Staying at home in Alexandria by Jane King

Staying at home in Alexandria by Jane King
Jane King

Alexandria touts itself as being close-knit as well as environmentally conscious. Yet what you find week after week in its newspapers is the extolling of ‘gentrification’ … ”

Most of us who live in Alexandria think it’s a great city, with distinctive neighborhoods, a small-town atmosphere, remarkable history and proximity to many amenities. Many of us want to stay in our homes in the Port City as we age, but the design of our home may represent a serious obstacle.

Many homes have been built to accommodate young families. Little thought has been given to those who would grow older and find steps difficult, or need to negotiate their home with a walker or a wheelchair, or have difficulty reaching cupboards in the kitchen.

Ideally our homes would have a no-step entrance, wider hallways and doorways, a full bath as well as a room that can be used as a bedroom on the first floor. This type of design has many advantages, as it eases access and movement in the home whether you’re pushing a stroller or using a walker or wheelchair. Homes built with these features are attractive and visitable by those with a disability.

Simple, inexpensive modifications can make a home safer and more useful to those with a wide range of abilities. Handrails on both sides of stairways and nonslip surfaces can prevent falls at any age. Bathrooms and kitchens can be outfitted with fixtures or appliances that ease their use for everyone. A simple step such as installing lever handles makes opening doors easier.

If you are resisting making these kinds of changes because you think they will make your home less attractive, you may be in for a surprise. Even grab bars for showers and bathtubs have been designed to be unobtrusive and aesthetically pleasing.

If you decide to modify your home, be sure to take the time to choose a reliable contractor. Make a list of what you want to have completed and get recommendations from family and friends. Then check those recommendations with the Better Business Bureau or consumer protection office.

You also should compare contractors, the kind of work they do, how long they have been in business, and ask for proof that they are licensed, bonded and covered by workman’s compensation and liability insurance. It’s important to get estimates from three contractors with details about materials, scheduled completion and costs. Lastly, don’t pay the full bill until the work is finished.

To explore the many possibilities for enhancing our homes, At Home in Alexandria is teaming up with Arlington and Alexandria’s commissions on aging to sponsor Staying Home: Making Smart Choices for Your Home. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St. in Arlington — right off Quaker Lane across from Parkfairfax. Space is limited, so make a reservation (handled by AARP) by calling 1-877-926-8300.

In addition to a HomeFit presentation, with slides portraying ways to make homes safer and more comfortable and beautiful, those who attend will hear about funding sources and local resources for making your home livable for a lifetime.
– The writer is chair 
of the Alexandria 
Commission on Aging.