To be sure, safety, accessibility, visitability, security, comfort, and convenience all are vital and co-equal parts of our overall focus for analyzing and creating effective aging in place solutions, but there should be more to our approach.
People have to be safe in and on their yards, driveways, garages, carports, patios, porches, and sidewalks.
Getting from the street to the front door – or the reverse, going from the home to the street – needs to afford easy, safe, and comfortable access. The footing needs to be sound. Broken concrete, uneven surfaces, missing material, weeds and grass interrupting the pavement, rocks or other debris such as twigs and leaves, and encroaching bushes and flowers can all impact the safety and movement on and along walkways.
Homes that have severe elevation changes from the home to the street present many issues – some not easy or inexpensive to solve. People need to be able to leave their homes to be in their yard – for exercise, light yardwork and maintenance, and fresh air and sunshine. The challenge for many homes is creating a reverse type of visitability where the occupants can comfortably move from the front door (or back or side door) out into their yards and beyond without encountering obstacles.
Leaving the confines of the home and being in the yard or venturing down the sidewalk or side of the road a house or two away – even using a walker or wheelchair – is good exercise and good for the spirit. When people encounter their neighbors or just keep pace with what is going on around them, it keeps them better grounded and happier.
Some people love being able to garden, care for plants, or doing minor landscaping work – and some go in for much more strenuous activities. These necessarily need to occur in the yard (front or back) outside of the home.
There are those who like to work on the collections or work on woodworking or repair projects in their garage, basement, or shed. While some of these areas may technically be part of the dwelling, many people must go to another structure for them. Either way, it is a destination away from the normal living space.
For those so inclined, leaving home to walk, jog, walk their dog, ride a bike, rollerblade, or ice skate in the winter, gets them outdoors and away from home. Even raking or bagging leaves is an outdoor activity that is done in the yard but outside of the home. Putting the trash or recycling out for collection is an activity that is done outside – whether on the driveway or at the street.
Some people may have a pool, hot tub, or spa on their patio, deck, or in the backyard. This is certainly an out-of-the-home pursuit.
Thus, there are many things that we (ourselves and as aging-in-place professionals) need to do – and that we should do – to help us and others use their homes well as they age (regardless of their current age or ability. Aging in place strategies are both an indoor and outside focus around someone’s living space.