Monday, November 6, 2017

"Our Homes Should Be Our Castle But Not A Fortress"

This is something that is true throughout life, but even more so as we age. We want our homes to be a safety net for us - to protect us from the world and all that it throws at us. We need a safe haven to retreat to after we have been at the market, the mall, the workplace, the airport, the park, or any other public place.

It's not that these places are intentionally trying to weaken or attack us. It's that it happens. They are the conduits where such activity occurs. As we have interactions with other people - ordering fast food, putting gas in our car, taking (or retrieving) the young ones to daycare or school, going to a game or concert, shopping at the market, trying to return something to a retailer (or talking to a customer service representative on the phone), and just driving (or sitting) in traffic all take a certain emotional toll on us. Some days more than others.

So we need a place to get away from it all, shut the door and be by ourselves (and with family). This is our home.

Occasionally the home causes issues also, but we seem at least we are in familiar territory and make the rules about what or what does not happen in the home - as opposed to having to deal with the world as it happens.

Sometimes at home, the internet connection goes down or the computer gives us issues, an appliance needs repairing, the air conditioner or furnace stops working, the lawn mower breaks, the refrigerator or other major appliance needs repair or replacement, or there are other maintenance issues. Most of these are not of our doing and we deal with them. It's still within the confines of our home and we feel more kindly about dealing with them because they are for us and our household.

Essentially, we need a place to escape and close out the outside world - when we want to. Our homes (free-standing, townhomes, villas, high-rise, rental, owned, or whatever) permit us to do this.


However, we must be careful. We say that our homes are our castles. This was a popular phrase at one time, but it gives us the mental image of a safe place that outsiders have a difficult time in penetrating or gaining access. That's fine for when we want to be by ourselves and keep the outside at bay. But, this may not always be the safe course of action.

That's why the concept of a home being a castle where we are in charge and can monitor who comes in and for what purpose is fine, but we need to be careful that we don't view it as an impenetrable fortress where no one can gain access without our specific permission.

As we get older, or as we have people living in our home with us who have special needs, we may require outside help - a caregiver, emergency personnel, or another family member to come to our aid. We may not always be able to unlock the door or windows for them - or the bathroom door, for instance.

It is wise to allow easy access to rooms that traditionally have been locked to prevent accidental or unwanted entry - bedrooms and bathrooms. We need to observe the closed door as a signal for privacy and forget about the locked door for security. Security is meaningless if it restricts, slows, or prevents access from those in the home that might be summoned to help when an accident, sudden illness, episode, disorientation, or panic occurs. People who matter to us need to allow the rest of us the ability to assist them in time of need but understand that their closed, but unlocked, door still creates a castle-like appearance to their space that is observed as such by the rest of the household.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist - Master Instructor and best-selling author of aging in place 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.