By: Cynthia Leibrock
Imagine your home as a place for regeneration, a sanctuary for healing the wounds of the outside world. It is clean, not cluttered and unmanageable. It prevents disease and injury and restores you when the inevitable occurs. It regenerates you on a daily basis, supporting good sleep, encouraging exercise, making it fun to do healthy cooking.
Universal design is not just for older and disabled people. It should simply be considered good design and integrated into every home. Who wouldn’t want a home filled with light, open space, and great acoustics? Who doesn’t want a home that motivates you to a lifestyle that leads to health and longevity? Universal design does more than accommodate disability. It actually prevents accidents, injury, and resulting disability. It empowers people of all ages. It improves reach for children. It makes it easier for moms with strollers and for business travelers with roller bags. It supports you during pregnancy, temporary injury, and aging without turning your home into a hospital.
That’s a lot to ask of a house, but it can be done. For the last ten years we have been living with contractors to demonstrate universal design. We have integrated over 200 “Design Details for Health”, the title of my last book. Most are illustrated on my site at www.AgingBeautifully.org/ranch. About half of these ideas cost less than $50, but some are expensive. You’ll see the steam shower, bathtub inside a bathtub, magnetic induction wok, steam oven to seal in nutrients, and dual refrigeration to keep veggies fresh for weeks. Our exercise room is in the most beautiful part of the house, not the basement. Notice the relaxing views, the clean lines, and the green design. You won’t notice the grab bars, the gurney accessible bathroom, the ceiling track lift, or the accessible route through the house. It’s there, but it’s invisible . . . and we suddenly needed all of it.
A few months after finishing our remodeling my husband tore his Achilles tendon, and I had unexpected hip surgery. He was on a scooter and I was using a walker. Because we couldn’t help each other, the hospital was recommending a “rehab. facility.” In other words, we were heading for THE HOME. Instead we headed for OUR home, a safe and comfortable place with a seat in the shower, and recessed area rugs level with slip resistant wood floors. After surgery we transferred from our car, wheeled into the accessible entry, pushed a button on the automatic door, and entered a space filled with healing natural light, beautiful views, soothing music, and so much more. Ours is a home for regeneration, and also a home for life.
Postscript: we did our rehab, in our home gym, and three months after surgery we took a multisport trip to Alaska for hiking, biking, canoeing, and sea kayaking.