Auntie Diluviana: Being safe at home

March 10, 2012

- AUNTIE DILUVIANA -

BY SALLY MIDDLETON — How to make our homes safe and accessible as we age was the topic when architects Mark Ferguson and Mike Arnold spoke to an audience of at least 40 at the Municipal Building. Sponsored by the Hyattsville Preservation Association (HPA), the February 9 talk and slide show aimed to raise awareness as well as offer practical solutions.

As Ferguson went through the list of likely changes in vision, hearing, balance, strength, and balance as we age, groans of dismay could be heard from the audience. But soon the topic of falling and ways to prevent this common threat had everyone’s attention.

Not surprising, but worth repeating, are the main places around the home where falls occur: outside steps, inside stairs and bathrooms. And that’s without ice and snow!

Looked at your railings lately? Turns out railing height, placement, sturdiness and even graspability must all be considered.

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) does not pertain to residences, but is a source for good, practical advice related to safety and accessibility. For example, Arnold urged taking time to consider what’s called the “primary accessible route.” For a public space, this starts with parking and getting into the door; for homeowners and apartment dwellers, this would be thinking about getting from the car to the house, from the bed to the bathroom.

Going over this route will identify possible hazards and obstacles, probably more than you suspect. Often, better lighting is needed. An example is at the outside door, where you fumble with your key. Inside, carpets may have to be removed or securely fastened and furniture moved. Outside, a ramp may be advisable, but not without careful consideration and planning. What are the possible routes? Will the ramp be temporary or permanent? What options are available regarding materials? And don’t forget the handrail!

Discussions about aging in place will continue. On April 4, Jean Cook, president of the Greenbelt Intergenerational Volunteer Exchange Service (GIVES), will speak at a meeting of the newly formed group Hyattsville Aging in Place (HAP). She will explain the workings of the 15-year-old volunteer system, which is designed to help frail, disabled or elderly Greenbelt residents with such tasks as meal delivery, light housework, and yard work, enabling them to remain in their homes. The Aging in Place group is considering establishing a similar system in Hyattsville.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will begin at 7 p.m. at the Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin St.

This is a new occasional column that shares the insights of members of Hyattsville Aging in Place, an organization dedicated to helping seniors stay in their homes and remain active in the community. It is edited by Molly Parrish.