There has been a good amount of work researched and disseminated to the public about building a home that will retain as much heat as possible- the Cold Climate Housing Research Center’s extended walls, passive homes, thermal storage and net zero building targets are becoming common knowledge. Yet in Alaska’s current housing stock there are homes built during/just after the pipeline construction which have 2×4″ construction and consequently little insulation. Many of these available homes are not only deficient in energy efficiency, but they aren’t amenable to accessibility. With Alaska experiencing the highest growth rate for those 65 and over the first decade or so of this century, many older Alaskans who want to stay in the state many retiring ’empty nesters’ who are downsizing have difficulty finding accessibly built homes as their bodies age.
“Universal Design” is a set of principals that can guide contractors in building in such a way that a person of any ability or age can be independent in the dwelling. These same principals can be used to adapt an older home at a relatively low expense as residents’ abilities to get around the house and stay independent diminish. Equipment for home ‘Environmental Modifications’ (EM) has become available in Alaska for do-it-yourselfers at big box, hardware and medical supply stores, and Extension is working continually on a list of where to purchase such items. If you have an interest in where to purchase grab bars, mounting equipment, bathroom fixtures, low door thresholds, accessible cabinetry, etc… please contact me and I will pass along what I have so far. Extension will as well be releasing a video about features of easily accessible entry ways and bathrooms (and has been offering “Aging in Place” housing workshops this past year to a number of communities with a plan to continue more- keep an eye out for the next class in your area!).