Getting ahead of ourselves
When we think of creating improvements or modifications to allow people to age in place well and remain safe in their home environment, a couple of areas of their floor plan usually attract our attention – the kitchen and the bath. These two areas also are the ones that people look at first and consider the most when they are shopping for a new home, watching design shows on television, or visiting their home improvement center.
To be sure, these are paramount to the needs of people in their homes, but they aren’t the only areas we need to be concerned about or consider. Not to diminish the importance of these two main areas of the home or to lessen our focus on making them safer and easier to use aspects of the home environment, there is something else far more important to the way people use their homes and what we need to focus on as a way of helping them.
The most immediate need that many people have in their homes is the entry point. This often gets overlooked because of the way we like to focus on the kitchen and the bath.
Beginning at the front door
Regardless of what other improvements or tweaks we might want to make in the homes of our clients or what they are asking us to do, none of those other improvements or considerations matter inside the home until we actually enter the home. Therefore the front door or the entry portal is crucial to having a great and safe aging in place experience.
If someone cannot get into their homes easily and safely – regardless of any mobility considerations they may have or devices they might use – the way the rest of the home works or fails to work is far less important. It is of little consequence how our homes allow us to use and be in them if we are challenged to our ability to get inside.
Therefore, the walkway and steps leading to the doorway, any railings that provide balance assistance, the platform or stoop leading to the actual doorway, and the covered porch to provide protection from the weather – whenever any of these elements are present and to the extent they allow us to use them comfortably and easily – get us to the front door. Now, we must have the surrounding space to use to open the front door easily and then transition through it well. All of these concerns become major factors in how well we can use our homes and fully enjoy aging in place.
Interior accessibility is important also
Of course, we want to consider how passageways, kitchens, bathrooms, sleeping areas, cabinets, appliances, and other aspects of the living environment work well for the occupants, but it all emanates from the entry point.
Getting into the home well sets the stage for the safe and effective use of the other aspects of the home. The entrance should be a primary focus for us.