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Letters: Design for all, and the elderly

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John Penton reviews 'The design of residential care and nursing homes', hfn 19, from the Centre for Accessible Environments (aj 3.12.98) and points out a couple of problems, which quite rightly need to be considered. However, I am sure it is better to adapt a design which is good for the majority of people rather than restrict general designs because of particular problems.

This approach is implicit in his comments on low window sills. It is surely better to build low sills that people can see out of when lying in bed (in far greater number than those suffering from vertigo) and to (cheaply) modify the low sill with a window box, rather than build higher sills in case people have vertigo.

wc provision is another example. His comments about people with limited upper-body reach, and the need for a grab-bar to be 375mm from the pan, overlook the fact that many more older people need helpers either side. An en-suite facility in a residential care home is often shown as a typical 'disabled toilet' with the wc pedestal adjacent to a wall and a wheelchair circle to one side, yet space for helpers requires 700mm both sides of the pan.

A more general point is that while the mobility design criteria for older people are, in many ways, similar to those for people with disabilities, there are important differences which often get overlooked. For example, the turning circle for a wheelchair is often illustrated at 1500mm, yet this is for a self-propelled wheel chair. Older people usually have someone else pushing the chair, and this requires a turning circle of 1700mm to 2000mm.


Petersfield, Hampshire

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