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April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month

April is National Occupational Therapy Month. This month is all about increasing awareness about all the benefits of Occupational Therapy, as well as the professionals who provide it. Occupational therapists work with individuals from age newborn through adult, which is why there are so many misperceptions concerning OT and also explains why people are not sure what exactly occupational therapy is.

The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) affectionately refers to April as “OT Month.” The AOTA states an occupational therapist or OT assistant’s “holistic and customized approach to evaluations, interventions, and outcomes help a child with disabilities participate in school and in social situations, assist a person recovering from injuries to regain skills, aid an older adult to stay as independent as possible, and offer the specialized support and services to people of all ages and in all circumstances that only occupational therapy can provide.” (Batema)

There are many different populations that Occupational Therapists can work with. Some work with young children who struggle with motor skills and developmental milestones. Others help people who have suffered in an accident or other life-changing event, Occupational Therapists help individuals to regain fine motor skills they have lost and learn new ways to perform acts of daily living. They may also work with older individuals who are going through mental or physical changes maintain a reasonable level of independence. Occupation Therapists help people get back to work, back to driving, back to acts of daily living that we often take for granted.

The professionals at Homes Safe Homes are not medical specialists, so we work with Occupational Therapists in order to help us know what modifications are needed now and what may be needed down the road as conditions progress. This allows the Home Safe Homes team to make recommendations to the client, and install equipment that will make aging-in-place possible as the disorder evolves.

Batema, Cara. “SpecialNeeds.com.” Occupational Therapy Month | SpecialNeeds.com, SpecialNeeds.com, www.specialneeds.com/activities/general-special-needs/occupational-therapy-month.

Misconception #4: Aging in Place is Only Practical in the Suburbs

According to a survey completed by HomeAdviser, sixty-five percent of homeowners who are over the age of 55 say the physical layout of their home will be appropriate as they age. However, approximately two thirds of those living in rural or suburban homes are more apt to believe this than those who live in urban homes (50 percent). Similarly, urban homeowners are more likely than rural and suburban homeowners to have completed or considered an aging-in-place renovation. Only 21 percent of rural or suburban homeowners have previously completed an aging-in-place renovation and 34 percent of them have never contemplated one, compared to the 31 percent and 15 percent, respectively, among homeowners in urban areas. Collectively, these data suggest a common belief that it’s easier to age in place in rural and suburban homes than in urban homes.

Reality: Cities Have Unique Aging-in-Place Advantages

It may be easier to modify rural and suburban homes for aging-in-place purposes, but this does not automatically make them more appropriate for older adults. In fact, the AARP Public Policy Institute released a new, first-of-its-kind tool stressing the importance of the social aspects of aging in place in 2015. The tool is called the AARP Livability Index. This index makes it possible for people of any age to figure out—at the neighborhood level—how well their community is set up to meet their future and current needs based on a wide variety of metrics, including housing, but also health, environment and transportation, amid others. Thanks to their increased social opportunities, superior neighborhood walkability and better public transit the livability score of urban communities is often higher than those of rural and suburban societies.

“In 2008, for the first time in history, the majority of the world’s population lived in cities and by 2030 approximately three out of every five people will live in urban areas” (McIlwain 2011). The percentage of the world’s population over the age of sixty is more than eleven percent today and by 2020 will surpass twenty percent. Due to these statistics, the World Health Organization made the “Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities” which assesses eight characteristics of urban life that make cities more age-friendly. The eight components are:

  • Transportation
  • Respect and social inclusion;
  • Social involvement;
  • Housing
  • Outdoor spaces and buildings;
  • Communication and information;
  • Civic involvement and employment;
  • Community support and health services.

For each of these topics, a set of parameters was produced and issued in “Global Age Friendly Cities: A Guide” in addition to a checklist. Entries on the list range from the specific, such as having sufficient seating in outdoor parks, to the very general, such as having adequate inexpensive housing in safe locations close to the rest of the community and to service . Membership in the network expresses a pledge by the city to apply these guidelines and work to increase its age-friendliness. While it may be commonly believed that urban homes are less suited to aging-in-place, this is certainly not the case.

Sources:

“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.

McIlwain, John. “Suburbs, Cities, and Aging in Place.” Urban Land Magazine, Urban Land Institute, 17 Aug. 2011, urbanland.uli.org/economy-markets-trends/suburbs-cities-and-aging-in-place/.

Misconception #3: Smart Home Technology is Simply for Convenience

Though the majority of homeowners over age 55 (67 percent) think that as they age it could be helpful, only 19 percent say they have contemplated investing in smart-home technology for that reason. This is likely because technology is still often seen as a luxury convenience rather than a sensible necessity. In fact, homeowners who haven’t considered smart-home technology to assist them with aging in place say that the most common reasons are: that they either didn’t need or are not interested in such technology (45 percent), that it is too expensive to buy (29 percent) and that it’s too expensive to install (25 percent).

Reality: Smart Home Technology Supports Independence

While smart home technology is frequently considered to be nothing more than a luxury convenience, these technologies can help aid in the process of aging in place and also increase the livability of the space for people of any age. For example, a smart refrigerator that automatically senses when groceries run low and is able to order new ones when needed. This single appliance that creates convenience for a young family can ensure that a homebound senior receives nourishment consistently.

It isn’t surprising that older adults are less likely to adopt smart home technology than young adults who are more familiar with it. This paired with the fact that smart home technologies are still coming into existence means that they are still expensive, which can make older homeowners even less likely to invest in them. Luckily, as time goes on prices will drop and the so-called “digital divide” will close.

 

Sources:

“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes.” Aging in Place Home Design & Build for Thriving in Place, Design Tech Homes, 2017, www.dth.com/our-learning-center/homeowner-tips/aging-in-place-home-design-features-for-thriving-in-place.

“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.

Misconception #2: Aging in Place is About Aging

Approximately 2/3 of homeowners age 55 or older report that they feel they are proactive when it comes to making aging-in-place home modifications. Nearly 90% say that they are familiar with aging-in-place renovations, additions, or products.

However, home modification professionals tell a different story. For example, over half of the experts that HomeAdvisor surveyed say that less than 10% of the projects that they are hired for are related to aging-in-place. Only about 20% of home modification professionals said that their clients reach out to them preemptively, before they are in immediate need of aging-in-place renovations. Most specialists stated that the majority of homeowners in need of such modifications sought them out reactively for a number of reasons.

The most common time that home owners hired home modification professionals for aging in place overhauls was after they or one of their loved ones acquired a worsening condition that over time will limit their independence (33 percent). The second most common time came as the result of a major medical incident or recent (25 percent), or because they are worried about a minor medical incident or fall that they experienced recently (19 percent).

In conclusion, the main reasons that home modification professionals were hired for aging-in-place are safety and accessibility, with only a small portion of the projects being done to allow for ease-of-living. While many homeowners want to be proactive about aging-in-place, most are held back by the misunderstanding that this will “senior-proof” their home prematurely.

Reality: Aging in Place is About Livability

The main purpose of aging-in-place projects is to make the homes more safe and accessible. “Aging in place isn’t about special add-on features that will only help you once you’ve fallen and incurred a disability,” says Rodney Harrell, Ph.D., director of Livable Communities at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “It’s about making functional home improvements that make spaces more useful and more usable for anyone, anytime.” (“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes” 2017)

In reality, countless popular aging-in-place enhancements— such as zero-step entrances, wider doorways, open floor plans, and motion-sensor lights— not only make the home safer, but can also increase the quality of life in a home. Such improvements often go undetected, but have the potential to be equally beneficial to homeowners in their thirties and forties as they are to those who are in their seventies and eighties.

“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes.” Aging in Place Home Design & Build for Thriving in Place, Design Tech Homes, 2017, www.dth.com/our-learning-center/homeowner-tips/aging-in-place-home-design-features-for-thriving-in-place.

“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.

Misconceptions and Realities of Aging-In-Place

This blog will be the first of a four-part series posted throughout the month of February. Each post will address one of the most common misconceptions about aging in place, followed by the reality.

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Misconception: Aging in Place is a Conversation for ‘Old’ People
Many people do not want to talk about or make plans for aging in place because they believe that it is only something “old” people need to do. Amongst homeowners who are 55 years old or older, 61 percent say that they are planning to stay in their home indefinitely as they age. The most common reasons they cite are that they enjoy the independence they feel in their current home, they feel safe in their present home, they do not have any physical disabilities, and they have family who lives nearby. However, HomeAdvisor found that homeowners who are over age 70 (77 percent) are more likely to desire staying in their home than homeowners who are age 56-70 (56 percent). (“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor” 2017)

This gap could be explained by people not feeling old enough to start the conversation on aging-in-place. On the other hand, it could also be rationalized by the fact that most individuals who plan on moving have most likely already done so by their 70s, whereas those who are older are already aging-in-place.

In fact, HomeAdvisor found that roughly 1/5 of homeowners have completed renovations that would allow them to age-in-place, whereas 1/3 of homeowners report having never considered making these types of modifications. Those who have not thought about aging-in-place renovations have two main reasons. The top reason given was that neither these individuals nor their loved ones had disabilities that would require such modifications to be made. The second most common reason given was that these homeowners did not consider themselves old enough to warrant contemplating these types of renovations. (“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor” 2017)

Reality: The Best Time to Think About Aging in Place is … Now

No one wants to age, or believe that they are getting older, which is why it makes sense that people wait until their seventies to announce that they have decided to “age-in-place”. On the other hand, something everyone wants to do is, “thrive-in-place”. In other words, they want to make their homes more accommodating.

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A young woman in her first home could add a shower bench to her to her tub to make it easier to shave her legs and take a relaxing shower at the end of a long day.

A young parent could have a microwave installed in place of a base drawer or cabinet, flanking the oven. This would allow them to teach their children how to cook meals more independently. It would also make it possible for the parent to stay in their home, as they get older, and are in a wheelchair or if they find reaching upward difficult.

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What is wonderful is that the same features that assist younger homeowners in thriving in their homes will allow them to do the same when they are older. It’s all about maximizing comfort, convenience and, as a result, happiness

“Aging in place isn’t about special add-on features that will only help you once you’ve fallen and incurred a disability,” says Rodney Harrell, Ph.D., director of Livable Communities at AARP’s Public Policy Institute. “It’s about making functional home improvements that make spaces more useful and more usable for anyone, anytime.” (“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes” 2017)

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“Aging in Place Home Design: Features for “Thriving in Place” – Design Tech Homes.” Aging in Place Home Design & Build for Thriving in Place, Design Tech Homes, 2017, www.dth.com/our-learning-center/homeowner-tips/aging-in-place-home-design-features-for-thriving-in-place.

“Aging in Place Report 2016 | HomeAdvisor.” Home Improvement Tips & Advice from HomeAdvisor, HomeAdvisor, Inc., 30 Aug. 2017, www.homeadvisor.com/r/2016-aging-in-place-report/.

3 Ways to Reduce Invisible Risks Around Your Home

We often do a great deal of work to protect our families from dangers both inside and outside of our homes. However, we sometimes overlook one of the best ways to look out for our family – by examining the invisible risks around our home.

But how can you reduce your risk for dangers you can’t see? A great place to start is by addressing common household issues such as contaminants, media access, and emergency preparedness.

In this third article of our three-part series, we explore ways to protect your family with tips for reducing invisible risks around your home.

 

Contaminants

You can take concrete steps to protect your home from invisible contaminants such as carbon monoxide, radon, mold, and lead. For example, installing carbon monoxide alarms on each floor of your home and outside each sleeping area will help ensure a safe environment for everyone occupying your home.

Be sure to evaluate your home for mold, radon, and lead content, which can go undetected for long periods of time and lead to chronic illness when left unchecked. It’s important to eliminate the presence of any of these hazards in your home for the sake of your family’s health.

 

Media

Our homes these days are subject to a constant influx of media content through television airwaves, cable, satellite, and Internet access. You can protect your loved ones from access to unwelcome media content by installing quality Internet filters and proactively managing your children’s access to Internet and texting. Similar filters are available for televisions.

For families eager to maintain a healthy relationship with screen time, consider incorporating a service to control the amount of access you have to your devices overall.

 

Emergencies

Emergencies can happen any time, and taking steps to reduce your risk and improve your access to help can boost your chances of coming out safe and sound.

First, whether it’s a mobile phone or land line, ensure you have a working phone at all times. Keep telephone numbers for local police, fire, hospital, medical support, and poison control accessible for everyone inside your home, including babysitters.

Consider installing a home security system to alert you to intruders, and maintain regular contact with a neighbor, friend, or family member who can check in with you to ensure your wellbeing.

In addition, keep a supply of clean, fresh drinking water and non-perishable foods on hand in the event of a power outage or weather disaster. Emergencies tend to happen when they’re least expected, and your efforts to be prepared will help ensure your family is protected.

 

Safety is a priority for every generation and every family, and the invisible risks around our homes can be especially unsettling. With these simple steps, you can help protect your family’s security and wellbeing from unseen contaminants, unwanted media influences, and unexpected emergencies.

A little preparation can go a long way towards keeping your family safe and sound.

Customized Heavy Duty Stair lift

Learn How From a Home Safe Homes Client

Stair Lift on Ground FloorKnee and joint issues were causing pain as our client climbed and descended the stairs. It was becoming so bothersome that he started looking at his options. Either stay in the home he loves and add safety equipment to make maneuvering around his home easier, or move to a retirement facility. He decided he wasn’t ready to lose his independence and started searching for safety equipment online. His main priority was to install a stair lift. He went to a source he knew he could trust and that’s when he found our profile on Angie’s List.

 
Rails on the stairsWe provided a home assessment and took note of the additional features he wanted in his stair lift. Together we decided on a Harmar heavy-duty stair lift with the addition of a swivel seat. He is still using his stair lift today and continues to enjoy his independence as he ages in place.

 

 “Everything went very well. Kent McCool was very professional and reassuring. The price and quality was great. We also received a fantastic discount for being an Angie’s List member.”