One thing you NEED outside your front door.

It’s so simple and genius that you’re going to wonder why you hadn’t thought about it before…

What is it?

A bench, shelf, or chair. Yep – put one outside your door.

Scott and I were driving around town the other day and we spotted a home with a package at their front door. Here’s a drive by photo – look closely!

package at door

A typical sight you say – well we saw evidence of where a simple solution could make the homeowner’s life easier.

Why does it make my life easier?

It’s a resting place for packages delivered to your home, and you don’t have to bend down and pick it up. This is great if it’s super heavy and if you just have trouble picking things off the ground.

We had a large package delivered to our apartment that was at least 28 pounds and it was placed right in front of our door. I wasn’t home so Scott wanted to get in the package an check out what was inside! Scott was unable to pick it up because it was super heavy and awkward, so he had to push it out of the way by bumping it with his chair. Once he was outside the door and able to get around the package, he then pushed it back inside by again bumping it with his chair.


Even though this house doesn’t have a place for packages (yet… we should go meet the owners), what other characteristics of this home above make it user friendly?

Even better…

You can get all creative an make the bench/shelf/chair look decorative and give your porch some curb appeal! Plus this solution is pretty cost-effective. If you’re a big DIY person you can get all crafty and potentially make something old into something new for a bargin or even FREE.

Don’t believe me? Pinterest says otherwise…

bench on front porch

Source: Top Cat Construction, INC.

diy front porch bench

Source: Elegant Nest 

bench between column

Source: Interior Design Musings

chair on porch

Source: Havoc to Haven

Granted I’m just going for the ideas of chairs/benches here – no steps to the porch would make these pictures rock even more. So… go get creative and make your life easier!

Should we really be calling old(er) people “seniors?”

Sarah and I are part of an “Aging-in-Place Roundtable,” which is an effort by our local chamber of commerce to bring businesses together and strategize about best ways to serve our older population. It’s a good group, but a little disconnected from the community, so we’re talking about ways to do some outreach.

Thing is, some of the branding of the group uses the term “seniors.” I question its effectiveness, because who is in the demographic that actually labels themselves as senior citizens? My mother, in her early 60s, certainly doesn’t. She’s looking at some of the aging-in-place and universal design issues for the not-so-distant future though, as are some friends of ours from church who are in their mid-upper 50s. Other friends are in their 70s, yet still spry and active. The term “senior” just doesn’t feel like it’s the best option.

So, I asked my friend Google. It found this article, called “Elderly No More” from the NY Times. It basically poses the same question:

“What language should we use in talking about people age 65 and older? Should we call them “seniors”? “The elderly”? “Older adults”? Something else?

and then offers this in response:

“For heavens’ sake, don’t call them anything. Let’s talk about their interests and values.”

I like the response, but in terms of branding, is there a better term to use for our old(er) friends, family members, and neighbors other than “seniors?” I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Top 5 things from day 2 of Universal Design Summit 5

Today was insightful, motivating, and our heads are full of knowledge! It’s refreshing to be in community with SO many people who are engaged in making our homes and communities beautiful and easy to use. Sarah and I decided to split up on most sessions to learn as much as we could. There’s too much to write, but here are our top 5 things we wanted to highlight about today’s sessions… and then we’re going to bed.

1. Amy Levner from AARP (@amylevneraarp) validated our mission about universal design being equally as important in communities as well as homes. The challenge is that our cities are designed for cars, not people (does this sound familiar for anyone who has read our ebook?). We need walkable and livable cities. Esther Greenhouse (@esthergreenhous) provided this statistic in another session: we live in an auto-dependent society, but 1/3 of the population doesn’t drive, and private transportation isn’t an economically sustainable solution.

2. Universal design isn’t seen as a “want” but a “need” by the majority of the population (for those who have heard of it), and is often associated with disability, regardless of its intent of increasing access & usability – or ease & convenience – for everyone. The Better Living Design Institute is aiming to create more of a “want” by driving consumer demand for universal design in homes without actually calling it universal design, favoring a new “better living design” (BLD) designation. Louis Tenenbaum (@louis_tenenbaum) highlighted that the meaning and experience behind the design of things is more important than the specific details, in terms of marketing.

3. Esther Greenhouse (@esthergreenhous), an environmental gerontologist, dropped an atom bomb of statistics about falls. Falling is just one of many, many problems that the aging population faces when hazards exist due to environments that aren’t safe for their ever-changing levels of ability. Think about the big-picture impact of this, not just “oh, grandma might break her hip.” Out of the 65+ population, 1/3 will experience a fall. This results in 2.4 million ER visits per year. 662,000 people are then hospitalized, and 20,000 die. 25% of people 65 or older who fall will spend at least one year in a skilled nursing facility (maybe because their homes aren’t friendly for less-than-perfect mobility? hmm…). Medicare costs average $10,000 per person. Direct costs (billable, not non-billable) are around $30 billion. The projected billable direct costs of falls alone, in the year 2020, is $54.9 billion. The point: universal design (or enabling design, using Esther’s lingo) totally makes economic sense.

4. Elizabeth Phillips is an architect and presented on design for visual impairments. Turns out the current Braille literacy rate is about 10% for the blind population. The implication for this is that it’s not enough to “just follow the ADA” and assume accessibility is legit. Lots of other considerations that fall under the scope of universal design are important, such as (but not limited to) color, contrast, texture, and lighting. Later, Robert Nichols (an architect as well) presented on design for the deaf and hard of hearing. Surprisingly (to me), his emphasis was all about lighting. Think about it. If audible communication is restricted, what’s the next best thing? Visual communication. Good lighting makes a tremendous difference for this segment of the population, which goes way beyond the idea of just making sure fire alarms have a strobe light feature. It’s all about making sure an environment is safe and comfortable, which requires a considerable amount of planning. Oh, and he did conclude by saying that design needs to be a team effort (i.e., multiple practitioners involved), which we obviously agree with.

5. Deb Young (@EmpowerAbility) is an occupational therapist by profession and is very involved in her state legislature in Delaware. She’s been an important part in the recent passing of House Bill #227, which provides incentives to say “yes” to using universal design principles to win a bid, when construction using public financial assistance. A higher score on a 40 point scale outlined in the bill helps increase the likelihood of winning the bid. This doesn’t mean that each home built will have the exact same characteristics as the acceptance of the bid, but based purely on score. Deb explained that there were some elements of universal design that were not included, but it is a positive move in the right direction for increasing access in homes. Hopefully this serves as a model for other states as well.

What’s the point? People get it. Design matters!

More later…

(in case you missed it: here are Sarah’s reflections on the universal design tours from Monday)

Hidden universal design feature: blocking in bathroom walls.

A big part of universal design is flexibility and adaptability. This is super important in the bathroom. Although the bathroom can be a tricky place to design for changes that may occur functionally over the years, blocking is one important thing to consider doing inside the walls.

Continue reading “Hidden universal design feature: blocking in bathroom walls.”

Is your home prepared for you?

leaving old houseIt’s impossible to look into the future and determine what will happen. We often try to predict how life will go and it usually travels down a path we weren’t expecting. A road block or speed bump, if you will. If one thing is for sure, it’s that life will continue to change whether we like it or not. Accidents, injuries, and diseases do not just happen to a select few – we’re all susceptible to them.

Think about where you live.

Is your house prepared to withstand the ever-changing sands of time? That is, a growing family, pets, or an in-law coming to live with you. What if you or a family member has a temporary physical condition that requires the use of a wheelchair or a walker for a month or two? Could you or he/she easily get in the front door? To the bedroom? To the bathroom? What if this condition isn’t temporary? Continue reading “Is your home prepared for you?”

UD isn’t always universally-affordable.

Twitter is a great place to network and find out about some cool stuff. Example #1: I discovered that last night’s #Downton episode made a bazillion people cry. Example #2: I stumbled on a link to a very well-designed backyard. Kudos to Jess Hauert (@JRHauert) and Richard Duncan (@captainaccess) for finding this on Houzz.

Continue reading “UD isn’t always universally-affordable.”