Universal home design isn't just for the elderly or disabled. Everyone can benefit from common-sense safety and convenience features added to the home. There are a few simple areas where you can make a big difference to the people who live and visit there.
UReplace doorknobs with lever-style hardware.
UInstall slip-resistant floors and only nonskid area rugs.
UMark stairs for safety.
UHave a place to put things down on the inside and outside of all entrances to the home.
UMake bathrooms safer with grab bars and scald guard fixtures.
Lever-style doorknobs are easy to use. Older folks who have less strength in their hands, or who have arthritis, will appreciate your thoughtful upgrade. Kids will, too. Has your 5-year-old ever complained about the "slippery knob"?
Levers are stylish too. When you have an armful, a lever can be accessed with an elbow. Think about all the situations when a conventional knob has been a challenge for you to open. Best of all, lever-style doorknobs are easy to install. In fact, a doorknob generally is one of the easiest and least expensive improvements. Don't forget handles on cabinets and furniture. Larger pulls are easier to grip and hold onto.
A shiny ceramic tile floor is not slip-resistant. Tile is OK, but it is important to keep certain dangers in mind that are associated with your flooring choices. Even a slick ceramic tile floor is pretty stable most of the time.
But then a "most of the time" condition isn't what we're most concerned about.
For example, a rainy day can turn a smooth floor into a treacherous slip hazard. Area rugs and mats are an absolute necessity at all exterior and garage entrances where wet feet can come into contact with a smooth floor.
In kitchens, it only takes one drop of grease or oil to convert a beautiful floor into "ski slope" conditions. Some rubber-backed rugs can stain or discolor your floor. We have used both the foam-style backing and the separate "egg crate" style and our preference is the separate egg crate style skid pad.
Other practical improvements
You go shopping and everywhere you look the stairs in the stores have bright striping on the very edge of each and every stair. Yet, at home, your own stairs are hard to see.
Since you use them every day, you're used to them and you really don't need to see them.
But, what about your guests? They aren't used to your steps. You may not want to use white paint or iridescent tape on your expensive hardwood stairs, but you can add a second handrail to improve safety.
Improving lighting is probably one of the least expensive of all safety improvements. Start with brighter light. Colored glass reduces light transmission. It may look cool, but lighting is there to make the walk path or work area easier to navigate.
Keep in mind that as many people get older their eyes dim. The lens begins to discolor and it is harder to see.
Think about your future and your older family members.
We talked about how lever hardware can be used with an elbow. However, it makes more sense to place a small table at the inside and outside of entrances to your home so that you don't have to try doing two things at once.
Place the grocery bag on the table, unlock the door and open it. Then, grab that bag and safely continue into the home. What could be easier!
Add grab bars at showers, toilet rooms and tubs. And don't forget scald guard controls on all showers. You can add a scald guard device without changing your existing faucet by installing it in line in the basement of a crawl space or in an adjacent closet.
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