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Friday, January 29, 2010

Things to consider for Aging In Place design

** Today's guest blogger:
Abbie Sladick, CGR, a certified Aging in Place Specialist by the National Association of Homebuilders and expert in Universal Design, has consulted on many articles and publications. She is a member of the advisory council for the National Kitchen and Bath Association and has also sat on the American Society of Interior Designer’s (ASID) National Council on Aging in Place and Universal Design. She was recently recognized by Qualified Remodeler Magazine as a Top 500 Remodeler, and has received the Master Design Award for Universal Design. Sladick also founded and oversees two companies: Abbie Joan Enterprises, a remodeling firm specializing in interior remodeling projects, and Great Grabz,, a designers and manufacturer of decorative grab bars and safety fixtures.
This past weekend, I took a ride to visit my aunt and uncle who live about 2 hours away. They have just moved from a story townhouse with the master on the first floor to a 3 bedroom apartment. This has been a year of tremendous physical and emotional stress for them. The move could not have come at a better time.
My uncle is 85 and is a bipedal amputee from diabetes. He loves an active life and exercises, but moving from standing to sitting is becoming more difficult. My aunt is 78 and is having many issues that are slowing her down and creating balance problems. She has always been a take charge person and truly resents these physical changes.
They made the decision to move this fall. Luckily they sold there home in 2 weeks. They decided to rent vs. purchase to limit monthly expenses and allow them to be more flexible in the upcoming years. It is a very good time to rent in Boca Raton, Florida.
When they purchased their home 16 years ago, they thought that it would be their last residence. The townhouse had all of the Aging in Place and accessibility modifications that we could think of. There were ramps at the entrances, well placed grab bars, a roll in shower, and many kitchen modifications to make life easier. This fall they decided this was not enough. Simple physical tasks became overwhelming and they put the house on the market.
The tasks that became overwhelming are everyday activities that we might take for granted.
  • Getting things out of the car and maneuvering their cart in the standard 2 car garage.
  • Carrying the laundry across the house from the utility room to the bedroom.
  • Rolling the garbage and recycling up the short drive.
  • There larger home required constant maintenance and this created added stress.
The move to a smaller apartment with a common parking garage and elevator eliminated many of these problems. Maintenance is always one call away and there is a garbage shoot at the door. It may be farther to walk from the car to the front door, but a cart is always handy for carrying and balance.
This visit opened my eyes to the fact that we can make many great home modification suggestions, but ensuring that money is spent on the right residence is very important. Living in a stressful physical and financial situation can limit people’s ability to stay independent.
They now have a few new Great Grabz grab bars in their bathroom and they are living a much more comfortable and secure life. They are entertaining friends, becoming more social in the building and needing less assistance from family. It was a great Aging in Place decision – Just a new place.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Principles of Universal Design

The beginning of a New Year is always a good time to look back on what we have accomplished of the past 365 days, review the basics and make exciting plans for the year ahead. The University of North Carolina's Center for Universal Design has published a very easy to reference chart of 7 principles. Take a few minutes to review them … dream big...and change the world one room at a time.
The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

1: Principle One: Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities
supermarket doors
  • Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible;
    equivalent when not.
  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
  • Make the design appealing to all users.

2: Principle Two: Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
large grip scissors
  • Provide choice in methods of use.
  • Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.
  • Facilitate the user's accuracy and precision.
  • Provide adaptability to the user's pace.

3: Principle Three: simple and intuitive

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
furniture instructions
  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance.
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

4: Principle Four: Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities.
    round thermostat
  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • Maximize "legibility" of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

5: Principle Five: Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
computer undo function
  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
  • Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
  • Provide fail safe features.
  • Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

6: Principle Six: Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
    door handle
  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
  • Use reasonable operating forces.
  • Minimize repetitive actions.
  • Minimize sustained physical effort

7: Principle Seven: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility.
    subway gate
  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.
Please note:
These Principles of Universal Design:
  • address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability. Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes.
  • offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible. All Guidelines may not be relevant to all designs.

      Version 2.0 4/1/97 Compiled by advocates of universal design, listed in alphabetical order: Bettye Rose Connell, Mike Jones, Ron Mace, Jim Mueller, Abir Mullick, Elaine Ostroff, Jon Sanford, Ed Steinfeld, Molly Story, & Gregg Vanderheiden
There are also the Universal Design, Principles & Guidelines available through Trace Research and Development Center. On their website you will find additional references and information about Universal Design.
Copyright © 1997 NC
State University, The Center for Universal Design. “The Principles of Universal Design were conceived and developed by The Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University. Use or application of the Principles in any form by an individual or organization is separate and distinct from the Principles and does not constitute or imply acceptance or endorsement by The
Center for Universal Design of the use or application.”

Friday, January 8, 2010

Universal Design in a Can

Here is a FUN and universally designed product.

“Batter Blaster“ is pancake and waffle mix in a pressurized can for quick and easy breakfasts. The product is the brain child of Sean O’Connor. It was introduced in 2005 and has sold over 5 million cans. This fun- to- use product is great for the youngest to the oldest breakfast lover, whether they have full abilities or may have limited physical abilities.
You may be thinking ………this product is ridiculous…… but it brings out a great point about where our society should be going in Universal Design.
Products should have to have a Positive Emotional Appeal.
  • Fun
  • Beautiful
  • Great to touch
  • Engaging
Many of the solutions available in the past have been institutional in feel and have evoked negative emotional reaction. With the number of Baby Boomers growing by the day, it is now the time to introduce products that empower, enable and appeal.
Have a great day!
Hana Hammer

How Green is Green?

Are you thinking about “Going Green” for the New Year? Like any New Year’s Resolution, it is hard to keep if you plan to do it all at once.

Where do you begin? If you are one of the thousands of home owners in the US planning a bathroom remodel in 2010 you have found a great place to start.

Begin by asking yourself a few questions. Do materials ultimately determine what shade of green a bath will be or does the water usage in the bathroom once it is in use by the home owner determine how green the space is? I believe that the answer is a personal one. Green is in the eye of the beholder.

Here are some ways that a bathroom can be green:

  • Conservation of water usage - by using a Low Flow Shower Heads you save up to 30% on your water usage without sacrificing a great shower

  • Materials from local sources minimizes your carbon footprint. If you are lucky enough to live in an area with a Cabinetry Company you can use regionally grown woods by local trades people.
  • On-demand water heaters have been in use worldwide for years. They are a great way to save space, save water and energy.
  • Anti-Microbial coatings in areas where water can deposit is a effective way of preventing the spread of germs in the bathroom.

The discussion of green often promotes more questions than answers, but it offers the bath designer and the homeowner an incredible opportunity to explore options and come up with an amazing end result. New products are introduced daily giving us more design opportunities and tools to be greener than ever before.

Happy New Year!

Hana Hammer

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sink Positive about Green

According to the World Health Organization “water scarcity affects one in three people on every continent and is getting worse as water needs rise with population growth, urbanization and the increased usage by households and industry.”

This situation is no longer just a concern of third world countries. With California in its third year of drought this is a situation that requires our attention in new home construction, remodeling and appliance purchases. Thoughtful design addresses not just form and function, but careful use of resources, both monetary and environmental. Each of us can make a difference.

Here is a fun product that thinks out of the box. It is called the "Sink Positive". It saves water and space, is hygienic by being hands free and is interactive for all ages. What a great way to get the kids to wash there hands!

Being Green can be fun and a shown here doesn't have to be a lot of hard work. Let us know about other fun green items that you have found.

Hana Hammer

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Keeping it in Focus

5:45 am - The alarm goes off and it is time to pop out of bed to head for the gym. So much time and energy trying to keep toned and tight, than I head to the bathroom and look in the mirror, I am confronted by a mean trick of aging. I can’t see anything close up!

Each day over 45, it seems that I am being slowly mocked by Mother Nature. As we age, the elasticity of the lens of our eyes becomes worse and it is more difficult for our eyes to naturally adjust to changes in light and vision conditions.

Now like millions of others, I am constantly reaching for my reading glasses, but the reality is I am not ready to wear them on a chain around my neck. Reading glasses also have some major draw backs in the bathroom – they fog and get in the way.

Through no fault of its own, the bathroom is generally the most improperly lit room in one’s home. Because it is frequently the smallest room in the home, many people think that a single light fixture can sufficiently illuminate the entire space. The bathroom is a place in which a range of functions are preformed, and each task must be illuminated properly.

Here are a few easy tips to make your morning easier and to keep you bright and in focus:

  • Use a lit magnifying makeup mirror. They come in both wall mounted and vanity styles. There are a variety of magnifying strengths 5x, 10x and even 20x. Try before you buy to make sure you like the strength. I found that more was not always better. There are a few pores and wrinkles I like to keep hidden……even from myself.
  • Make sure that you have adequate light in the shower. For safety reasons the light in showers needs have a sealed cover, but with regular cleaning and an adequate strength bulb it is much easier to read shampoo and conditioner labels.
  • Decorative tiles can be beautiful and can also be a great way to highlight changes in floor heights in the shower. No one wants to trip and fall stepping over the curb of the shower.
  • Lighting your vanity requires strategic placement of a lighting fixture above the vanity mirror. To achieve sufficiently bright vanity lighting, the vanity fixture should hold at least 150 watts and it should be at least 24 inches long. For an even glow, the fixture should be mounted 75 to 80 inches above the floor.
  • Keeping a spare pair of glasses or magnifying lens in the medicine cabinet is a smart thing to do! It is to easy to take incorrect dosages or drugs by not being able to read the tiny writing.
Physical aging is not always fun, but how great is it to live in a time when there are No rules on the who we are and what we do at what age.