A Hazard-Free Home for Seniors with Vision Problems: the Safe Home Project

Joe Kolb standing on our basement bulkhead steps demonstrating how hazardous they are without a railing.
Joe Kolb standing on our basement bulkhead steps demonstrating how hazardous they are without a railing.

Do you have any of these in your home?

~ Steps and stairs without railings

~ Clutter and unorganized spaces

~ Tripping hazards such as cords running across the travel paths

~ Corner of a bedspread drooping onto  the floor

~ Furniture in the travel path so you have to turn sideways to get through

The Safe Home Project in eastern Massachusetts offers anyone aged 60 and over with an observable vision problem (you do not have to be legally blind) free assessment and installation of home safety improvements such as hand rails and grab bars. The project is based at the Carrroll Center for the Blind in Newton Mass.

The project began when a Carroll Center Board member asked about making a home safer for an elderly relations returning from hospital. This is a common beginning. A senior has been away in a residential setting for some weeks (hospital, post-hospital rehab, etc.) and is returning home. Maybe she is more likely to trip or fall than before. But there is no need to wait for a medical emergency! Anyone who qualifies  can have the assessment, and which of us could not benefit from  some  Safe Home advice?Gradually the Safe Home Project was established. It is mainly run by Joe Kolb of Community Services and Mark Ewing Property Manager at the Carroll Center.

This discussion of the Safe Home Project formed part of my interview with Joe Kolb.

Joe Kolb: Gradually we developed a check list for home hazards, and a sense of what could be fixed relatively inexpensively.

It is hard to find the people who could be helped because mostly they do not want others to know they cannot see well now.

Oftentimes people booby trap themselves without realizing it!

The solutions are usually very simple and often involve railings, grab bars or stair gates as well as some suggestions about rearranging furniture and so on.

Both of which have proven effective. 

Hannah Fairbairn:
An older blind gentleman I was friends with needed the bathroom during the night. The bathroom was on the right out of the bedroom door and the stairs were on the left. You can guess the rest of the story! Luckily he only broke his leg.

Joe: Yes, a stair gate would have prevented that.

Hannah: Is it an income assessed service?

Joe: At present it is grant funded, but we always love to have donations to assist the next person, if a client can afford it.

Hannah: Is this available in Western Massachusetts or in other states?

Joe: Not that I am aware of; not a project directed at people with vision problems. When someone returns home from a rehab  facility or hospital, an occupational therapist will often assess the home for this kind of hazard, and may have a carpenter to recommend, but I haven’t heard of a free service elsewhere, or one directed towards people with vision loss.

Can you take advantage of the Safe Home Project?

Contact the Safe Home Project: (617) 969-6200, or (800)852-3131. Ask for the Safe Home Project, or Community Services.

Can you recommend other such programs in other states?

Please post a comment to tell us how you are dealing with hazards at home. Let the rest of us learn from your experience. Here are links to two previous posts that  also talk about hazards in the home

 A Home That Works For Everyone: Tip 1 of 4  Keep the Traffic Path clear

A Home That Works For Everyone: Tip 2 of 4, Protect It If You Don’t Expect It

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