What is an “aging- friendly” home? Some of the BrightStar North Suburban Chicago staff had a personal explanation with the opportunity visit to a newly listed home for sale in Evanston. Designer Drina Nikola, founder and owner of Dwelling Spaces + Places has taken a tired ranch home and transformed it into a home anyone could live in, which also incorporates functional design and age-friendly features to make it a home anyone can STAY in, too. Drina has her own term for this unique housing: “Design for Longevity.”
Moving is stressful, particularly in our later years, and especially if we are moving to our final home. Whatever the reason for that move, if you have physical limitations of if you plan on a procedure that requires a period of recovery at home, it may be wise to consider housing with features that make it easier to deal with day-to-day living for yourself and accommodate in-home care assistance.
Most of us go through life denying we will ever need assistance, but the statistics aren’t in our favor. According to the CDC, 4.9 million patients received and ended care during the year 2013. The reality we must realistically face is that our body and mind will gradually decline, but that doesn’t have to be true of our spirit. One thing that can keep our spirits buoyed is getting the personal and attentive help we need to get through our day.
The typical home most seniors live in, unfortunately, doesn’t support a slow transition to assistance. Need is more often on an acute basis. By the time we are in our 80’s or 90’s, falls occur more frequently, hearing problems make life more difficult, and eyesight is very much affected. The fact is, we need five times as much light to see in the years past 80.
Let There Be Ample Light
This light problem may seem easily solved by going to the store and buying more table, floor and task lights. That may solve a lighting problem, but simultaneously create another one with electrical cords to step over, lamps that can be knocked over, bulbs that can shatter when lamps fall, etc.
In the age-friendly home, there is light everywhere. It’s installed in the ceiling and walls with dimmer switches strategically placed according to how a home is lived in and personal preferences.
Come Along on a Tour of Discovery
As Drina walks us through the house, she quickly points out that her approach to design is about livability, safety, comfort and ease in the dozens of details she has built into this home starting with the design of age-friendly construction. For more details everything she considers, check out her website at Dwelling Spaces + Places or call Drina directly at 847-778-3789. Oh, Drina wants us to be sure to acknowledge her photographer, Jennifer Schuman of Horizon Photography.
Architectural Beginnings: In the initial stages, Drina works with architects who are trained to consider Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines throughout the design process. The focus, of course, is on accessibility for people who have temporary or permanent limitations on independent movement.
Working from the outside in, there are many interesting things to learn and discover, including the lighted numbers on the house -- everyone should have those. There’s the lower mailbox and, of course, you can roll right in thanks to the zero-threshold entryway. There’s a small patio and chair in front of the house. It’s not there for taking in the air in November, December, January, February, March and most of April (this is Chicago), but enjoying some nice days outside and avoiding social isolation. Your neighbors can see you and know you’re ok and you can say “hey” to your neighbors.
Expanded Halls and Unique Doors
Typical 1950’s construction created narrow and dimly lit hallways, which often proved difficult to navigate. Creating a floorplan with a wider hallway -- by as much as 10 inches -- means a little less space for rooms on either side of the hallway, but makes the home much more navigable and secure. (Speed limit signs for hallway wheelchairs can be posted.) Many of the doors in the home are easy-pull-out pocket doors, which keeps rooms open for safety and assures one less obstruction to free movement everywhere.
Carpeting under foot adds comfort in the bedroom, but even here, Drina has drawn on her experience to select an option that affords flexibility. Tight-woven carpet tiles provide both flexibility and easy tile replacement in case of wear or soiling. Wheelchairs and hoyer lifts, if ever needed, will roll easily.
Pluses of this kitchen begin with the pull-out drawers, ideal from reaching utensils and faster, easier cleaning. One of the biggest and safest improvements is the induction cooktop with no heating surfaces. Adult children won’t have to worry about a kitchen fire if mom or dad forgets to turn off the stove. The safety and convenience features of this kitchen are so subtle that few guests will recognize them, but they can be a lifesaver to the new owners of this beautiful home.
Laying out a bathroom to be ADA compliant means having sturdy grab bars in place andchoosing a toilet paper holder with an aesthetic 2nd rod, sturdy enough to be a han hold if someone loses their balance.
We begin with a zero- threshold, roll-in shower with ample room for a shower chair so the resident can sit down to dry off, or a caregiver can move around easily. The shower is equipped with a traditional shower head, plus a handheld shower head to easily accommodate washing while standing or sitting.
The entire bathroom floor features eye-pleasing small mosaic tiles, again to assure no tripping or slipping when wet. The home features a second bathroom for guest or your caring, compassionate BrightStar North Suruban caregiver.
In addition to her exemplary design skills, Drina is also a National Association of Senior Move Manager @ Home Specialist. Drina leads a team to help with senior moves to any home, for any reason and especially when an unexpected life event creates an urgent need for change.
And Now a Word from Your Sponsor -- BrightStar Care North Suburban Chicago
Drina’s vision and construction genius meet with our experience and total approval at BrightStar Care. We are strong advocates of aging in place with as much grace, ease and safety as possible. Whether you need our comprehensive in-home services for one or two hours here and there, or for vigilant 24/7 care, we are at your disposal. To learn more, simply call (847) 510-5750, or contact us through our website.