RENOVATED ROOM: Living Room
At first glance, the living room may seem to be the most naturally accessible space in the house. The living room’s relatively large size means wheelchairs and scooters may maneuver here more easily than in other rooms. And because of its proximity, the living room is typically on the same level as the home’s front door.
But the living room must still overcome accessibility challenges.
First, aesthetics are important. Because the living room is frequently used to entertain guests, homeowners may be sensitive about incorporating mobility or accessibility equipment that looks “medical.”
Second, because they’re typically spacious and close to entrances, living rooms may serve as backup bedrooms in times of need, such as when an ill or injured family member is unable reach an upstairs bedroom. Or senior homeowners may want to convert the living room to a bedroom to avoid climbing stairs so often.
Therefore, a living room that is going to be accessible today and tomorrow requires some planning.
Accessibility basics, of course, apply. Ideally, living rooms should be on the same level as the entrance to the home — but if steps lead into the living room, they should be easy to detect and navigate. In a story entitled “6 Ideas for Elder-Friendly Design,” the television program “This Old House” (www.thisoldhouse.com) recommends handrails on both sides of staircases, good lighting in stairway areas, and steps that are clearly defined, so edges can be seen. The story also recommends nonskid flooring, low-pile styles if carpeting is used, and eliminating thresholds, such as those created by area rugs.
A living room being built anew or undergoing renovation could include provisions for future multitasking as well. Another “This Old House” story called “Turning a Barn Into a Cottage for Elderly Parents” discussed adding pocket doors to the entrance of the living room, so the room could be later used as a private bedroom.
Another major challenge to creating the accessible living room is aesthetics. Fortunately, a staple of the senior-friendly living room — the lift chair — is more attractive than ever, with manufacturers offering ever-widening arrays of fabrics, designs, colors and sizes to accommodate users of virtually all sizes. In addition, platform lifts and elevators are available in sizes and designs to complement an array of home decors.
Have illustrated brochures and fabric swatches on hand to help customers envision how seamlessly mobility equipment can fit into their lifestyle and room decor — and how livin’ can be easier because of it!
Living It Up: Products That Work
The high-performance hydraulics in this manual patient lift from Drive Medical Design & Mfg. gradually and safely raise and lower users from any stationary position. Chrome-plated steel construction provides the strength to lift up to 450 lbs., while an adjustable base width lends additional security; (877) 224-0946; www.drivemedical.com
Comforter PR-502, a bariatric lift chair by Golden Technologies, features a triple motor for smooth, quiet lifting and reclining. The PR-502 is designed to offer an infinite range of recline positions, while four standard and 36 optional fabric choices help to ensure this 700-lb. weight capacity chair complements any home decor; (800) 624-6374; www.goldentech.com
SuperPole and Advantage Rail systems from Healthcraft Products can provide furniture or floor-to-ceiling mounted handholds wherever they’re needed, including alongside beds, toilets or sofas. Poles and rails come in different heights and sizes to facilitate various transfer needs; (888) 619-9992; www.healthcraftproducts.com
For smaller users, the 5500 Petite lift chair from Med-Lift & Mobility offers reduced overall chair height, back height and seat width, with a 21″ seat-to-floor height for easy transfers and a smaller footprint. Options include reading lights, custom upholstery and snap-on head pillow; (800) 748-9438; www.medlift.com
The vertical platform lift from National Wheel-O-Vator can be customized to fit individual customer and environmental needs. It’s designed to offer an affordable, space-efficient solution to accessibility needs; (888) 353-8898; www.wheelovator.com