THE SANDWICH GENERATION
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CLAPPER? The Clapper inspired a million jokes, but it was actually one of the first successful ‘smart home’ products on the market. The sound-initiated device invented in the 1980s allowed people to turn on or off lights and appliances by clapping.
The next consideration is circulation inside the home — having hallways, doorways and rooms (including bathrooms) wide enough to allow wheelchair access and space to turn around, May said. Next is assessing kitchens and bathrooms. Making those accessible whether the resident is walking or in a wheelchair is critical and may include lowering countertops, installing pull-down cabinets and other systems to improve accessibility and safety. “The benefit of using an architect to modify your house is that the architect can look at the layout of the house and make sure everything works together,” May said. “It’s not putting a Band-Aid over something – it’s a holistic approach to the house.” An architect especially should be consulted before any walls or doorways are knocked down to prevent structural issues from developing. In all areas of the home, the floors should be carefully selected. “The tactile experience is subtle but important,” Kulinski said. “Changes in surfaces should be easily identifiable either by feel or with limited vision. If there’s a step in the middle of a room, you need to have contrasting floor material so they can see or feel the transition.” All installed flooring should also be slip resistant. “Avoid polished finishes so people are less apt to fall.” Some of the most helpful design changes to help older adults age in place include:
A walk-in, curbless shower. Older residents may not be able to step over the side of a
bathtub or even over a curb to get into a shower. Showers that allow them to roll (or shuffle) in can be safer.
Grab bars or resting points at strategic locations. Kulinski said he’s worked on projects where a resident wants to age in place but doesn’t need major modifications yet. In those cases, Kulinski places blocking and studs strategically in the walls to make it easy for a contractor to install grab bars later. Anything designed to support a person’s weight needs to be anchored properly to avoid damage to the walls or injury to the person.
A first-floor master suite. “If you convert a room on the first floor to a bedroom, there are minimum requirements for livability, including two means of egress,” May said. “Having a closet does not make a space qualified to be a bedroom.” The first-floor master suite should eliminate unnecessary doors to closets, include an accessible laundry room nearby, and include a sitting area, too, Kulinski suggested.
Access between floors. In designing a new home or making modifications, many homeowners are requesting an elevator between floors or need mechanical lifts to get from one floor or area to another. In one home in Old Town, May created space for an elevator by taking out closet space and moving some walls. May said in some newer homes, some architects are intentionally stacking elevator-sized closets to allow for an easier installation if an elevator is needed in the home later on. An elevator, whether in a new home or retrofitted, can cost $30,000 to $50,000.
Today, an increasing number of seniors are incorporating smart home technology into their agingin-place plans. “Home automation may be something that can help if seniors still have the mental acuity to use it,” Kulinski said. “There may be some reluctance or resistance to change, but there are a lot of my clients who have adapted to the technology rather readily.” “If they’re going to make the effort to renovate the space, they want to incorporate the latest gadgets to make their lives easier.” These gadgets may include multifunctional smoke alarms with speaker capabilities, strobe lights and more. Home automation will allow people to find out the weather without going outside and see who’s at the door before opening it, as well. “Amazon Alexa is the modern-day version of ‘The Clapper,’” Kulinski said.
TRIVIA The Clapper was originally invented by a Canadian duo and didn’t work very well, but it was re-engineered to work, produced and marketed by Joseph Pedott, founder of Joseph Enterprises, Inc. That same company was responsible for another iconic 1980s product — the Chia Pet.
November / December 2018 • alexandrialivingmagazine.com