Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Seasonal Homes Provide Accessibility Challenges & Opportunities Also"

We all live in a primary residence, but some of us have a seasonal, recreational, or vacation home - a condo in the mountains or at the beach, a cabin or cottage at the lake, or a second home - that we use when we want a change of pace. 

Throughout the summer months, many people have used their homes at the lake or beach, or gone off for a few days in the mountains. Some of those homes will be used less during the colder months that are coming, and some will get just as much if not more use then.

Traditionally Labor Day weekend, which is just a couple of weeks from now, is the transition period between summer usage and cooler weather occupancy. While the need to get away doesn't change, the reasons and the activities we look forward to enjoying or pursuing at our vacation or seasonal home might.

Nevertheless, when people are staying in their vacation, recreational, or occasional use homes, they deserve to feel as safe and find those dwellings as comfortable and convenient to use as the homes they occupy most of the time. Because they might be less familiar with their seasonal homes than their main residences due to the infrequent use, it's even more important that these homes provide safety and accessibility.

Much - but not all - of our aging in place discussion and emphasis is on the permanent or long-term home. But, what about those vacation, seasonal, vacation, or held-for-occasional-use homes? Do we just forget about safety, accessibility, and visitability for these homes?


Just because people are not residing in their permanent or forever homes at the time they are using their getaway properties doesn't negate or minimize their desire to have them provide the same type of living environment for them. They need, above all, to have safe and convenient access to and within those occasional use properties.

People may use their retreats as often as every week or as infrequently as a once or twice a year, with a whole range of other usage possibilities.

We are interested in people being able to enter and move around freely in their homes. Being able to reach cabinets, shelves, controls, faucets, switches, and other controls also is important. This is true for the main occupants of the seasonal homes plus any guests or other family members that they might invite to share their homes with them.


Even before getting inside and moving about in the interior space, getting into the dwelling needs to easy also. Because the property isn't used every day, it might be easy to forget some of the nuances involved in negotiating driveways, sidewalks, steps, porches, and entrances between visits. Inclement weather (especially ice and snow) can complicate this.

In addition, there may be guests that have been invited to stay with them that are unfamiliar with the layout of the homes, and they may have mobility challenges in using the homes well. 

Often, occasional use and seasonal homes are not designed or built for people to occupy them full-time so they may not have doorways or hallways as wide as their main homes, and the layout may not be as convenient, spacious, or accommodating to movement in the homes. Also, there could be more people occupying the seasonal homes at the same time than is the case in the main residences - family or friends that have been invited to stay for all or part of the vacation stay in their seasonal homes.

While not universally true, seasonal homes (especially lake-front, cabins, townhomes, condos, and villas), generally are smaller and more compact homes that typically are occupied by more people at the same time than is the case for people in their permanent homes because they have invited others to share the experience with them. This compounds any accessibility concerns that might already exist.

Visitors and guests who have been invited to join the main occupants of the vacation or seasonal homes cannot be expected to know as much about where things are located in the homes or how to operate various controls or access cabinets and closets.

People may not think of their seasonal homes as needing accessibility makeovers, but this is an opportunity for us to provide a valuable service for people. Seasonal homes are likely to have similar accessibility and visitability concerns as other homes.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master 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. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.