You might have noticed my reference last week to "AARP-certified"--a young buyer came into a recent level listing and said "my mom said this home was AARP-certified." What a great concept. For the last few months, coincidentally, I've been making my way through The Accessible Home by Deborah Pierce (feel free to contact me [mailto:Kennedy@MaureenKennedy.Net] to borrow it). Pierce creates a roadmap for owners looking to accommodate: * regular visitors with accessibility challenges (I regularly hear "this house won't work for us--my mother can't handle all those stairs when she comes for dinner"), * themselves at all ages, * a disabled child, or * a disabled partner.
Her mantra is "Universal Design Equals Intelligent Design," and she's so smart! Think about how much easier it was/is to use strollers on corners with curb cuts ostensibly for wheelchairs, or to change diapers in the disabled bath stall. And think about how many of us are likely to be inviting our parents into our lives and households in the coming years.
Much of her thinking looks at changes you can make (or plan in a renovation) that are great now, but lifesavers later (and think about the costs if you had to move because a home no longer met your needs). Asking the right questions is as important as the anticipated needs you plan for.
Key insights for all of us include:
--Closet planning can increase efficiency by 60%. --Knobs are a problem; cabinet pulls and door lever handles are not. --Pocket doors (and "barn" doors) can be really useful in avoiding do-si-do routines. --Low maintenance layouts and surfaces are good for everyone. --Can everyone get out safely in an emergency? --Changes in stone or pavement color (slate to concrete) can signal surface or slope shifts, particularly for the visually impaired. --Drawers for the fridge, for pots, for files are easier for everyone to access, as are side-swinging oven doors (Gaggenau has had them for years). --Think about easy and rain-protected ways to get folks out into fresh air--level-out decks, etc. --BathSimple.com turned me onto the notion of placing shower controls in a location that doesn't involve your getting wet every time you prep for a shower (try doing that in a wheelchair!) --Bay windows are another way to create "elbow room" in tight spaces. --Think about dual purpose grab bars/towel racks. --Planning in laundry rooms and mud rooms is key. There's a lot of maneuvering that goes on in each, and a washer and dryer in the basement is a pain for everyone, including kids who can otherwise help out. --In-bath storage. Use for linens now, and various medical supplies later. --And what about a bidet after all, for keeping things clean? Those Japanese toilet retrofits (Google "Toto Washlet") work really well. --Don't forget the needs of a caregiver (my new listing at 100Echo.com [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=tzq75drab.0.0.emq8hsqab.0&id=preview&r=3&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.100Echo.com] provides a great private housing arrangement.....)
Lofts can often be just the ticket--they typically involve elevators, low-maintenance concrete floors, wide spaces and modular functionality.
Note that the City of Piedmont, when recently overhauling its zoning code, added a "reasonable accommodation" reg. Historically it was very difficult to get a permit for otherwise-prohibited renovations needed for various disabilities--say to convert an existing half bath to a full bath in order to allow an owner to live comfortably on one floor, or to expand an entry porch roof into a setback to provide a sheltered area for someone to get keys to open a door. And frequently these adjustments had to come out when the owner sold the home, even though that meant the home again became less-accessible--a particular problem in Piedmont given that our housing stock is so old, on average. Now, the City "may" require that the space be returned to its original status, or it "may" leave that more accessible home as-is for future owners. See Chapter17.22.a [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=tzq75drab.0.0.emq8hsqab.0&id=preview&r=3&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ci.piedmont.ca.us%2Fhtml%2Fcity_code%2Fpdf%2Fchapter17.pdf] of the City code for more.
And finally, I've mentioned it before at Margie Bowman's suggestion, but take a peek at North Oakland Village [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?t=tzq75drab.0.0.emq8hsqab.0&id=preview&r=3&p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.northoaklandvillage.org%2F] for thoughts and resources on how to stay in your home longer--assuming that's your preference. If you're happy to move, just call me and we can make that happen too!