Modifying your home for a lifetime

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2009

Whether you are 45 or 85, it is never too soon to begin making your home more safe and accessible to last a lifetime. Although remodeling is an option, there are some low-cost, easy changes to make to your home now that can greatly increase its comfort and safety.

One place to start learning about these is at the 30th annual Home Show, which will take place Friday through March 1 at Centennial Hall. This year's show will feature a booth specifically on home modifications as well as a seminar: "Home Modifications for a Lifetime."

Last fall, Liz Lucas, of the AARP Juneau Community Council, organized a group to plan a workshop for the public on home modifications, toward the goal of helping people continue to live in their homes for a longer period of time. Kevin Ritchie, from the Juneau-Gastineau Rotary Club; Bob Tamone, Juneau's Certified Aging-In-Place specialist; staff from Southeast Alaska Independent Living; and Southeast Senior Services/Catholic Community Service were among those who participated in the planning meetings. The group met every few weeks and, in collaboration with the Home Builders Association, is now ready to "roll out" the information to the public.

Beginning Friday, from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., volunteers will staff a booth at the Home Show specifically designed to inform home owners about ways to make their homes safer and more accessible. Experts in the field of universal design and home modification will be on hand to answer questions, and devices will be displayed to give the public ideas for what kinds of changes they might implement themselves. In addition to Friday night, the booth will be open and staffed on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A seminar on "Home Modifications for a Lifetime" will be offered twice on Saturday, from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. and from 3 to 4:15 p.m. The seminar, which is free and open to the public, will feature a panel of experts facilitated by Doug Fanyak, Aging and Disability Resource Center Coordinator for SAIL. The seminar will cover financial and medical resources, construction and accessibility considerations, and time will be allotted to answer questions from the audience.

I will give an overview of resources available to help pay for home modifications. Occupational therapist Jade Smithback will be on hand to talk about doing a home assessment. She also will talk about adaptive devices for home use and what devices are best for one's unique set of needs. Bob Tamone, of Tamone Construction, will talk about planning your home for the future and the range of small or large changes possible. Sara Boesser, accessibility specialist for SAIL, will talk about universal design, regulations pertaining to home modifications and the process a home owner needs to go through with the city.

The greatest risk to being able to stay in your own home is falling - but falls due to such things as poor lighting, losing one's balance getting out of the tub, or tripping on rugs can be prevented. Don't delay-go to to find 10 simple changes you can make to your home today or call 790-4182 for help.

• Marianne Mills is program director of Southeast Senior Services.

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