Age Proofing The Livability of Your Home (cont.)

Well now lets talk a little about hearing. One of the other things that happens to us as we age, is we develop a condition known as presbycusis. This results in a hearing loss of high frequency sounds. You may notice that another difficulty is background noise. Some people find it increasingly more difficult to hear if there is a lot of background noise. I remember reading an interview of Mark Hatfield the former senator from Oregon, who said that he avoided certain restaurants because they had a lot of background noise and consequently he was not able to understand at all what his dinner companions were saying. So in the home, appliances that don?t make a lot of noise make sense. Another thing that can get problematic in the home is setting the volume of the TV or radio. What you will find is that hearing is aided if the bass is turned up and the treble is turned down. Also, there are ear phones that are available that can help someone with this kind of hearing loss be able to enjoy TV or radio without blasting everyone else out of the house.

We have kind of covered two of the big sensory changes that happen with normal aging. Now lets move on to mobility or ambulation. We all change the way we walk and hold our balance as we get older. The step of an older person is shorter, higher, and wider based with more time spent in support before the next move is made. This has several implications for stair climbing, rushing to get up to answer the phone and getting up and out of bed chairs etc. This wider gait means we are a bit more unstable plus, if we do catch our foot we are less able to regain balance.

So what does this have to do with your house? Entrances and exit areas that were fine when we were younger can now become pretty hazardous. Stair heights of 7 inches which are fine when we were younger now represent a hidden hazard. Especially when we get in a hurry or get distracted suddenly. Having a hand rail becomes a lot more important and having a rail that is built at the proper height and extends far enough and is secured properly becomes more important. Lighting on stairs is also very important. This is an example of how one change of aging can interact with another to produce an increased likelihood of falling and falling as we get older is very serious business. In fact, the most frequent cause of deaths in the home is falling. So as you see, another thing to be thinking about is what are homes entrances and exits like even if you?re not old, you don?t want someone else to fall coming in or out of your house.

Once you get inside the home, the surfaces used to cover the floor can have a big impact on how easy it is for you to get around. I once had a patient with severe arthritis who's daughter brought her to live in the house next to hers. Her daughter had all of the floors made level with one another and had them covered in a hard wood flooring so that the floor was smooth and even the mother with the arthritis was amazed at how much less pain she had walking in that modified house. In her previous home, she had thick luxurious carpeting that while pretty to look at created a lot of drag when she tried to walk on it. Particularly because she had trouble bringing her feet up for each step. So a smooth flooring surface has benefits not just for wheelchair users, but also for anyone else who has trouble walking.

Now it is not a normal change of aging to need a wheelchair or a walker but even people who are relatively free of chronic disease can sprain their ankles or require bunion surgery and find themselves suddenly needing to use assistive devices like canes, and crutches and wheelchairs to get around. To find out how user friendly your house is just imagine yourself trying to do a normal days activity in a wheelchair, when you do suddenly you will realize that your halls are too narrow that you have many different levels in your home that you maybe cant even get into the bathroom and making a meal is impossible. Suddenly you now have what is known as an accessibility problem and these can be very tricky to solve. There are some architects and designers trying to work on these issues. The thought is if all buildings are made accessible from the beginning when they are first built then we wont have these problems. This approach is called universal design. By universal design we mean things that work for everyone, young, old, sight impaired, mobility impaired etc.

If your house wasn?t built using the principles of universal design it can be modified using these principles and your house doesn?t need to have an institutional hospital look to be well designed for accessibility. Several author-designers have published books on this topic that show absolutely beautiful interior designs that can accommodate a whole range of limitations. In addition to taking the more expensive approach such as remodeling there are many little small changes that can be made that will achieve the same end and still look nice. For example, it is possible to design a new access to the house that acts as a ramp but doesn?t stand out as one it instead looks like a very pretty added on design feature. These kind of retro-fited designs have also been used in bathrooms to install showers and tubs that work well and safely. For someone who has limited mobility there is a center for universal design that is run by the University of North Carolina. You can visit them at their web site by typing in universal design in your search engine. Also, if you are interested in getting help to finance one of the more expensive projects the Home Modification Action Project at the UCLA gerontology center has resources to help you find financing. Well I guess I am getting close on time so that wraps it up.

Mature_Years_Mod Our time is running out is there anything else you would like to cover on the subject before saying good bye?

Mature_Years_Mod Our hour has come to an end. Ms. Messecar. Thank you so much for being our guest speaker today. We have certainly learned a lot. Please check the event board to see what other topics will be covered in next week's Health In Your Mature Years Program. Thanks you for joining us today. Take care and have a wonderful afternoon.

Speaker_Messecar Thank you and Good bye



©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!