Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Just How Many Extra Steps Are We Creating For Ourselves Or Our Clients?"

Exercise in some form is good for all of us - depending on our level of fitness, and degrees of mobility, stamina, balance, and coordination. It might just have to be limited exertion activities, those done mostly while seated, or even mental exercises. For those able to walk and get around, this type of movement is great for enhancing bone density, muscle tone, balance, muscle memory, and general health.

Even so, many people are challenging themselves and their neighbors, family, and guests by creating additional work to get to and through the front doors of their homes. We call this visitability, and the number of instances of poor visitability is in the very high percentages.

Just how many extra steps are we creating for ourselves as well as our friends neighbors, guests, and visitors by having steps for them to negotiate as they approach our front door? This may actually be keeping people away, and it could be creating potential hazards (tripping, stumbling, or falling) for people wanting to visit us and our clients.


One could argue that any unnecessary steps - those that could be avoided through a redesign - are too many. This situation really does present a safety concern.

The concept of visitability is that people - regardless of who they are or what their mobility requirements are - can go to anyone else's home and gain entry without difficulty. Clearly this is not the case in so many situations, and here is our challenge.


Now that the weather is going to be turning cooler, people are going to be wearing more clothes - sweaters, jackets, scarves, and more, depending on the exact temperature and personal preference. This complicates walking up steps and going through doorways - all the more reason for creating visitable entrances and first floor public areas in our homes.

Now, think ahead a few weeks to the heart of the football season, Halloween celebrations, Thanksgiving and year-end observances, and it's easy to see how more and more people are potentially going to want to visit us - and placed in potential peril if the entrances aren't ready to accommodate them.


Even, athletic people can miss a step, turn an ankle, or otherwise have a mishap when climbing stairs or just going up a couple of steps. Consider how challenging this becomes for people with more limited mobility or balance, coordination, or stamina issues.

Then, the issue of getting up the entry walk and climbing stairs or steps is made worse by the entry door itself. Many entrances have not been created to allow the person entering the home sufficient space to move out of the way of the opening storm or entrance door (those that open out, which is most of them). For those who had enough difficulty just getting to the door, expecting them to be able to get out of the way may be asking too much.

There are so many ways to reduce the number of steps we take, that our household members take, that our clients take, and that everyone visiting any of us are made to take, that we should make this a top priority to act upon - even when no other home improvements are envisioned, considered, or desired by our potential clients. When there is other work required, this needs to be a top priority in addition to the rest of the project.
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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.