This is my favorite time of year. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Christmas bring with them such warm thoughts and memories as we celebrate the birth of our Lord. We gather in our friends and families’ home to celebrate the season and enjoy each other’s company. But what if someone can’t get in? Most of us live in what has been referred to as “Peter Pan” housing. (For people who never get old!) If you or a loved one has had an injury or an illness that has affected your mobility, or if you are simply feeling the effects of getting older, you may find that there are now obstacles to simply getting into your or a loved one’s home. Or you may have difficulty getting into or using the bathroom when you do get into the house.

I have spent much of the past week in CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist) training. This certification, offered by the National Association of Home Builders is the only nationally recognized certification for building professionals who perform aging in place home modifications. These modifications allow people to stay in their homes when their abilities and limitations are changing. We spoke a lot about Universal Design which is the type of design that allows anyone regardless of ability or limitation to use the space without special adaptation or modification. We also talked about visitability. Visitability is the minimum level of accessibility that would allow a person with a disability the ability to visit the house. In general terms, this means an entryway that can be used by a person who uses a wheelchair or has other mobility impairments. It also means that there is at least one accessible bathroom on the main floor of the house. I think in the future we will see more houses built with these and other accessible features built in. After all, the added cost of many accessible or universal design features is very low when they are incorporated into the design when a new home is being constructed. These same features can involve much more time and expense when they are added later to an existing house. The difference in cost between a 2’-4” door with a standard handle and a 3’-0” door with a lever handle might be less than $20 when you are building the house, but it could be hundreds to replace the smaller door in an existing house. That door could make the difference between you or someone else using that room or getting into your house. I am working to increase awareness in the coming year of how our homes can work for us or against us. I am available to do Housing Needs Assessments and can often make a huge difference in safety and quality of life or just enable everyone to make it to your holiday feast for less than you might think. I am also available to speak to your church or civic group about home safety, home modification, aging in place, or any related subjects. Just call me at 540-384-2064, email me at or drop me a line at Solid Rock Enterprises, Inc. 428 W Riverside Dr Salem VA 24153.

I wish every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I have enjoyed writing this column and I welcome questions or suggestions about topics you’d like to see covered here in Housing Matters.

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