India’s Radical Plan

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According to Policy.mic, (http://mic.com/articles/89775/india-has-a-radical-plan-to-power-every-one-of-its-homes-by-2019) India’s new Prime Minister Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party put forth the following goals:
-increases urban construction,
-extended high-speed rail,
-a cleaned up the Ganges river
-building “toilets first, temples later.”
-solar panels.

His party’s hope is to harness enough solar power to get a an operating lightbulb in each house by 2019, and if possible, “two bulbs, a solar cooker and a television” in each dwelling. Modi has stated, “We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space.”

Keep an eye out over the next half decade as possibly some of the methods used in remote areas with stranded resources will have application in Alaska’s rural areas.

Accessible Bathrooms

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Many of the bathrooms which we see photos of in designer home magazines tend to have angular edges, coordinating colors and exotic items. Yet coordination, nuance and spacing many times are antithetical to accessibility- yet do not always have to be. With the bathroom being the one place in the home where most of our activities of daily living take place, it is often probably the busiest room of the home. Thus there should be freedom to access the shower, bath, toilet, sink area, etc. without problems in seeing items, getting a wheelchair stuck when turning around, being able to ambulate into the bathtub, etc…. There should also be the ability to independently dress and groom. Take a look at your bathroom and the height things are set at such as towel racks, water mixing valves, door knobs, light switches, etc… Are they in a place that someone in a wheelchair or possibly on crutches could reach? Take a look around and see what you think!

The race is on.

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This weekend there were a couple events which politicians stopped by Fairbanks to be involved with. One of the major topics which I heard talked of was Proposition 1. Governor and senator (primary) candidates were sure to weight in on this possible repeal of Senate Bill 21 (which was passed in the state legislature this past year). Regardless where you fall on the topic, it has been a forefront topic on visits by candidates and is something that will be voted on and decided in latter August, before the governor or senatorial elections. It will add a dynamic to the election, seeing if the tax reform voted on this year will stand or be vetoed- and then to see what effect that will have on the messages of candidates on the remaining several months before elections. Time will tell….

Accessbility in San Diego

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The largest use of overall energy in Alaska is for transportation.  Often for commercial shipping of goods,  and transporting the public out of villages to the larger hub cities in the state (or Seattle). In these cities there are busses for mass transit with bike racks on the front (at least in Fairbanks and Anchorage) and some have wheelchair elevators.   Currently in  San Diego I was on the public transit train last night and noticed that for wheelchairs, the train cars’ entrances are just a couple inches above the loading platforms and are equipped with flat plates several feet wide which extend out a ways when the train stops. A person can then walk/drive a wheelchair into the train onto a small lift and take it up to the passenger area.  Very simple, and very easy to accommodate those who have difficulty ambulating!

Mapping in Extension

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Currently in San Diego (just a short hop over from Vegas), I’ve been able to take in how teachers are using computerized mapping services known as GIS (specifically, Geographic Information Services) at the main International Users conference hosted by ESRI corp.  Much of the emphasis on making useable maps has been focused on doing so in the cloud (on the internet rather than a software program you’ve put onto your computer from a CD disk).  You may be familiar with the Alaska Energy Atlas which was put out by Alaska Energy Authority and Alaska Center for Energy and Power (you can download a PDF hardcopy pages/maps off the Department of Energy’s site: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/states/maps.cfm/state=AK.  These GIS maps don’t show how to get somewhere, but rather conceptually give an idea of Alaska’s Energy Resources are located.  A very useful way of using thematic mapping indeed.

Healthy concerns in Vegas…

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This time last week I was heading to Las Vegas to present about Radon Resistant Homes as well as the recovery education Extension produced for the Galena flood last year.  The conference was comprised of international/U.S. environmental health professionals, and went well.  Though there was just the one presentation on Radon, the bulk of the presentations were on residential contaminants such as heavy metals (as well as a strong emphasis on public venues of contamination dealing with food stuffs). Within the Public Health arena, Environmental Health is certainly a worthy career field to get into for the future.

2014 Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Housing Assessment

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Earlier this week we had a report come out through AHFC and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC) which fully comes out to over a thousand pages.  You can download the whole report or several regions broken out can be looked at (http://www.ncsha.org/story/alaska-hfc-2014-alaska-housing-assessment-identifies-severe-shortcomings-statewide-housing-stock).  The main shortcomings seem to fall into the categories of overcrowding and heat loss (low energy efficiency).  There are other factors looked, yet one category that would be handy could be a type of  rating for accessibility in the housing stock.  If there was some way of measuring how any resident of any age or ability can live independently, it would be helpful to see what the demand is (and may be in the near future) for assisted living homes where a shortage pervades in most all regions.  Look through the report and see what the houses in your area look like! 

 

Making homes more efficient and more accessible

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In an effort to help older Alaskans to stay in their homes longer, Baranof Island Housing Authority has been making an effort to have their weatherization teams tie environmental modifications (for greater accessibility) into their normal tasks.  Changing lighting that is more helpful to older eyes (requiring more lumens usually), putting grab bars up, stabilizing corners on entry ways, etc.. are some of the ways I’ve heard the organization has assisted to improve their housing stock to hold in more BTU’s as well as help the residents stay independent as long as possible!

 

Fairbanks assisted living homes

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Speaking with someone who conducts placements for elders when going back home from med treatment, I was told last night of two assisted living homes which at minimum charge $7300/month only by private pay (out of one’s own pocket).  That comes to $87,600 a year- probably an amount if saved for two years would provide an average home in Fairbanks.  So how much would it cost for accommodations in an existing home to be able to stay there? Possibly $11,000 for a stairlift. Maybe $5,000 for a large wheelchair ramp.  $1500 could be the price to replace hinged doors with pocket doors.  It truly is less to make accommodations and stay in your home rather than move and pay prices elsewhere.

Costing more than we thought….

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I’ve mentioned in workshops that according to national data a few years old, it costs on average $54,000 annually to stay in an assisted living home, known as “3 hots and a cot” (3 full meals, a place to sleep, and at times laundry services and possibly medication assistance).  According to a Fairbanks Daily Newsminer article this weekend (http://www.newsminer.com/news/local_news/fairbanks-faces-void-in-care-for-aging-population/article_0e5fb0b8-f3a0-11e3-ad6f-001a4bcf6878.html#.U50fG0FFDxI.gmail) the up to date median cost for one year of assisted living arrangements costs an Alaskan resident $74,000 (median, not average), or $6,166 per month.  What do you pay for your mortgage, groceries, and utilities?  I bet many times less.  But the main issue here is independence and safety, which can be provided in the elder’s original home often with a well thought out Universal Design strategies and several hours of handiman services (often ~$60/hour) to install relatively inexpensive grabbars, walk in shower pans, low threshholds, under counter lighting, etc…  Call Carmen  at 474-6366 to sign up for one of our Aging in Place workshops, a handout on details and to find out when we release our film on environmental modifications for your home. Aging successfully doesn’t mean expensively, or in someone else’s home!

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