I recently had a display at a trade show targeted at seniors. As part of my display I had about a dozen grab bars with different colors, finishes, textures displayed along the front of my table. Throughout the course of the show, I heard people say over and over, “I’m not ready for that yet!” It struck me as curious that people would view grab bars and other home accessories and modifications designed to promote safety as something that would only be useful or applicable to the very old or infirm. My point in exhibiting so many different types of grab bars was to demonstrate the many attractive options that are on the market today. I really want to stress the importance of foresight and planning ahead as we think about our lives in the coming years.
Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. As a firm proponent of Universal Design, I encourage people to live in an environment that will be supportive in all circumstances. In other words, anybody might slip in the bathroom, regardless of age, health, or mobility. Anyone could break a bone or suffer some other injury. In many ways the younger and more active you are, the more likely you are to sustain an injury. If all houses were built with grab bars in appropriate places, wider doors and hallways, and zero step entries, no one would think anything was unusual about these features. Then, if there was a need for these features, on a temporary or permanent basis, they would be there. One of the greatest goals in my work is to increase the daily use of universal design features in every day use in people’s lives. It makes so much more sense to incorporate grab bars and other safety features in our homes before we need them rather than wait until we really need them, because then it is often too late.
The trouble with waiting until we need safety features to get them is we often discover that we need them only when we fall. Falls are the leading cause of injuries to older adults in the U.S. It would be great to have grab bars installed long before we need them and to have developed the habit of holding on to them as we get in and out of the tub or shower for example. Then we would be much more likely to reach for them instinctively if we felt ourselves falling. Two thirds of those who fall will likely fall again within six months and one third of falls are due to environmental hazards within the home. So, please take the time to look around your home and assess the fall hazards within your home and take steps to mitigate the danger of falling. If you need help, please give me a call. I would be more than happy to perform an assessment and make whatever modifications you decide to do.
Keep in mind that sixty percent of injury related deaths are due to falls. Also remember that many falls result in broken bones that can be very difficult to heal in older adults. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is very fitting to this subject. Oftentimes something as simple as a loose throw rug or a dangling extension cord can lead to a life altering fall. Please be careful and call me if I can be of assistance. I can be reached at 540-384-2064 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solid Rock has written many articles for Housing Matters, including subject matter for Retirement, Enjoying the Outdoors and Aging In Place. Please visit our Housing Matters Index of articles here.