Starting aging in place before getting to the door
Before we can age in place successfully, we need two things: (1) we have to have an agreeable home that we want to remain living in long-term and (2) we have to get inside that home unimpeded so we can enjoy our home and what it has to offer us.
The entire property where we live and on which our home is situated is important for aging in place safely. Therefore, it deserves a lot of our focus. Conventionally, the inside of the home receives all of the attention, but our concern really should begin at the curb or front sidewalk and go from there.
The way we approach and enter the home is as important – if not more so – than the way the interior lives and accommodates us. Entrances typically are very challenging.
A barrier-free entrance is crucial
In terms of access to a dwelling – and with visitability implications as well – creating a safe non-step entrance into the home should be a top priority, and one worthy of whatever budget is necessary to achieve it.
If people can’t get into a home easily, the inside really is of little consequence. All of the focus we have on interior features pales if a person can’t get to, through, and past the front door.
The case can be made that without a safe and accessible entry into a home, for either the normal occupants of that home or visitors and guests when they arrive, that any money spent inside the home or any modifications that might be deemed necessary are secondary. They’re not unimportant or not worth pursuing. It’s just that they don’t matter as much if someone can’t get into the home easily. So, first things first. Let’s focus on creating a safe barrier-free entrance into a home.
Home access begins at the front door
A front door wide enough to permit passage by anyone – large or small in stature, without or without any type of assistive devices – is essential to successful aging in place. The residents of the dwelling need to come and go without challenge, and so do their guests and visitors.
If there is the slightest concern about tripping or stumbling, people won’t use the entrance as much – the people living there will be confined to their homes, and visitors won’t come as often or at all.
It all begins by having a barrier-free, easy-access, sufficiently wide, non-impeding doorway to approach and walk through. It’s more than the physical doorway, but that’s part of it. The door hardware, the area immediately outside the door such as the porch or landing, lighting that safely illuminates the approach, and the general feeling of safety in walking or rolling up to the front door all impact the quality of the front door and how it impacts the general desirability of the home.
It may not require a large budget for a better front door
Knowing that an accessible entry door is the key to effective aging in place for the residents and their guests, we want to see entrances that aren’t especially accessible to become so. Some are going to require more work and money than others, and some are going to be significant challenges. Still, others are going to be relatively easy to modify and can be done for a modest expenditure.
Budget generally is a major factor in aging in place renovations or remodeling in general, but it can be kept under control.
Attending to lighting (such as adding more fixtures or a different type or quality of illumination or using motion-activated lighting that turns on when someone approaches), creating more space around the door (for a safer approach and a place to wait for the door to be opened) by extending landing or porch areas or removing conflicts near the door, trimming or eliminating shrubbery that interferes with the safe approach to the entrance, and adding safety railings – even if there are no steps – would be some first steps to take that won’t necessarily require large expenditures – depending on their extent and the desires of the client.
The important part to remember is that aging in place within the home can’t really be effective or enjoyable unless people can get inside the home easily and efficiently.