Friday, November 18, 2016

"Into Everyone's Life A Little Rain Must Fall"

It would be great if each day was sunny and warm - figuratively as well as literally. We know that this generally isn't possible. In most climates, there is winter, and there typically is a stormy season - or more than one. There are places that are more temperate, but most of us don't live in rain-free, not-too-warm-not-too-cool places. It might get to be a little monotonous if we did - each day the same as the one before it. After all, without the weather to discuss, what would talk about?

That said, physically some people have fairer weather than others. Some people go through life with little aches and pains or outward signs of difficulty in getting about. Others face challenges from birth.

Nevertheless, even the strongest looking people among us have their moments when they have a little setback - a muscle pull, a minor illness such as a cold or the flu, a headache, or overexertion for instance. Compared to people that face daily challenges, these are nothing. That's not the point.

Everyone, regardless of how strong or well they may appear to be - from those who are just judging them by what they see or how they never seem to complain about anything really bothering them physically - has moments when they are not at full-strength. These may not occur that often, but they are present.

Then, there are people living with significant mobility or sensory challenges everyday. It's obvious from the devices they use or from their physical appearance that they are encountering and dealing with various difficulties that others do not have.

This leads to the consideration of universal design in our homes. Regardless of how athletic, physically strong, or healthy someone might appear to be, they have times in their lives when they are less than one-hundred percent. Let's focus on this group because we know that people who do have minor to severe limitations or difficulties they are living with on a daily basis have figured out how to deal with them. It's the ones for which aches, pains, and temporary limited mobility are not a frequent occurrence that really benefit from universal design applications.

Having a seat or bench (fold-down or built-in) in the shower to use for support or to sit on is great when they are feeling weak, have a muscle strain, cramp, or pull, have an exercise related joint issue, or are just sore from too much exercise. They probably would never request that it be installed or ever admit that it would be nice to have, and yet when it's there, they will use it when it's needed.

The same is true of a strategically located grab or assist bar located vertically near the entrance to a tub or shower at a height and location of their arm comfortably extended outward and roughly parallel to the floor. Everyone has slipped on a wet surface, had a cramp, had a sore foot from stepping on something or from minor surgery, or felt lightheaded or dizzy from a variety of reasons (from the flu, a headache, sinus infection, or neck muscle tension, among other causes).

There are many other instances in someone's home when the inclusion of various safety or convenience features - unobtrusively included and installed - will come in handy at those times when they may not be at their best and would appreciate a little assistance. This is what universal design can do.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., 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.