Archive for Aging in Place by Design

Will Everyone Be Home This Year?

Staying in touch with family and friends that live far away can be tough. It’s more noticeable during the holidays. Here are some ideas for you and your family to stay connected even when miles separate you.

Video Schedule video calls using Facetime and Skype. While you’re “together” online, share a family tradition like stringing popcorn or hanging lights. This can be a good time to start a long distance tradition.
Phone Make time for a phone call. Put the call on speaker so everyone can talk together.

Sharing pictures is a great way to keep up to date. Here are a few ways to do this;

  • Make a private Facebook group where members can upload their photos and messages for sharing to the group.
  • Use Google photos to create shared albums for friends can upload their favorite pictures into one album.
  • Pastbook and Mixbook are online photo album sites that have the option of making photo books collaboratively.

Hallmark makes recordable storybooks with voice capture technology. The book records the voice of the person who is reading the story. It’s an ideal way for Grandparents to “read” stories to their grandchildren when they can’t be together.

Did you just read a great book? Send it to a friend, or share an e-book online. Then you can discuss it over Skype.

Snail Mail

Everyone loves getting letters in the mail; make them even more special with real handwriting.

Send care packages with pictures, notes, and a few treats. It will make anyone who is separated from their family feel loved.

Our armed forces who spend holidays away from their families deserve connection, too. Think about sending books, treats, and letters to those who are protecting our freedom. There are several organizations who help. The USO is a good place to start.

Do you have more time and energy to share? Food banks can always use an extra pair of hands. The Volunteer Center of Whatcom County has many opportunities for helpers.

I hope you can stay in touch with the ones you love, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Susie Landsem
Susie provides design and building solutions for people who want stay in their homes safe and independent.

Fall into Safety

The beautiful colors of October have passed into the windy month of November. Here are some winter safety recommendations for you and your family living in homes and apartments.

Everyday Life

Are you an evening or morning walker? Wear something reflective or carry a flashlight. This goes for bike riders, skateboarders and strollers. My husband and I wear headlamps because we have a dog and need to see where he’s left his packages. Stay on sidewalks whenever possible.

Morning drivers – clear your windows (all of them) before pulling out into traffic. I know it can take a few more minutes but it will also save you from accidents. Buy a window scraper to make it easy. However, if you find yourself in a pinch, using the edge of an old debit/credit card can be an effective way to scrape frost off of your windshield.

Keep the front entry of your home clear. Rain, leaves and the dark can make entries hazardous. Be sure potential obstacles are removed or easily seen. While you’re at it, check the outdoor lights to make sure they’re working and powerful enough to be useful.

Consider a landline. November is infamous for power outages and you don’t want to be caught without a phone in case of emergencies. Generally, landlines work even if the power is out. Contact your service provider to confirm that this is true for you. Extra battery packs for your cell phones are good to have on hand. External battery packs can charge a phone up to 2 – 4 times, depending on the battery and your particular phone.

Visiting Family and Friends for the Holidays

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, especially the event hosts. Keep your home safe for all ages with these tips:
Look for tripping hazards. Here’s what to look for:

  • Newspapers, books and toys might be left at the end of a favorite couch and can be dangerous.
  • Small rugs in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms are opportunities for slipping and falling. Remove them if possible. If not, use grip tape which can be found at any hardware store.
  • Make sure there is plenty of light in hallways and bathrooms. Plug-in night lights are easy solutions.
  • Provide a stool at the sink and toilet for little ones so they don’t have to reach too far.

Daylight savings time is my reminder to prepare our home for winter. Use these to improve the safety of your home. Remember, safety is no accident.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.


Every year, there are 40 million people in the U.S. who suffer from chronic sleep disorders and another 20 million who suffer from occasional sleep issues. A good night’s sleep is important for overall health. Studies have shown that people who get enough quality sleep have stronger immune systems, lowering the risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease than those who aren’t managing 7 – 8 hours a night. There are lifestyle strategies to implement and design solutions to improve the sleep environment.

Lifestyle Strategies:

Exercise – Exercise has so many benefits for good health, including good sleep. Physical activity helps relieve stress. It increases time spent in deep sleep, the phase when the body boosts cell regeneration, increases blood supplies to muscles and strengthens the immune system.

Bedtime – Keep a regular bedtime, including waking up. The body likes consistent rhythms.

Food and Drink – Avoid eating and drinking close to bedtime, preferably a couple of hours before.

Temperature – Regulate temperature bedroom between 60 and 70 degrees.

Turn off the lights – Keep the bedroom dark. This includes ambient light from alarm clocks, cable boxes, lit light switches, cell phones, and other sources.

Relax – A warm bath can help relax the body. Warm, not hot, and no more than 30 minutes before bedtime to give your body a chance to cool down.

Design and Building Solutions – Create quiet and peaceful surroundings to promote quality sleep. Design strategies will help prepare the bedroom for relaxation and sleep.

Heating – If you have separate heat zones in your home, use a timer to regulate the optimal temperature before getting into bed. If the house has a central heating or cooling system, use the same strategy. Some space heaters have timers and can be used to heat up a small room.

Light – Light, even ambient light, can be disruptive to a good sleep. Blackout drapes and blinds are helpful to cut light and can add an attractive look to the room. Dimming overhead lights and using a softer light for reading will reduce stress.

Noise – Sound dampening materials and techniques reduce outside noise. When building or remodeling, consider using sound dampening windows. Architects and builders often suggest sound walls in residential and condo projects. Sound walls are a construction process using a staggered wall framing that creates a barrier between rooms, reducing the amount of sound vibration transferring from one room to the next. This is very successful and doesn’t cost a lot of extra money during new construction or a remodel.

Colors – Colors have an impact on the ambiance of the room. Nature is a good resource for soothing colors. Soft blues and greens are peaceful. If painting isn’t an option, materials and furniture in quiet tones will help relax the mind.

Technology – Home controls have proven to be beneficial for creating restful surroundings. Automatic heating and lighting controls will prepare your bedroom for a restful night. Program cell phones, computers, and TVs to sleep 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime.
A good night’s sleep helps the body rejuvenate and promotes good health. Adding peace and comfort helps to reduce stress. Try these lifestyle and design strategies to improve the quality of your sleep.

Susie Landsem
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Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Time to Start Winterizing

Leaves are falling, temperatures are dropping, and Northwesterners are enjoying one of the best times of year, Autumn.

This season signals that winter is approaching and a good time to begin winterizing your home. Don’t get caught with a faulty furnace or leaky outdoor hose bib in the chill of December. Here are some steps to start preparing:

De-clutter – This is a mantra you will hear from me regularly. Optimally, nothing should be left on the floor that could be tripped over. Put away rakes, shovels and garden hoses in a safe place, out of high-traffic routes. If you have a dedicated area for organized storage, make sure that everything is in its place. If you don’t have a designated space, consider ways to create a convenient and orderly place for your tools. There are a variety of storage solutions available, you are bound to find one that fits your needs.

Check batteries – Test batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Many are wired into the electrical service, and use batteries as back-up. I replace ours annually.

Working flashlights are important in case of power outages. Check that the batteries are fresh, and replacements are readily available. There should be a flashlight in the kitchen, any high traffic areas, and bedrooms. This GE 3-1 Flashlight / Nightlight / Emergency light is rechargeable.

Furnace filters – When was the last time you changed your furnace filter? Many manufacturers recommend every 1 to 6 months, depending on variables like the amount of dust and pollen nearby, the number of pets you have, and whether there are smokers living in your home. A dirty filter will make your furnace work inefficiently, cost you money, and could shut the system down entirely. New filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to change.

Check to make sure that all the floor and ceiling vents are clean as well. It’s good to make sure your furnace or heat system is working properly before the temperature drops, and the repair companies are busy.

Clean exterior entries – Make sure that your entry, steps, and walkways are clean and clear of debris. Leaves and darker skies can hide dirt and slippery spots. Check to see that the address numbers on your house can be seen clearly from the street.

Your home’s safety is important to your health. These steps are a good way to start preparing for winter. If you have a friend or loved one that may need help to do some of these, find a way to support their safety. If you don’t live in their area, find out if they use a handyman service or contact one from a resource like Angie’s list.

Stay safe, warm and enjoy our beautiful September.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.

Hey, Did You Forget Something?

What is one of the best ways to care for your body? Working out. What’s needed for a great workout? Shoes, check. Water bottle, check. Headphones, check. Motivation, check. What’s missing in this list? Stretching.

Those of us who have been going to the gym for a long time have our regular routines, often missing this important element for getting the maximum benefits of the workout.

Flexibility plays a key role in functioning muscles and balance.

Are your muscles feeling a little crankier than they did a few years ago? Gentle stretching will warm up muscles and increase flexibility to get the full benefit of your workout. It doesn’t have to take a long time, it doesn’t have to be hard or complicated.

There are all sorts of ways to stretch. I prefer to start with the foam roller to get the kinks out of my back, neck, and arms. It gets blood moving through my muscles. Others like to do a quick warm-up on a cardio machine and then head for the area allocated for stretching in the gym. Yes, it’s such an integral part of exercising that gyms actually create space and provide mats, foam rollers and balls to encourage good movement.

Stretches for increased flexibility and mobility shouldn’t be difficult or hurt. Which ones are best for you depends on your fitness level and what exercises you’ll be doing. Ask one of the trainers if you’re not sure what the best actions are for you. There are lots of websites and videos on the internet that can be helpful, too.

I love the classes offered at BAC. The instructors do warm-up exercises at the beginning and cool down stretches at the end of the class. However, their time is limited to focus on this part. My recommendation is to get to class early, or stay late, and do some of your own stretching exercises.

Don’t forget to stretch before or after your workout. It’s worth the time because your flexibility will improve, you’ll get more out of exercising and feel better when you’re done.


Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design
Susie is a consultant for Aging in Place. Contact her if you have questions about adding safety and comfort solutions to your home.


The 4-Letter Word! I know, it’s not really 4 letters nor is it a real word. But when you’re doing it, there are plenty of 4 letter words that are used, at least by me. Rehab means I’m injured and not doing what I want to be doing. Rehab also means pushing muscles, finding new muscles and is generally boring and monotonous. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve done a lot of it.

Fortunately, it also means that the acute pain associated with an injury needing rehab has ebbed enough to do some physical work. Yippee – there’s that. You also get to meet new friends; the front desk staff, the doctor, the assistant and all of the people in the waiting room with their own issues. It’s like a whole new social circle. Unless of course, you are a chronic “rehaber” – then the only new people are in the waiting room. Unless they’re frequent visitors, too.

Sitting here with my hair smelling like chlorine, I’m going to sing the praises of the magic of the pool. Again. Yes, I’m in rehab mode. Again. The pool is a helpful place for healing just about every injury and surgery (once you’ve got an ok from the doctor). The water helps takes some stress off of sore joints, provides resistance to build muscles, including your heart and lungs without the need for weights. Swimming can be a whole body workout, or specific areas can be targeted. Swimming, water aerobics and just walking in the water have overall health benefits while improving your specific injury. A side benefit is that you’re meeting new people again, broadening your social circle. Unless the people you met in the waiting room at the doctor’s office are who’s in the pool.

Back to the 4 letter word. Whatever specialist is helping you get back into enjoying your regular activities, is going to encourage moving and stretching in the pool or out. They have a certain knack of finding the weak spots that need to be cared for, and will probably hurt a little to work. Hurt and work – real 4 letter words. However, these exercises count as, exercise! You’re leaving the injury behind and getting back into shape. This is awesome because before you started the rehab process, you were just injured. Now, you are actively getting better – progress.

Ultimately, if you do your exercises and go at the pace your doctor recommends, you will make the necessary physical improvements and get back to your regular activities. During rehab, maybe you’ll have found a new sport to love or new ways of moving that feel better or met a new friend. Bottom line, that nasty 4 letter word becomes a better word, healthy.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design

Your Health Beyond the Gym

May is one of the busiest health observance months I know about. Here are some of the awareness programs that can have an effect on all of us. Most of this information comes from Welcoa, the Wellness Council of America. These are a few of all of the important health awareness events for May. Visit Welcoa for more.

May 6 – 12 is National Nurses Week. If you missed the celebration, its never too late to thank your nurse!

ALS Awareness Month, The ALS Association
Better Sleep Month, Better Sleep Council
Bike Month, The Communications League of American Bicyclists
Healthy Vision Month
High Blood Pressure Education Month, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Lupus Awareness Month, Lupus Foundation of America
Mental Health Month, Mental Health America –
Melanoma / Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, The American Academy of Dermatology
Stroke Month, American Stroke Association

Regular health, vision and dental check-ups are important. Don’t forget to get yours!

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design

Stay Young and Fit in the Pool

I was swimming in the Atlantic last week and it was delightful. It reminded me of what a great exercise it is for the young and young at heart. Here are some reasons why you should get into the water.

Heart and lung strength; Swimming is an aerobic exercise that can strengthen the heart and lungs with less stress on the body than other sports do. The mechanics of breathing in the water work like this; “You breathe in quickly and deeply, and then let the air trickle out. Because your head is underwater when you swim, these breathing adjustments are vital, and they may improve the strength of your respiratory muscles,” reports David Tanner. Livestrong has an excellent article on the benefits.

Strength training; Because water is heavier than air it provides resistance so that the body can be working harder than out of water training. Using kickboards and floats help work on specific muscle groups.

Flexibility and core work; Heated water can help relax muscles for good stretching exercises. The body is working with many muscles at the same time, improving core strength and balance.

Cross training; Swimming is a full body workout, using lots of muscles at the same time. Consistent swimming, or using the pool to mix-up your workout is an excellent program for everyone. Utilizing many of the muscles doing the one exercise. It can be an important part of physical therapy, too.

Do your own workout; Fitness Magazine has some suggestions for movements to include in your pool session.

Be social: Water aerobics is a great way to get your exercise in, too.Classes include leg and arm strength movements. Working out to music and friends makes it fun. I’ve been to a few classes and the instructors are motivating and can be challenging.

Are you a little rusty on technique, or never learned to swim? Take a refresher class to remind your body what to do. Make sure that you get the kids in the water – swimming is an important skill to learn and can be a lifelong way to workout.

BAC has a great pool in the Cordata Club. It’s indoors which is a plus for the winter months. There are water aerobics classes, lap times and lessons available. The pool opens at 5:30 am and follows the gym’s hours.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design

The Benefits of Fitness Trackers

I’ve been wearing a fitness tracker for years. I started with a Polar watch that measured my heart rate with a band worn around my chest. It was accurate but a bit of a hassle. Now I wear one on my wrist. These days, there’s a wide variety of trackers that monitor different things depending on what you’re trying to measure. Trackers are useful for staying connected with your progress and committed to your goals.

Here’s a review of some popular models.

Polar has lots of trackers to choose from and a support page to help pick the right one for you. The A370 is their every day/all day model. It tracks heart rate, sleep and activity. The standouts for this model is it’s waterproof for swimmers and has GPS for runners, at a reasonable price point. Polar has the reputation of having the most accurate feedback of all trackers, important for the serious athlete. This model is $179.95.

Fitbit has a variety of models. I’ve been wearing the Fitbit Charge HR for the last year or so. It tracks my activities, monitors my sleep and heart rate. Its smaller than the referenced Polar unit, but isn’t waterproof. The stand out for this Fitbit is that I can get texts and notifications on the screen. $149.95 Fitbit has recently come out with the Iconic at $299.95. The Iconic rivals the Apple watch with options like adding available apps, making payments and has a customizable clock face. Although it is a contender with the Apple Watch, it’s a fitness tracker at heart. Standout feature – the battery life is around 4 days. The Apple Watch needs to get charged every day.

The Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $329.95 (what is with the .95?). It has all of the benefits that the other trackers do including activity and sleep tracking, GPS, and connects with online coaching. The Watch has unique options such as cellular service without bringing your phone (for an additional $70), connects with Siri and can be used for swimming. Apple has teamed up with Nike for some training prompts and information that runners will want. There are many accessory options, and of course, the Apple Watch has the cool factor.

There are many more trackers on the market. Most work with apps that will capture and store your activity information. They’ve got inspiring stories, interesting tips for improvement and some have online workout classes in case you can’t make it to the gym. Many of them have a community you can connect to and challenge other people going for similar goals, Each one has a slightly different use, appearance and comfort level.

Trackers help keep you committed to attaining your goals. The information can be as minimal as steps taken each day, to the more technical options of precise heart rate and activity monitor. They’re particularly useful if you’ve got goals and want to make sure that you’re on track. Go try one on and see the benefits right away.

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design

3 Motivators to Bring Your Friend to the Gym

Congratulations – you’ve chosen to be a member of an athletic club. You have committed to staying healthy and fit. 3 or 4 visits a week with a workout plan will improve your mood, attitude and appearance. Often, the greatest obstacle in the way of success is just getting to the gym. Even those of us who are regulars know the challenges of motivation. It’s easier to skip a day, then a week or worse, a month. Sometimes we all need a little push from a friend.

I’ve got 3 motivators to help you and your friend get to the gym.

Renew Your Resolutions – This is an excellent time to review and renew your goals. Maybe you aimed too high and need to adjust the plan so you can be successful. I like to goal set in quarters; a 3 month commitment is easier to achieve than a 12 month plan. Is there someone you know that might be in a similar situation? Go get a cup of coffee together and set reasonable goals that you’re likely to achieve.

Accountability – Regularly meeting a friend at the gym is a win-win. You get to check in with your friend and get a workout too. When you know someone is waiting for you, you’re more likely to show up.

Beat Isolation – Do you know someone that isn’t getting out enough, can’t drive or has the winter blues? Maybe you’re feeling that way, too. Loneliness, depression and isolation are serious health problems. Working out boosts one’s physical and mental health. Give your friend a call and an invitation to join you for a workout. Provide transportation and the encouragement to improve their attitude, strength and mobility.

I couldn’t drive for 6 months for medical reasons. My friends organized a carpool and got me to the gym regularly. I am so thankful to them for their efforts. I believe that their companionship and energy helped me heal faster.

Working out is important to our physical and mental health. You know that already. Help yourself and your friend get to the gym, achieve goals and have fun at the same time!

Susie Landsem
Aging in Place by Design