Age Proofing The Livability of Your Home with Deb Messecar

By Deborah Messecar
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Learn how to make sure that the home of your dreams doesn't become a nightmare as you get older.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Mature_Years_Mod Thanks for joining us for the Health In Your Mature Years Program. Today's guest speaker is Deb Messecar from OHSU. She will be discussing Age Proofing the Livability of your home as your needs change. Welcome Ms. Messecar and thank you for joining us today. Would you like to begin by explaining the importance of "Age Proofing the Livability of Your Home".

Speaker_Messecar I'd love to start talking about this. Let me give you all a little background of how I got interested in this topic in the first place for many years, before becoming a professor of nursing, I was a visiting nurse so I have probably visited easily over 1,000 homes, making visits to older persons who were receiving home health care. One of the physical therapists that I really enjoyed working with told me one day how sad it made her to meet people who had worked hard all of their lives to build or buy a their dream home when they were in the 40s or 50s. Only to find when they got older that the home they loved was becoming impossible to live in. As a result many of them were facing having to give up their home to move to a place where they could function independently. Now usually this severe kind of conundrum was due to a pretty severe immobility problem. However, even in my own home today, I know that there are many small and inexpensive changes I should be making to make many tasks easier and to improve my quality of life now and in the future.

Well you might say, I get around just fine and I love my home just the way it is, what are you talking about. Let me share a little information about some of the normal changes of aging and as I do that, I want to talk about strategies you can use to make your home more supportive of your functioning. Lets start with vision changes. That?s probably one of the biggest changes we notice as soon as we turn 40. As we get older a number of things happen with our eyes. First the lens becomes less transparent and thickens and this results in needing a lot more light to see than when you were 18. Some of you may have already noticed that in the elimination at your doorstep, you cant find your keys in your purse. This is due to this requiring more light to see. In fact we know that a 60 year older person needs three times the amount of light that a 20 year old needs to see the same thing. That?s quite a difference and unfortunately many of our building codes do not take this factor into account. So houses are wired to accommodate actually very low levels of light. The negative consequence of this has been the dramatic increase in the sale of halogen torches. These halogen torches are actually quite dangerous because they generate a lot of heat in addition to the strong light they project and they are easily knocked over and can cause an intense fire.

So the best way to solve your illumination problems is to do the following, first, make sure you have adequate task lighting. Task lighting is lighting that you can direct by moving it closer to your work. In some instances these task lights are mounted on a moving are and even include a magnifying glass. Just increasing the wattage of your overhead bulbs is a bad idea, first, because it creates more glare, which older eyes are more sensitive too and second because if the wattage is higher than what the fixture allows it can start a fire. There are also some new lights that actually use fluorescent bulbs but look like regular lamps. These lights put out a lot more candle power, while using very little energy.

The next normal vision change I want to talk about is sensitivity to glare. If you are over 40 you may have already noticed that when it is particularly sunny outside or light is reflecting off of snow or a white sidewalk that your eyes hurt. This is sensitivity to glare and the eye only becomes more sensitive to this as we age. Glare can come from reflections off of indoor surfaces. As a young person, you don?t notice indoor glare because it doesn?t make your eyes hurt, but as you get older, light reflecting off of heavily polished floors or off of walls painted with glossy paint can create a glare situation that tires your eyes and contributes to task difficulties while preparing food, sewing, etc.. In fact my aunt once said that going into my mothers home was like going to a tanning booth. She had tried to compensate for her vision loss by putting very high watt bulbs in her fixtures and had painted her walls with high gloss white paint. Outdoor areas should be provided with sun screens such as gazebos, wood trellis and fences. Also, wall mounted valance or cove lighting that conceals the source of light and then spreads it indirectly upon the ceiling and down the floor is recommended to reduce glare, and it also happens to be very pretty.

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