Interview with Philip Connors (Director of Liveable Housing Co.)
Phil, everyone is interested to know about this "lifehome" concept that Liveable Housing Co. are promoting. What's it about?
Thanks Agnieszka. Quite simply put, the "lifehome" concept is a realistic approach to the construction of a home rather than a house. It's a reality that the Australian population is an aging one and unless we start applying some basic principles of liveability that are available, then we simply won't be in a position to age in place and will have to rely on government funded facilities to provide for our elderly in the traditional aged care homes.
You mention liveability Phil. How is this concept going to be of benefit to people and who does this apply to?
Good question! Without doubt, this concept is going to benefit the demographic that is looking to sell their family home where they raised their kids. This house typically had three or more bedrooms and plenty of room for the kids to spread out both inside the home as well as outside.
Unfortunately, there was no thought of what would be needed for the parents as the family left home and the now aged parents were left to maintain the property and look after themselves. There is a deep rooted attachment to the family home and it has many memories attached to it. But things change. No longer is it so easy to mow the lawn.
No longer is it as easy to get up the stairs or in and out of the bath or shower. In fact, what once was a functional and practical family home can end up being a nightmare.
The "lifehome" concept is one that looks to the future in every aspect of the design. If I were to summarise these it would be condensed down to the following;
- Level step free access from the property boundary to at least one entrance and throughout the building and surrounds.
- Wider doors with the option to include a minimum door width to ensure ease of access to all rooms in the home.
- Wider circulation spaces such as in passageways, in front of kitchen and laundry cabinetry within areas such as sitting and loungeroom to ensure trip free unencumbered access.
- Bathroom design that provides low maintenance roll in showers and ample circulation space leading up to and within the shower.
- The inclusion of noggins and ply sheeting to the bathroom wall is also invaluable in the construction phase to ensure that aids such as grab rails and the like can be easily and securely fixed to assist getting in and out of the bath and shower.
- Minimum 900mm clearance at the front of toilets and ability to replace the toilet with a system that is designed for the elderly and people with disabilities.
- Appropriate lighting over work areas.
- Handles and fittings that are user friendly with the option of installing larger light switches and similar fixtures.
This all seems to make good sense Phil. Why aren't others doing this when it makes so much sense?
It is expected that all homes will be incorporating at least some of these items in the design in the near future and the State and Federal Governments have been actively promoting the Liveable Housing Scheme for some time.
It appears to me that there needs to be a change of mindset before we see this concept being fully accepted and adopted as the minimum standard for accessibility to residential properties. It is a reality that if you want a fully accessible home, there will need to be prior planning and preparation to make sure the costs of modification are reduced by including them in the design upfront. There is going to be some added cost for instance to make allowances for circulation spaces, wider passages and easily accessible showers. But this cost is far and away cheaper upfront than having to modify an existing home.