Occupational Therapy + Home Renovation
When you think about aging-in-place concepts, you probably envision grab bars in the bathtub, curb-less shower stalls, taller toilets, and other accessories designed to increase mobility for a typically older crowd. And while these concepts are part of an aging-in-place strategy, they’re only part of the equation.
Wider hallways, electrical outlets that are just a bit higher and light switches that are just a bit lower, under-vanity lighting, wider doorways, and eliminating tripping hazards on the exterior doors are a few of the approaches we can take when making a home more inclusive.
By using universal design concepts, we can make homes safer, more enjoyable, and in many cases, more valuable.
Starting the Conversation
Before we begin any renovation project, we have a conversation with the homeowner to understand the motivations for their reno, whether it’s a kitchen upgrade, a bathroom remodel, or even adding a new section to your home. “When I visit a home,” explains Ed McDonald, co-owner of MAC Renovations in Victoria, “I like to dig deep with the homeowner to find the true change they’re looking for. They may have asked us to come out to remove the bathtub, and then in conversation, I’ll find out that the husband had hip surgery and can’t climb into the tub anymore. In this situation, we’ll recommend they have an occupational therapist walk through their home with them to identify issues they might have around mobility today, as well as 5-10 years from now.”
Claudia Walker is a local Occupational Therapist we refer to for many of our clients when they’re concerned about their ability to stay at home. “Claudia is an independent occupational therapist,” shared Ed, “which means she’s qualified to assess the homeowner’s needs for now and for the future.”
“Occupational Therapy focuses on functional performance,” explained Claudia. “It’s about your ability to do what you want to do safely, and for different people, that means different things. When I visit a home, I’ll look at the flow: the path people follow as they go about their day, room to room. I look at the intersection of the place and the person to understand what they want to do in their environment. Then we’ll develop a strategy that recommends safe and effective changes to prevent falls, maximize their independence, and maintain their dignity. It’s not enough to just be safe in your home: you need to live in it too, with the ability to do the things that matter to you.”
“Much of universal design is about removing barriers to everyday living,” said Claudia. “Walk-in showers, slip-resistant flooring, higher toilets, and grab-rails in the shower are a great start. And outside of the home, making sure the pathways are clear, the sidewalks are level, and installing well-designed ramps can help people remain independent in their own homes, whether they’re in a wheelchair or using a walker.”
“The fear of falling can actually be as much as a health issue as the fall itself,” explained Claudia. “Many seniors start retracting into themselves, withdrawing from the things they love to do because they fear they’ll get hurt while attempting it. A home renovation that incorporates universal design principles and aging-in-place concepts can give people the confidence to live their life.”
The aging population means there are more inventions and resources available to help people enjoy their home. “In some of our builds, we’re putting in automatic lighting with voice controls,” explained Ed. “And where it makes sense, we’re installing elevators into some homes. These tend to be best for larger houses with three or four floors. In homes with smaller footprints, stairlifts are usually a better solution. Another smart feature is microwave drawers, which eliminate the risk of spilling hot food onto yourself when you’re reaching up to take something out of the unit mounted above the stove or under the cabinets.”
Contractor for Life
We’ve been doing home renovations in Victoria for over 40 years now, and we’ve done repeat jobs for many of our clients. “When MAC was just a new company,” shared Ed, “we were hired to add a sunroom to a home in Gordon Head for a doctor and his wife. As their kids became teens, we were invited back to expand the primary bedroom to give them more living space, away from the loud — but lovely — teens. And once the kids had grown up and moved out, we came back in to do a full kitchen renovation to allow the parents to enjoy the entertainment stage of their life. That’s what a contractor for life does – helps you incorporate the changes you need to enjoy your home, no matter how old you are. Trends and lifestyles change over the years, so having a team that knows your home and your family is a smart way to ensure you love where you live as long as you want.”
If you’d like to know what needs to be done to help you enjoy your home for as long as you want, contact us to schedule a no-obligation consultation.