Be Safe From Car to House

What do you usually do when you get home from food shopping? No, before you put the groceries away. Right, bring the bags into the house.{{more}}

From the point at which you set a foot outside the car until you clear the counters there are a number of obstacles that can prevent you from doing this routine task if your faculties are reduced or weather conditions are not favorable.

Does your driveway slope or tilt? Depending on the grade and direction, your car door may be hard to open and extra effort will be needed to get out of the seat. Conversely, the door may swing away uncontrollably. Your stopping area needs to be relatively flat.

Can you walk around the car and use all the doors and trunk? If not, you will be bending or stretching to reach packages across the seats. Lifting from an awkward position can result in an aching lower back.

The walking surface should be even and non-slip. Heavily textured pavers, cobblestones or loose gravel are difficult to negotiate with a wheelchair or walker. Uneven surfaces are hazardous to negotiate with high heels, canes or crutches. Consider using stones and high profile pavers on the parts of the driveway where you don’t need to walk to get into the house.

Poor weather conditions, driving rain, snow and wind can make the trip from the car to the house uncomfortable if not dangerous. A drive through canopy or a walkway cover from the car landing to the door can be an attractive architectural asset and make things safer.

Now, you finally got to the door. Is there a dry, convenient bench or shelf where you can put your packages and have your hands free to get your house key and unlock and open the door?

Some ideas that will help here are a keyless entry and a keyhole or keypad light. Good lighting in general applies everywhere. A powered door operator is another option, especially useful if you use a wheelchair. Wait a minute, what about that step at the door threshold? For wheel chair use it will have to be eliminated. If you have trouble lifting your feet, something sturdy you can grab for support near the door would help. This doesn’t have to be an institutional steel bar. It might be the back of a sturdy bench, a decorative deep bullnose trim at the door jambs, or incorporated in a sign board spaced off the wall next to the door.

Once inside you will need a convenient place to drop handbags, keys, and packages. Again, the floor surface should be even and non-slip. Runners and area rugs are trip hazards. And one final thing, turn around and look out from the inside. When somebody rings your doorbell, do you have a window or peep hole from which you can see them and decide if it is safe to open the door?

ANDREW ROBINSON AIA Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, is an architect and founder of Designs for Independent Living and a member of the board of the Orange Economic Develop Commission. He serves on the Amity Village Steering Committee and the Household Services Committee of Home Haven Villages. Contact him by phone 203-795-0665.