Aging produces unknown outcomes
Everyone experiences some mobility issues throughout their lives. Some are relatively minor and come and go. Some are a little more chronic. Some affect the way people get around to the point of them requiring a mobility aid of some type.
The way that we go about our daily activities is subject to change from a number of outside as well as physical factors within us. As we age, our bodies change in ways that we weren’t expecting or have difficulty explaining. Sometimes they are just a temporary nuisance that we live with for a time and then move on. Other times, we learn how to adapt our activities to deal with an ache or pain that compromises or interferes with our formally normal activity or mobility.
Mobility is the key
Let’s make sure that we understand that mobility consists of so much more than just walking or stepping. It’s the movement of our body in all of its various ways. While flexing the hip, knee, and ankle joints factor prominently into mobility in terms of walking or stepping, the concept of mobility includes the movement of any joint, tendon, or ligament – from our neck to our toes. As any movement becomes restricted, difficult, or sore, we experience a mobility limitation.
In some cases, people have a limitation that they are born with or one that has resulted from a traumatic injury or a progressive illness of some type. Here, they may be using a walker, cane, wheelchair, crutches, braces, or other type of assistive devices to help navigate their world.
Mobility issues can result from muscle strains and sprains, from a tear in a muscle or ligament or tendon, from a bone break, from a dislocation, from overuse of certain muscles or joints, from disease, from a traumatic injury, or just from aging. They can be related to sensory changes as well.
Mobility issues are quite common
It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, for someone to go through life without experiencing a few minor episodes of mobility limitations. It could be as simple as a stiff neck or a turned ankle. When these minor issues arise, we deal with them. Sometimes we self-medicate to take away the pain and reduce any inflammation. Sometimes we rest the affected area and try to do an activity that does not require the use of that part of our body. Sometimes we suffer through the limitation knowing that it is just for a brief period of time. Sometimes, we make allowances and determine another way to do what it is that we are attempting.
Since we never know how life is going to unfold – even if we consider ourselves to be quite healthy and free of any physical limitations for the moment – we need to be prepared for such eventualities. This can be done quite easily with visitable design in our homes.
Additionally, we won’t necessarily know in advance what someone might be experiencing that is coming to our home after having been invited by us or just to call upon us. We need to have the approach, entrance, and floor areas of our homes accessible to anyone.
Access into our homes
An entrance walkway, driveway, and approach (steps, porch, stoop, or landing) needs to accommodate the mobility (physical) needs of anyone who might come to our door. This cannot be done as they are walking up to the door. Obviously, it needs to be done in advance. We are included in this picture as well.
Accommodating people who are going to be visiting us – since we never know who all those people who are going to be coming or what their physical needs might be as well – is a high priority on having a home that is safe and comfortable for people to enter and use. Even if we are less concerned about ourselves and other occupants of our home, looking out for those coming to us is a major priority.,
Of course, as we look out for those coming to see us and provide for the mobility issues they might be experiencing – never knowing the extent of those concerns except for regular visitors like relatives or neighbors – we also will be providing for ourselves and the others residing with us.
Our abilities are subject to change without warning
Just as we never know what everyone who visits us (by invitation or just stopping by unannounced) will be experiencing, life can throw us some curves as well – from sprains, strains, broken bones, and illnesses or other events (such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia, diabetes, or a stroke). A year ago, who knew anything about COVID?
Since there is no way to tell what the future holds for us and our family members, using visitable design is a solid way to approach aging in place concerns. It won’t matter whether someone who is in good health and ability now retains that long-term, or whether there are issues now or in the future to deal with that affect how someone uses our homes and gets around in them.
Of course, in discussing our own homes, we really are extending this to the marketplace and the homes, needs, and experiences of our current clients and others we might serve in the future.