The holiday tasks are keeping me hopping, so here's a repeat of a blog from December 2014.
In this holiday season, many of us look forward to gathering with family and friends, often at someone’s home, for meals, conversation and celebration. We’re excited to decorate our homes with seasonal ornamentation and share hospitality with visitors. In the midst of merrymaking, though, you might notice with disappointment that some people tactfully decline your invitations or suggest alternate locations such as restaurants.
With everything ready to accommodate visitors inside the house, is your home really easy for visitors to navigate from outside?
Observe how people enter your home. Think about all kinds of visitors who may find it tough to reach your entry doors. Are you immediately thinking of someone aging who’s in a wheelchair? Visitors can be any age with short-term or long-term movement challenges:
- Your niece pushing a dual stroller with her new twins,
- A teenager with a full leg cast and crutches due to a sports injury,
- Your mother using a cane because her arthritis flares up when the weather’s cold,
- Your cousin leaning on a walker due to his intermittent multiple sclerosis.
Changes can make it easier for callers to stop by...
and prepare your home to meet your future aging-in-place needs at the same time. Fine-tune the adaptations by asking your friends and family to field test the changes. Confirm that people feel comfortable with levels of lighting and support, safe from falling or upsetting a stroller or wheelchair, and secure that there is enough room to maneuver.
First, let’s consider lighting.
Yes, it’s tough to admit, but our eyes need substantially more light as we get older. Even younger eyes can be affecting by allergies or distractions like texting, so lighting plans are useful for everyone. Check that the light at your front door is bright enough. Light fixtures with ratings from the Dark Sky Association can be great options. You’ll want the fixture to direct light downward and clearly illuminate the door and walking surface in front of it. Downward shielding can also reduce glare, which is another visual challenge for aging eyes.
Make it easy for visitors to enter your home:
- A shelf or table near door to rest packages while knocking or opening the door
- A doorbell or knocker visible after dark, easy to operate
- A lever handle rather than knob on the door for limited grip use
- Decorations on steps and around door that are seated firmly on the porch
- Decorations that are easy to maneuver around with a walker or wheelchair
- If the path to the door is long and includes many steps or a lengthy ramp, a chair or bench at the top for visitors to catch their breathe
- Holiday lights that avoid glare and shadows on walkway or doorstep
Often, homes are constructed with a threshold that requires a step up to enter the home. Or you may have a short staircase right before the landing at the door. One solution is to design a ramp that goes over the threshold or staircase. Evaluate handrails, too. Would someone using a walker feel secure on this ramp? Would someone you expect to visit need to lean on handrails for support or guidance?
Asking potential users is the best way to find out if your solutions are on target and comfortable for them.
If you are able-bodied, it can be difficult to imagine the mobility differences and challenges someone with a disability can face. Talking with your visitors who move with difficulty, even if it's a short-term handicap, is good practice for making others feel that your home is a most hospitable – and visitable - place.
And isn't the joy of gathering with friends and family a good part of what this holiday season is all about?