Adapting to new realities


I have learned first-hand in the past few months about the importance of mobility in the home.

For people who live alone, being able to move around safely is critically important, and can make the difference between remaining in the home and having to move into an assisted-living or full nursing facility.

Having a second, able person in the home, too, has value that cannot be understated.

The use of universal design and aging-in-place principles and products can delay by years, or perhaps a lifetime, the need to move into a nursing home. These concepts will be discussed during a forum presented by the local Universal Design Coalition from noon to 2 p.m. Monday at the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee’s headquarters, 2320 Cattlemen Road in Sarasota. Admission is free, and I’ll be moderating the panel discussion.

Many people who are experts in universal design become that way out of necessity. That includes Monday’s guest speaker, Wanda Gozdz, president of Golden Age Living in Stuart and an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Her life changed when she fell and broke her right hand in 1994. During her six-month recovery, “I learned to adapt to my environment. I lived alone and I could only use my left hand. I had to learn how to turn on the shower and cook for myself with one hand. Adapting is something seniors do” when they have physical limitations.

In 2000, Gozdz’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, and her house had to be modified. “She lived in the same home for 55 years and was adamant about not leaving. We modified it in order for her to be able to stay.”

In 2004, hurricanes Frances and Jeanne forced her out of her home for 10 months. After a career in information technology, she went back to school earned a degree in interior design, in 2010, “focusing on aging-in-place, because we have 78 million baby boomers retiring in the next 25 years, and then want to stay in their homes.”

In 2007, Gozdz became a certified aging-in-place specialist through the National Association of Home Builders.

“Universal design is design for all people of all ages, and its main function is ease of use and comfort,” she said. “It is transparent because it is available to everyone. It is a way to do away with stigmata, or things that impeded our daily functionality. We transformed that into the home.

“Universal design becomes the umbrella under which other kinds of designs can be adapted. A 32-inch doorway is transparent, meaning anyone can walk through it, or a person in a wheelchair or a walker.

“When design is done well, it doesn’t stop anyone from being able to function.”

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: June 12, 2015
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published without permissions. Links are encouraged.