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Interior Design for Active Aging… Aging In Place By Carol Carr D orothy in The Wizard of Oz had it right: “There’s no place like home.” An AARP study reveals that as we age the desire to remain in our own homes actually increases. Many people choose to remain in their homes as long as possible even if it means making major changes. “Aging in Place” is a relatively new sub- specialty of interior design that can help you stay in your home for as long as you like. It’s not about growing old; it’s about planning ahead for the inevitable changes in mobility, vision and cognition. It differs somewhat from other types of interior design because of its increased emphasis on health and safety. Life Changes Prompt Home Modifications Studies show that elderly Americans are reducing their use of nursing home care, because they prefer home delivered care or assisted living in their homes. In an ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) study, one in four participants (25%) said they had or will have to modify their homes. Suggested Modifications • Improve access by installing ramps or railings or by widening doors and halls. • The pathways and hallways will need to be clear. • If there are wall-to-wall carpets, con- sider changing to tile or wood which will allow wheelchairs to move easily. • Remove any throw rugs; it’s too easy to trip on them. • Get rid of all the clutter throughout the home. • Create a large open space in every room. • Consider the amount of space that a wheelchair needs to turn. • Where there are ‘step downs’, cover with bright reflective colored tape. • Contrast items in the home with highly saturated colors, not pastels. • Check the hand railings both inside and out to be sure they’re secure. • Be sure your shower has a non-slip mat and install a grab bar both in the shower and the toilet area. • Put night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms as well as pathways etc. • Install outdoor pathway lighting and a light at the door. • Seating in the main room should be firm, have a high seat and preferably arms to assist getting out of the seat. Be sure the chairs aren’t too soft or too low to the ground which could strand a person awkwardly. • Install ramps where needed. Vision and lighting are very important. As we age our lens thickens and yellows which degrades our ability to differentiate between pale colors, they’re seen as gray. Astonishingly, most elder care residences use the pale colors which cause confusion and frustration for the elderly because a clear contrast between horizontal and vertical planes is required. We humans need light, both natural and man-made. Our bodies use light to set our internal schedule of chemical secretions, circadian rhythms. All light intensity should be increased while keeping the brightness consistent. Task lighting is very important for reading and writing tasks. Glare on walls and floors can negatively impact people with mobility and cognitive issues. They can’t see the surfaces clearly due to the glare of excessive reflected light. As we age our eyes dilate and contract at a slower rate, so looking repeatedly between dark and light causes disorientation. This plan is not for ‘old’ people. It’s for people who want to secure their quality of life and live it out in dignity while not being a burden to their families or the community. If you haven’t retired yet, think about starting your plan now by hiring a professional to guide you through the process. For those of you ready for a safer, more comfortable home contact a professional. Carol Carr has been an interior designer since 1981, as ‘Carol Spence Interior Design’, ASID, CID. Carol specializes in making your home comfortable, an extension of your personality and lifestyle. Her design philosophy is “Every room should be usable and comfortable — a balance between visual response and physical comfort. Carol can be reached at 408.779.4189. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MARCH/APRIL 2016 37