Singing in the Shower – More than Accessibility

A great hand-held shower unit hits the right note in any bathroom.

EDITOR: Last September I posted an article about the Universal Design Living Laboratory. Well now the home is finished and its occupants have moved in, so there’s more to write about, including universal bath & kitchen designs and landscaping. You’ll understand later why I so look forward to the article on landscaping.

Singing in the Shower

The shower is something most of us use every day, and it can be a bit challenging when living in a wheelchair. The right handshower can make getting clean an easier and more enjoyable experience.

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Universal Design: Homes That Work for Everyone

These photos showing Universal Design principles were posted on by Kerrie Kelly, a ASID, MBA, and CAPS certified interior designer, certified aging-in-place specialist, author, and thought leader. She collaborates with publishers, manufacturers, homeowners and builders to inspire beauty and simplicity because…Everyone Deserves Great Design. TM Kelly authored “Home Décor, a Sunset Design Guide” published by Oxmoor House. The book was released in September 2009 and is still a defining guide to all styles of home décor. Visit Kerrie at and — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Houzz Tour: Universal Design in San Francisco Home

For general contractor Jeff Kann, universal design goes beyond outfitting the space for wheelchairs. It’s about letting people participate in family and community life for much, much longer. Sound universal design avoids premature moves and creates sustainable and safer spaces, she says: “It’s about making the living spaces easier and safer for all ages.”

This remodel was conceived to create a comfortable and expanded living space on the first level of a two-story home in San Francisco’s Sunset district, creating an option to avoid the use of stairs entirely as the clients grow older. In the meantime, the homeowners can use the renovated first level now as a guest suite for visiting family and friends. — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

Home Elevators: A Rising Trend

One of the nicest things my grandfather did for my grandmother was to have a home elevator installed. They lived in a two-story home with the main living area and bedrooms on the upper floor. My grandmother had become frail enough that getting upstairs from their main entrance on the ground level was a daunting task. My grandparents were not wealthy people, and their home was not large — maybe 1,800 square feet. But my grandfather knew how much she wanted to stay in her home, so he put one in. Now that’s love!

Pangaea Interior Design shows examples of the various types of home elevators and discusses their benefits. — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.

CAPABLE means Home, not Nursing Homes, for Seniors

Source: Newswise (6/26/2012) — Nursing homes do not have to be inevitable destinations for frail older adults. Many—even those with long-term health problems—can remain at home and be independent. All it takes is a little help to change “disability” to “capability”.

A handyman with a few nails to fix a wobbly bannister can make the difference between staying at home and a nursing home stay. Visits from a nurse or occupational therapist can help simplify a bewildering medication regimen or improve the ability to get around the house and neighborhood. Simple, inexpensive steps may change the equation for thousands of seniors, but in reality, services like these are rarely available for many at greatest need—the poorest and sickest older adults receiving Medicare and Medicaid.

CAPABLE, short for “Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders,” and a $4 million Health Care Innovation Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is about to change that reality. Read More …

Doorless Showers Open a World of Possibilities

I’ll never forget my first experience with an open shower. On a French-class trip to Paris at the innocent age of 14, I arrived at my hotel tired, jet-lagged and longing for a good, hot soak. I pushed open the bathroom door and looked around, flummoxed. Where on earth was the bathtub? Then I glanced up and gaped: I was standing in the shower, which was just a handheld faucet and a grate in the floor — no tub, no door, no curtain, no threshold. The entire time I was there, I never mastered the art of soaping up and rinsing off without drenching the whole room.

It turns out, the French were onto something. Doorless showers have become a design darling in recent years. Not only do they create an open, expansive feel in a bathroom, but they also lend themselves well to universal design and aging in place. And while they’re a little more sophisticated now than my Parisian puzzler, they still require careful planning. Lisa Frederick shows us eight things to consider if you’re thinking about the doorless approach. (from — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.


Bathroom Safety Features That Support Your Style

Even if you are fit as a fiddle, it’s a good idea to provide as many safety features as you can in your bathroom. But does a bathroom that incorporates safety into the design have to look like it belongs in a hospital?

Absolutely not! Fixture manufacturers are now offering attractive designs that blend into your décor. Whether you love sleek, minimal design or are hooked on traditional, you can provide safety without sacrificing style. Pangaea Interior Design shows us several examples below, from — When looking for home modification ideas, search through the photos & portfolios of leading Interior Design professionals for key words such as Kitchen, Bath, Stair Ramp, Stair Lift, Home Elevator, Universal Design, and Aging-in-Place.


Occupational Therapists Help Modify Homes for Life

This article was originally published at 1 Call Bath Solutions and is re-posted with permission.

Click image to visit 1 Call Bath Solutions website at love working with occupational therapists. Why? Because we have the same goal of helping people live longer, fuller and more comfortable lives at home.

Occupational therapists are big picture experts.  Let’s take Mary.  She’s 85, lives at home and is challenged with Parkinson’s.  Sue, her occupational therapist, assesses her physical strengths and weaknesses, how the natural aging process is affecting her (things like eyesight and hearing that affect everyone over time), her medical condition and any psychological issues.  And the psychological part doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with Mary—it could be just the typical fears of losing control over her own life and the lack of privacy that comes from depending on others.

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Home Improvement Trends

eLocal Home Improvement Badge


Modern Health Talk founder Wayne Caswell is an home improvement expert and contributes to their industry surveys. Their first survey for 2012 is the same as for 2011 – What are the top Home Improvement Trends.  Below is an infographic that summarizes answers from 50 eLocal experts, followed by what I submitted for this year’s survey.


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Aging-in-Place advice for Contractors

Don't just say, "Trust Me." Earn Trust.In this recessionary economy, home construction is slow, but one bright spot is home modifications for aging in place. I was happy to meet a reputable local contractor who is adopting Universal Design principals and embracing the Aging-in-Place market. They’re going to Houston next week for a Certified Aging in Place (CAPS) class, which covers low-tech construction projects but not high-tech solutions like environmental and medical sensors and telehealth services. Our discussion got me thinking about advice for builders and remodeling contractors that I created  several years as Communications Director for HOT. Homeowners of Texas is a non-profit consumer advocacy that helped get an abusive State agency abolished. But until we can produce our own video tutorials for contractors, I’m including several shorts (~5 min) from 5min Media, a leading syndication platform for broadband instructional, knowledge and lifestyle videos.

Housing Options: Retirement and Independent Living Communities

Housing Options: Aging-in-Place

How to Choose a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist

Peter Pan housing – for people who won’t get old

Peter PanNPR host Michele Norris explores housing options for America’s aging population in her interview with Jon Pynoos, a professor of gerontology policy and planning at USC. (Listen to the broadcast or read the transcript HERE.)

Pynoos describes the high costs of nursing homes and assisted living facilities and the insurance options that pay for them, including Medicare & Medicaid. He then promotes aging-in-place at home as a much lower-cost option, but most homes were designed for people who aren’t old. He calls them Peter Pan homes. They have stairs, inaccessible bathrooms, and inadequate lighting, and they lack many of the safety features that would help people avoid falls.

“I won’t grow up.    I don’t want to go to school.
Just to learn to be a parrot,    And recite a silly rule.”

To help you assess your home and make modifications, contact a certified aging in place specialist (CAPS).

Related Articles:

Home Modifications can Change Lives

cropped image of Danise Levine

Danise Levine has helped hundreds of people with disabilities or reduced mobility live more comfortably in their homes by designing home modification that fit their needs.

Home Modifications: UB-Designed Renovations Are Changing Lives, One Home at a Time

For people with disabilities, modifications can mean the difference between comfort and frustration at home

Release Date: September 29, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Even the smallest of home renovations can change the life of someone with a disability. Widening a doorway or adding grab bars around a toilet can mean the difference between independence and dependence — between comfort and discomfort in one’s own home.

That knowledge is what has driven architect Danise Levine to design about 475 home modifications over the past 15 years as a member of the University at Buffalo’s Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center).

“You see people in their homes, and they’re restricted by their environment. To try and overcome this, they tend to adapt their behavior to their environment instead of adapting their environment to fit their behavior. It’s very rewarding when you can help change that,” Levine said.

Levine, now the IDeA Center’s assistant director, began working on home modifications in 1996, soon after graduating from UB’s architecture master’s degree program.

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15% Tax Credit on Aging-in-Place Home Renovations

creative commons image of Canada Maple Leaf from WikipediaHere’s a stimulus idea that I borrowed from Canada, which should be considered in Obama’s Jobs Plan. It addresses jobs, home construction, energy, and  health care for Seniors. What do you think of the idea, and how would you change it? Please leave a Reply below.

The basic idea is to give a 15% tax credit on Energy Star and Aging-in-Place home  renovations for seniors over age 65. Such a program has numerous benefits:

  • Creates immediate jobs for home construction workers and manufacturers of products related to home modifications, universal design, and energy conservation and management.
  • Helps reduce energy costs for seniors on fixed incomes.
  • Prepares homes for aging to keep seniors to in their homes as long as possible and avoid forced moves into more expensive institutional care such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
  • Improves home values.
  • Sets the stage for innovation in health care aimed at home care.

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Grandparents play bigger role in child-rearing

Eileen and Doug Flockhart

Eileen and Doug Flockhart laugh as she holds a picture of their seventh grandchild near a wall full of family photos in their home in Exeter, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

According to this Associated Press article by Hope Yen, America is swiftly becoming a granny state.

Less frail and more involved, today’s grandparents are shunning retirement homes and stepping in more than ever to raise grandchildren while young adults struggle in the poor economy.

Census data shows that grandparents make up 1 in 4 adults and are growing at twice the rate of the overall population. They’re projected to make up 1 in 3 adults by 2020.

Not yet frail or disabled, grandparents are increasingly shunning retirement homes to stay close to family. AARP says 90% of them would rather age-in-place in their own home than be forced into institutional care, and that’s the primary audience of Modern Health Talk.

Baby Boomers, also called the “sandwich generation” because their time is split between their grown children and grandchildren on one hand and more senior parents on the other, are relatively affluent and tech-aware. They’re motivated to find solutions that lets them live the lifestyle they want and can generally afford them. That includes home modifications with Universal Design principals that work for any age or ability, digital home technologies that include video chats with remote family and friends, and telehealth solutions for home health care.

Read the AP article for the whole story.

National Demonstration Home for Universal Design, Part 1

Rosemarie Rossetti

Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. (used with permission)

Thirteen years after a freak accident left her paralyzed, Rosemarie found a new mission in life: sharing what she has learned about Universal Design. She founded Universal Design Living Laboratory and is building a national demonstration home that will be opened to the public this fall. I’ll be writing a series of articles about her project and start with this, her story.

About The Demonstration Home Project

My Story

By Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

On June 13, 1998 my husband, Mark Leder, and I decided to celebrate our anniversary by going on a bicycle ride. It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky, perfect biking weather. I was riding down the path ahead of Mark, when he heard a loud crack and yelled, “Look over there something is falling!” I glanced back at him and suddenly a 3 1/2 ton tree came crushing down on me, leaving me injured on the bike path. My life was changed in that instant! I was paralyzed from the waist down with a spinal cord injury.

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Finding a ‘healthy’ home a challenge, but can be done

Photo by Tom Coplen Buena Vista Photography

Modern homes are more airtight, driven largely by a push for increased energy efficiency, but that can trap pollutants inside and make it more likely to breathe toxic air inside the home than outside. The concentration of toxic compounds emitted by common household products and furnishings can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, fatigue and other symptoms. As much as 15% of the population is sensitive to these chemicals, especially those with asthma and other respiratory diseases. That’s why I was attracted to this article by Carrie Alexander, describing the challenges of finding a “healthy” home.

Elaine Robbins searched for more than a year before she found a house in Austin that would fit her needs. Like most home buyers, Robbins needed a house that fit her budget, location and square-footage requirements. But she also needed to find a home that would not make her ill.

Many of the houses for sale — especially those that had been spruced up with new carpet and paint before going on the market — raised health concerns for Robbins, who is especially sensitive to chemicals in many modern building materials, products and furnishings, as well as cigarette smoke and natural gas.

Read Carrie’s article for information on finding green homes built with healthy materials.


The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Home

Image of a Home for SaleBuying a home is one of the biggest purchases of your life, so it’s important to get it right, especially in today’s down economy. But with so many things to consider, sometimes buyers get overwhelmed and overlook important things. That’s why polled its panel of experts for the most important (and least-remembered) things to do during the buying process. The result is a wealth of information for anyone buying a new or pre-owned home, whether that’s you personally or a relative or friend.

Modern Health Talk founder Wayne Caswell was one of the experts consulted and was happy to share tips from his experience as a consumer advocate. Here’s the collective response from the expert panel [my additional tips at end]:

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Tools & Gadgets for Independent Living

The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology: Tools & Gadgets for Living Independently

Using a “lively narrative style,” Suzanne introduces readers to new and existing technologies, where to find them, and how to pay for them.

“The Illustrated Guide to Assistive Technology and Devices” by Suzanne Robitaille reached #1 on Amazon’s Assistive Technology List, and I’m happy to republish this excerpt with her permission. This book has been universally praised since it cuts through the clutter surrounding assistive devices with a simple conversational style. It’s organized according to disability and easily explains the best type of device for a multiple situations, home, work, on the road, or at school.

The book “combines research and personal insight to help even the most novice user make better, more informed choices about assistive technology.”
– Frances West, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center

Chapter 1


Having a disability isn’t easy. Believe me, I know. I have had a hearing disability since I was four years old. Growing up profoundly deaf impacted my education, my lifestyle, and eventually my employment. Indirectly, it affected my parents, my sister, my teachers, my friends, and my bosses.

But being deaf was also a blessing. It helped me build character; it gave me insight into a more realistic world than the one in which my peers lived; and it brought for me a love of books, and of writing, which my wonderful mother–who, like the rest of my family, was hearing– encouraged me to pursue as a career.

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Make Aging in Place Easier With a Green Home

This article by Lynn Wilson is republished with permission from The CareGiver Partnership

Aging in place and green living are important lifestyle considerations right now. We’re continually discovering products and technology that allow us to age in place — to stay in our homes, safely and comfortably, for as long as possible. At the same time, we all want to live in healthy, easy-to-care-for, energy-efficient homes. Here are some ideas for incorporating green strategies into designing a home focused on aging in place.

Natural light

When a house is designed to take advantage of natural light, it requires less artificial lighting, offers improved visibility, and saves energy by making temperature control easier. In winter, leave curtains open during the day to let the sun in, then close them at night to hold in the heat. In summer, Read More …

Home Renovations that can Save the Estate

Jack and Jill, a Mother Goose nursery rhyme

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper,
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.

Jack and Jill were in their late 60s and had been married for 37 years when Jack suffered a severe stroke and required care beyond the abilities of his partner. He was sent to an assisted-living facility, and the family home was sold to pay for his care.

Jill ended up finding a new place to live, now alone without her lifelong mate, and being separated affected the couple’s morale. Worse is that it affected both their health and their finances. Life savings were depleted before Medicaid kicked in, and the grown children now had two places to visit to support their declining parents.

It didn’t have to be that way with this second scenario.

Just as in the nursery rhyme, Jack goes home and gets better quicker in those familiar and loving surroundings, where Jane hires professionals to help care for him. That decision lets the couple stay together, and the kids have just one place to visit.

Even though renovating a home for wheelchair accessibility can cost $50,000, it can be financially better than the alternative, and the project can be entirely funded with home equity. That way they don’t even have to touch their retirement money. You see, Jack and Jill are like most American seniors, 86% of whom would rather continue living at home for as long as possible, and are willing to seek help to do that.

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