a good look at your bathroom. Could you fit a wheelchair or walker through the doorway? Perhaps you’d be best off using a contractor who works with a designer who specializes in functional design for those who need assistive devices.

Take it easy on yourself and get tough on your environment. What modifications does your community need to make to support long life? What solutions can you come up with to help create an environment that serves the aging population rather than punishes or demeans this growing group of people?

Loving Life and Loving Myself

Loving Life and Loving Myself

2 comments

  1. I just visited a friend who modified his bathroom shower removing the glass door and 5″ step over ledge and built in seat ledge that no one ever used because it was so slippery when you sat down that your bum would slide right off of it – very dangerous. He did exactly what you proposed and made it into a roll-in shower should he ever need to be in a wheelchair. I like that idea. My daughter, who majored in interior design said that EVERY HOUSE should have, and be built with, safety bars in the bathrooms and other “universal design” ideas and wide doors no matter the age of the occupants. I agree. Until we demand this, cuts in cost will be made. The population is aging and this helps resale values also. There are also door hinges that can replace regular door hinges to make the door open a tad wider (providing they are wide enough for a wheelchair to barely slip through anyway.) One thing I have decided is that I definitely don’t want to be in a multi level home as I age. A basement would be nice but if I even find a home with one I will definitely be sure that the staircase is wide enough to put a stair chair rail in it and do that while I have the finances and mobility to do so BEFORE I might need it. My theory is that the chair can be stored until needed (in said basement). :-)

  2. Other thoughts that I gleaned from being a “love-giver” (caregiver) for my parents and disabled friends: Keep wall to wall carpet in the bedrooms (to cushion falls) but have easy to maintain (and walker and wheelchair friendly) flooring in traffic areas. Get rid of all area rugs (especially small ones in the middle of the room) and especially carpet runners in hallways and other “trip hazards”. If a person is living alone or unaccompanied often, consider also having a “Life Alert” or other notification button to an emergency center installed about 4-5″ from the floor or right above the baseboard in the bathroom in the vicinity of the toilet and shower. Phones are usually not in a bathroom and yet this is an area where many falls occur and the person may be unable to get up or yell loud enough to call someone but could still reach this button in an emergency. This would function similarly to the “call cord” you see in ALF’s or hospitals.

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