Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Mirrors Often Don't Relect Well On Their Intended Purpose"

Mirrors have been around for a very long time. Before they existed as the glass surfaces we look into now, people used polished metal and other means of checking their physical looks. Even a reflection in a calm body of water could work.

Now we have mirrors in many forms and sizes - bathroom mirrors, bedroom mirrors, hand mirrors, mirrors in compacts, decorative mirrors with various types of frames, rearview and side view mirrors in our cars, and even our cell phones when used in selfie mode.

As common and necessary as mirrors are, however, for brightening up rooms and grooming, for instance, often they are installed in very inconvenient ways. SInce aging-in-place is all about have features in our homes that are easy to use and convenient to access, we have a real challenge in changing the way mirrors typically are used.

Take bathroom mirrors - the ones installed over the vanities. With a typical sink or countertop height of 30" - with some going all the way to 42" by personal preference - the plate glass wall mirrors that are installed are some 5-6 inches above that surface. Medicine cabinets with mirror fronts and oval or round mirrors can be installed at any height and usually are much higher than this.

This is where the issue arises. Bathroom wall mirrors over vanities simply are too tall for normal use. For combing one's hair, putting on a necklace, or adjusting a tie, mirrors at that height and distance from the individual are fine. When you consider that a typical countertop is 24-25' (roughly two feet) from front to back, and possibly deeper, this means that the image in the mirror that someone sees is approximately four feet away - the two feet distance to the mirror and the two feet reflective distance or focal length back to their eyes.

For someone short or seated (on a bench, chair, or wheelchair), seeing more than their forehead and hairline is difficult. There is no way they can use such a mirror for grooming. Therefore, they must rely on something else, such as a hand mirror or full-length mirror installed elsewhere. Standing further back is not that helpful either because there often is a wall preventing it and the fact that the focal length increases even more.

The real solution for aging-in-place - for people of any age from toddlers, smaller children and grandchildren, short people, average size people, tall people, and people in wheelchairs or who otherwise need to sit while they groom - is a full-length mirror where someone literally can put their feet right against the mirror and see them. The focal length in this case is a fraction of an inch - virtually nothing.

Full-length mirrors can be hung on the back of a bathroom or bedroom door, used as by-pass closet doors in a bedroom, or hung or leaned against the wall as a framed furniture accessory.

For grooming purposes - dressing, picking out or matching clothing items, or applying makeup - mirrors serve little purpose without being able to get close enough to them and see ourselves from head to toe.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.