"Unfortunately, the home environment is not well suited for many people to remain in as they age," said Olsen. "Safety problems abound, especially when it comes to exterior maintenance." However, Olsen and Hutchings believe that vigilant attention to detail and common sense can keep many a loved one in their familiar surroundings.
The pair is in the vanguard of a growing national movement to enable the aging population and individuals with disabilities to remain at home. The researchers recently co-authored A Home for Life, NJIT Press, 2005. The text is a soft cover, easy-to-read and follow, 78-page guide for creating, safe, comfortable homes. A grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service supported their work.
"Research shows that living at home for many people is better than being sent to an institution," said Olsen. Fifteen states, to date, have arrangements so that Medicare money can pay for daily visits from home health aides to people in their homes. Similar legislation is now pending in New Jersey as well as a pilot program for Ocean County.
"The thing to keep in mind when assessing a home is to remain flexible and honest when assessing the capabilities of the individual," said Olsen. "Not everything works for everyone. There is no silver bullet. What we suggest are some ideas to try that we have seen often work for some people."
"We also remind everyone to assess the situation every few months to insure that the living conditions remain viable," Hutchings added. "You will need to be doing different things at different stages of the person's life. But with a certain amount of common sense and attention to detail, loved ones can remain in their homes."
The book focuses on many good tips for home safety, but the ones for exterior maintenance pinpoint among some of the most potentially dangerous and overlooked spots. "In many homes, the most trouble occurs before anyone even reaches the front door," said Hutchings. "Unfortunately, we get so used to seeing everyday landscapes, these hazards, don't pop out at us."
What to do?
"The remedy begins with a pad and pencil and 10 minute safety walk from the street, up the driveway to the front door," Olsen said. "Walkways, driveways and front, side and rear yards all need to be accessible, easy to walk on and free of tripping hazards." Olsen suggests using the following checklist to ensure safe and comfortable surroundings.
Driveways and Sidewalks
Railings and Steps
Door and Doorway Design
To order copies of the book, contact the Center for Architecture and Building Science Research at 973-596-8439 to request an order form.
New Jersey Institute of Technology, the state's public technological research university, enrolls more than 8,100 students in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in 100 degree programs offered by six colleges: Newark College of Engineering, New Jersey School of Architecture, College of Science and Liberal Arts, School of Management, Albert Dorman Honors College and College of Computing Sciences. NJIT is renowned for expertise in architecture, applied mathematics, wireless communications and networking, solar physics, advanced engineered particulate materials, nanotechnology, neural engineering and eLearning. In 2006, Princeton Review named NJIT among the nation's top 25 campuses for technology recognizing the university's tradition of research and learning at the edge in knowledge.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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