Continuing on the windows trend, I had noticed something interesting about the windows in my assisted living this past week. They are fond of using the crank style windows, except the ones in the main hallway of the building have the crank about 1/4″ from the windowsill. It is very difficult to get ahold of the crank in order to open the window because there is simply not enough space.
The cranks in the hallway are also hard to turn, probably because no one actually can. I have never seen those windows open. People with arthritis in their hands or shoulders would have trouble with the crank. In addition, someone with problems with coordination would have trouble acquiring a grasp and turning it since with such a small space between the crank and the windowsill, there is little margin for error. What do others suggest in order to fix this situation?
Earlier today, Jane Blanchard wrote a fantastic piece about window choices for older adults from a designer perspective. I found it an interesting piece to see how different types of windows are considered for specific spaces of the home.Windows are overlooked in many homes and facilities I visit. I have had patients post a fall due to attempting to open a window and am often asked to “be a dear” and open/close windows for them.
From my viewpoint as an occupational therapist, I agree with Ms. Blanchard that all the windows are viable options for a home for an older adult. I would consider the latches and opening mechanisms when helping advise for types of windows based on where the window is in the home. For example, I would consider a Smart Touch opening system appropriate for a patio door (often a source of balance loss), but not for a regular room window. I would recommend rotary handle or automated windows for regular room windows as they would allow the person to stay centered over their feet to open the window and reduce strain on their arms. In addition, a rotary handle is easy to adapt and make larger in the case of someone with arthritis or hand deformities.
This is just one example of how a designer and an OT can work together to create an attractive yet functional living environment for an older adult.
This week, I am pleased to introduce a guest blogger, Jane Blanchard, who has written a piece on different types of windows for older adults. Jane Blanchard is a blogger, home design geek, and graphic designer from Savannah.
Best Window Options For Seniors
By Jane Blanchard
Sometimes windows can be very difficult to open. Luckily, there are a number of easy-to-open windows available. Whether you’re looking for great window option for a home occupied by seniors or if you’re just sick of wrestling with your windows, here we will present some of our favorite easy-to-operate window styles. With these options, you will not need to compromise style for ease-of-use.
The SmartTouch® lock system designed by Milgard Windows & Doors provide an easy way to open, lock, and operate windows and doors. The locking mechanism on SmartTouch windows is incorporated directly into the window sash, creating a sleek look. The lock is easy to operate, opening or closing with a single touch. Also, you can see whether your window is locked with a quick glance. The SmartTouch system received an International Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America as well as an Arthritis Foundation Ease-Of-Use Commendation. The SmartTouch system is available on the Tuscany® and Montecito® vinyl windows and patio doors as well as on the Milgard Essence Series® wood windows. Because of these numerous options, there is a SmartTouch window that will accentuate any home.
Rotary windows by Marvin Windows And Doors have a unique look that makes them especially appealing. The rotary window design has a sash that rotates easily a full 360 degrees to allow in natural light and fresh air. While these are especially helpful for tight spaces, they are also great for seniors as they are easy to open.
For the easiest window operation, fully automated windows are the best option. These automated systems are also available from a variety of retailers nationwide. In addition to having fully automated windows, complementary automated systems for window treatments allow for easy overall operation.
Easier to use than traditional window locks that require a user to lift, push, or pull the window, rotary handles provide a simpler means for window opening and closing. Rotary handles are small handles that are easily turned to crank the window open and then simply reversed to close the window. They come in a variety of finishes and are available from nearly any window retailer.
Transitional windows work similarly to transitional lenses found in eyeglasses, darkening in response to increased sunlight. While transitional windows do not increase ease of opening and closing of the window itself, they do reduce or eliminate the need for window treatments that may be difficult to operate for many seniors. Transitional windows also reduce energy consumption by helping maintain the temperature of the home. Transitional windows are available from a number of retailers nationwide.
To find more design inspiration, check out Modernize.com.
The other day, I was sitting in my assisted living building when I saw one of the residents attempt to get her mail. The resident probably is about 5’2″ tall, and unfortunately for her, she was assigned a top mail box in the cluster of P.O. box style mailboxes of the facility. As a resourceful woman, she was using a long wooden back scratcher to reach up and into the box while on her tip toes and holding onto her walker with one hand. It took her about 4 minutes and considerable effort, but eventually, she removed all her mail. I might add here that I did offer to help her, but was refused, so was staying nearby, just in case.
As you can imagine, this is quite a fall risk. In addition, for someone with arthritis any kind of shoulder injury, or a wheelchair, reaching into a mail box that is about 5’10” above the floor is not a viable option. Under Hallways, I put a picture of the mailbox in question.
I have seen other ideas in different facilities in regards to mailboxes. Some facilities hand out the mail directly to residents through the staff. Others have lower P.O. boxes that run wider so that no one needs to reach too high or too low and potentially fall. One of my favorite set ups was having wooden boxes at the entrance to each room to hold mail until the person is able to check it.
Perhaps this will become less of an issue as the current generation age, given we are taller than the Greatest Generation, but shoulder problems and needing wheelchairs will still prevent the use of high mailboxes.
This was a question posed to me during my doctoral defense. How do we encourage interprofessional collaboration in students?
I firmly believe that educating students on the value of other disciplines and the power of interprofessional collaboration is integral for the development of all our professions in the future. By catching them at an earlier stage in their professional development, they will be more open to the ideas and perhaps more willing to work together in the future.
There is a lot of research on this topic in healthcare education. It is a popular buzzword nowadays. While I was studying for my Master’s in Occupational Therapy, our school focused on collaboration with other health professionals. I have heard that since then, the healthcare collaboration program continues to exist, but now, there is a special lab in our environmental modifications course that involves industrial design students. Another university in Philadelphia has projects with OT and architecture students. Really, the combination of professionals is limited only by our imaginations.
In the end, the research shows that projects that have a common end goal and allows for students to have a shared interest will create collaborative relationships. It is important to note that each person involved needs to have the same level of interest in the project. I saw this in my program; contributions to the project were graded in the OT program, but the medical students had no such incentive. As a result, many groups had difficulty getting the same level of commitment out of the medical students when compared to the other students who were being graded.
To support development in the education arena, I have added a new page to the website for educators and students where I will post citations to articles on various projects going across the country and ideas on how to create a similar program for yourselves.
New pictures have been added to the Bathroom and the Hallways and Entryways pages. They are located at the bottom. A new current event (the CAPABLE Project) has also been added. Be sure to check them out!
In healthcare, interprofessional education has been a hot topic of late. In fact, most of my research on interprofessional collaboration lead back to the multitude of interprofessional education studies that exist in the literature. During my defense of my doctorate thesis/ this project, it was also something that arose in the question portion of my presentation.
When I was a student at Thomas Jefferson University learning to be an OT, I was part of the beginning years of our interprofessional education program. However, it focused on partnerships with the medical, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and family counseling students. Our only exposure to the world of home design was through a few lectures in our environmental modifications course. Current students at Jefferson do get the chance to work with industrial design students on assistive technology projects. Students at Philadelphia University complete projects with the architectural design students. These opportunities are invaluable. Exposure to other professions and a true working knowledge of their skill sets at such an early point in their careers will only enhance the collaborative process later on.
It leads me to wonder…. What opportunities were provided to you as students (or professionals) to work with people of other professions on projects as part of an interprofessional education type program? What do you know of students doing in your own professions? And finally, what did you learn of others during your time in school?