As you venture out to enjoy the lovely spring weather, take a look around your home for opportunities to improve safety and accessibility within your outdoor spaces. As a proud homeowner who plans to spend as much time as possible living independently, you can ensure that your property takes care of you just as well as you've cared for it. This article will outline a four areas and provide some expert tips for assessing the level of your home's outdoor safety.
Smooth Driveways & Walkways
Are your driveways and walkways surfaced so as to accommodate your current and future mobility needs? Concrete or pavement is more compatible with walkers, canes and wheelchairs than are gravel, flagstone or composite surfaces. If your existing concrete work has suffered the effects of frost heave or root intrusion, the time to repair or resurface is now.
Your walkways should have only gentle slopes (1 foot per 1 inch of rise max) and - if required - should incorporate long shallow steps. If you're in a wheelchair, steps are a roadblock so ensure that your path is clear of steps/bumps, easy to navigate, and connects the major areas of your outdoor space. If your outdoor space needs accessibility updates, try to think of fixing them as a chance to do some much needed landscaping to increase your home's curb appeal.
Low Stoops & Porches
How accessible is your front door? If you need to climb stairs, or if your front porch does not provide enough room or access for a wheelchair (with or without an attendant), you'll want to plan for a new approach--quite literally. Custom ramps with attractive, ADA-compliant railings and matching landings can enhance your home's curb appeal while ensuring safe and easy access.
For really tricky situations, a wheelchair platform lift may be required. These machines fit within a nice 5'x5' space and can turn even the most difficult entrance into an easy access point. Although these machines are more expensive, there are some funding programs that may be helpful. One thing to watch out for is that Massachusetts has some of the strictest regulations surrounding these machines (which are considered elevators). Do your due diligence on any contractor who says they can install these because there are hefty fines if you're caught with a machine that doesn't meet code.
Does your door threshold keep out rain and snow? Wonderful! But you may have noticed that standard, high thresholds can also keep out wheelchairs. Roll-through thresholds and widened doorways make a world of difference to those who get around with walkers or chairs, as well as to their caregivers. Be sure that at least one exterior doorways is designed to accommodate a wheelchair - this may require a new deck or patio be built so that everything is level.
You'll also want to pay attention to the location and style of your door hardware. Lever-style door handles tend to be easier to manipulate than knobs, and you may wish to change the height of your handles and locks according to your requirements or even incorporate push-button door operators.
Your storm doors likely open outward, and if this is a problem for you and your mobility aids, the solution may be to remove it and modify the existing exterior door. There is always a way to achieve the desired result and we always look for the option that achieves the most for the lowest cost.
You'll also benefit from as much lighting as possible around doorways, for security as well as safety. All pathways, steps, and entrances should be well lit to avoid any hidden hazards. Although installing new lights such as motion sensor lighting seems easy enough, you should always consult a professional before trying yourself.
Fun Decks & Sunrooms
Are you spending less time outdoors due to your decreased mobility? You may wish to enclose a n existing deck or add a sunroom to increase your comfort level and add a transition area between your interior living spaces and gardens. Railings and discrete grab bars are easy to install and extremely helpful for balance. Are your railings sturdy and appropriate for your current needs? We can guide you through ADA-compliancy with your specific aesthetics and mobility requirements in mind. It's absolutely possible to incorporate custom ramps into your hardscaping designs without breaking the bank.
Be sure to consider how you'll enjoy the space; cleverly-customized potting benches, tool sheds, hot tub areas, and outdoor grilling kitchens can reinvigorate your enthusiasm for outdoor activities while also maintaining a safe outdoor environment.
If you'd like an expert to help you determine how to best plan for your outdoor mobility needs, call us or schedule a free home safety assessment by one of our Certified Aging In Place Specialists.