Friday, 26 February 2021

NEW WRINKLES: Being level-headed on age-friendly design

After more than two years without a kitchen, it feels decidedly odd to be finally frying up an egg amid the slow-motion remodel of our 1932 Florida bungalow.

So I can’t say it feels much odder to be reaching downward for a plate or glass after so many years of reaching upward.

Oh, and those soft-close drawers! My husband and I laughed the first time we witnessed a cabinet drawer so smart it knew how to shut itself; we considered this a ridiculous luxury we hardly deserved. But by now I’m such a convert that I believe everyone on the planet deserves them.

As I wrote here more than a year ago — when I foolishly thought our project might be wrapped up soon — I do have a few hesitations when it comes to age-friendly, or “universal,” home design. Some modifications that make it safer and more comfortable to age in place seem reasonable, and we tried to plan our new old house with those in mind. But I believe that wheelchairs should be designed to handle human-scale spaces, and not the other way around.

So I was happy to read a Washington Post interview with Marianne Cusato of the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, who called ramps an unnecessary expense because “not everyone winds up in a wheelchair.”

What did she consider the important concessions to age in home design? A walk-in shower, grab bars, a first-floor master suite; door lever handles, carpeting and  — yes, pullout drawers.

Hmmm, I’m still not convinced about the carpeting.

Go vote and go home

I know vote-by-mail and early voting are supposed to save time and money, but I can’t help it — I just love to show up on the day appointed and see who-all’s there, and wait in line and state my name and get my “I Voted” sticker. For those of you who feel the same way, the fact that you no longer drive doesn’t mean you can’t exercise your rights in person.

ITN SunCoast — the friendly nonprofit ride service for folks 60 and over and residents with vision problems — is offering free round trips to the polls in Sarasota and Manatee counties. Rides are available during early voting, which begins Saturday and runs through Aug. 25, and also on Aug. 28, Election Day.

Make sure you know your polling place, and put in your request by 1 p.m. the day before by calling 941-364-7530. The drivers can help you with any navigational gear like walkers or canes, but can’t accommodate wheelchairs just yet. Oh, and don’t forget your valid ID card.

Want to help ferry good Americans to the polls? Call 941-364-7530 to volunteer.

Barbara Peters Smith is the aging reporter for the Herald-Tribune, and the editor of Health+Fitness. Call her at 941-361-4936 or email On Twitter: @BarbaraPSmith.


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