12. Natalie Lucas

Dr. Debi Lynes speaks with Natalie Lucas of Optimal Hearing about your sense of hearing at any stage in life

(duration: 31 minutes 18 seconds)

Natalie Lucas


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Optimal Hearing

how technology has changed what it’s like to be deaf


Lynes on Design


Do not neglect your hearing. It is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellness.


Debi Lynes (00:03): Hi and welcome to aging in place for every stage in life. What if you could visit or have a home that would accommodate anyone at any age, any physical ability at any time? How cool would that be? That’s what we’re doing here at aging in place. Why me? Because I’m a doctor of psychology and I specialize in physical spaces in health and wellness. Also, I love designing with intent at any age. Why now? Because we the baby boomers want to age in place gracefully and we want our families around us as much as we can and why you the audience? Because we want you to experience what it’s like to have a home that’s safe, aesthetically pleasing and that you can live in at any age with any ability at any time. I’d like to introduce you now to Aging in Place Podcast for every stage in life.

Debi Lynes (01:04): Hi and welcome to Aging in Place Podcast for any stage in life. I am here with my friend Natalie Lucas and we’re talking about optimal hearing. Yes, I am thrilled to talk to her. She and I have actually done TV together. Right. So this is going to be fun. We’re going to have to use our….

Natalie Lucas (01:20): New senses.

Debi Lynes (01:21): Our senses of listening today.

Debi Lynes (01:24): Challenging me today.

Debi Lynes (01:25): Exact, this is your area of expertise. You know, what I’d really like to start is a little bit about your background cause it’s pretty fun and exciting and how you got into this area from television production.

Natalie Lucas (01:38): Right. I was a TV producer for almost 20 years with a major news organization and was part of a mass layoff. So for me it was a midlife crisis, right on cue. I was 40 years old and I was going, what am I going to do with the rest of my life? I went to see a life coach just completely blindly this kind of seek out some information. The one thing I knew I didn’t want to do was stay in television news.

Debi Lynes (02:15): Okay. Wise woman.

Natalie Lucas (02:18): Correct. And I’m thankful every day. And so I was, went to a life coach and was learning that I wanted to do something that was more fulfilling, more satisfying to my heart and soul. I wanted to grow up people.

Debi Lynes (02:33): To grow up with your values.

Natalie Lucas (02:33): Right, right and wanted to, I wanted to help people and have a little bit more connection to people and it made sense to do that with seniors just because when you look at what the millennials and the younger generations are doing, they’re maybe not quite as plugged in or active.

Debi Lynes (02:51): Did you initially have a lot of testing done? Did you have kind of inventories done to kind of gear where you were interested?

Natalie Lucas (02:59): I did some kind of personality testing along the way. If you’ve been out there long enough, somebody is going to get you with a personality test. Right. But um I did not do that in kind of an official capacity when I was searching. I just was kind of doing some soul searching, meeting with this life coach and talking it out and doing research along the way. It made sense to look into health-related fields.

Debi Lynes (03:23): Smart. That makes a lot of sense. Why hearing why, what do you think it was that interested you about that?

Natalie Lucas (03:29): I know exactly what it was. The way that I ended up with this company was that I was at an oyster roast and I got talking with the president of the company who was engaged to a friend of mine. So at just as, so many things happen, but being a producer, I went home and started researching it. The reason that I fell in love with hearing was because so much is unknown still about how we hear, how we process language, how important hearing is to the brain. And so that kind of peaked my intellectual curiosities as I started digging. And how important hearing is, but how disregarded it’s been doctors, the medical community, people just kind of let their hearing go and don’t treat it.

Debi Lynes (04:15): Well think about it when, when I think about hearing, I think the biggest shock I had, and you don’t know what you don’t know, you don’t think about it. When I went in for my own hearing test, hearing analysis, and then was told, you know, you’re not, you’re 60 and you really don’t need them. But if you kind of get into it, you, it’s probably a good thing. You’re pretty close. You’re right on the cusp. And I was like, Oh great. You know will insurance pay for those? No. No. And I was like, what? No, no. And to me that signified that they’re a luxury item. And it was shocking to me because once I had hearing aids, I didn’t realize how much I didn’t and hadn’t heard until I had them. And, and now I can’t even imagine life without them.

Natalie Lucas (05:07): It’s funny to me just because I tend to believe we have known so little about how the brain works for so long that people kind of just disregarded hearing you dealt with hearing loss, it was expected to happen. It came with aging. But guess what? So does eyesight, your eyesight diminishes as you age. For the vast majority of people were taking eye tests. As kids, we’re having our eyes checked throughout our lives. When our eyesight starts diminishing. We go and get glasses.

Debi Lynes (05:38): So interesting.

Natalie Lucas (05:38): And ears, for some reason people would just say, huh, that’s expected. I don’t hear anymore. That’s baloney. I don’t, you know, that’s, that’s not cool to me.

Debi Lynes (05:49): So optimal hearing, tell me about the company itself.

Natalie Lucas (05:52): The company itself is a family-owned and operated company. They’ve in business since 1961. The patriarch of the family wore hearing aids and so he started going door to door in 1958 selling hearing aids, which if you can imagine what a 1958 hearing aid was. And his son took over the company I believe in the 80s. Okay. Three of his four children are our vice presidents and hearing loss runs through their family. So, so many of them wear hearing aids which makes them very service-oriented because as hearing aid wearers, they really know the other side of the coin too.

Debi Lynes (06:31): We’ll serve folks who haven’t worn hearing aids. These are not your great-grandmother’s hearing aids. And number one, these are, we were just laughing about this. These are in my words, soon to be fashion accessories because I mean mine does, has Bluetooth. It pretty much can do most anything. Talk to us about some of the newer styles or not so much styles but what, what hearing aids can and can’t do.

Natalie Lucas (06:53): You know these days and when you talk about fashion accessories. I fully believe one day they will be once upon a time and once upon a time you know, eyeglasses were big old round Coke bottle glasses and now snazzy and really cool glasses on. Now they’re just two-tone with the fade and people wear designer glasses. That’s going to happen with hearing aids I think. Because the younger generations are all growing up with pink and neon cords hanging from their ears, iPods, iPods and Bluetooth devices and AirPods AirPods stuff, stuff hanging from our ears all the time now. Um I’m constantly trying to talk my patients into getting red hearing aids or blue hearing aids. Why not? Exactly. I only have one, one woman who is hysterical, she got a red one and a blue one cause she’s a Patriots fan.

Debi Lynes (07:46): When I was getting on it, what’s the big choice? Do you go neutral or do you go to a Rose gold or whatever? And I’m thinking at that time I’m thinking to myself, really, I can’t see it. So I don’t really care.

Natalie Lucas (07:58): Everybody goes neutral, but I say go bold. You know? And I think as I think as the baby boomers start moving in and getting a little funky and the aging hippies I think, we’ll start seeing more bedazzled and designer hearing aids and colored hearing aids. Why not?

Natalie Lucas (08:14): All right. What age do you think people should, well, you’re going to tell me from the time you’re a little on out, right? How often and when should I begin to get hearing tests?

Natalie Lucas (08:22): I’m thrilled to see now that sometimes there are hearing screenings for kids in school. And that’s important. I mean, starting from a young age, it used to be people who had hearing loss sometimes would get up into their four or five, six, seven and not be diagnosed. And that doesn’t help anyone. But certainly I think as you get into your middle age peers, all those fun years, which I’m right in the middle of right now, when you get there, you know, you need to start just go find out, you know, get a baseline.

Debi Lynes (08:52): Do people know if, It you know how I F I think I was 58 and because I was a therapist I would be talking to my patients and a lot of them were teenagers and I found myself as the years went by, you know, that 18 inches of space I would get closer and closer and closer. You’re kind of bugging me, step back. And it was weak because I could not understand them. I felt like I could hear, I couldn’t understand and I didn’t realize there wasn’t much of a difference in that. We’re going to take a quick break. Yeah. We’re going to come back and can we talk a little bit about that again, hearing isn’t always the sound. Sometimes it’s the understanding.

Natalie Lucas (09:41): Very good reason why you felt that way.

Debi Lynes (09:43): Stay with us. We’ll be right back here on aging in place, the podcast.

Debi Lynes (09:48): Hi, I’m Dr. Debi Lynes. Design elements are psychologically and physically supportive and conducive to health and wellness. To learn more about what Lynes on Design can do for you, for more information on certified aging in place and facilitative and supportive design, look for us at lynesondesign.com. That’s L-Y-N-E-S on design dot com.

Debi Lynes (10:13): We are back here on Aging in Place Podcast for any stage in life. I am here with my friend Natalie Lucas, optimal hearing and we’re talking about hearing loss and it’s, it’s funny in the F in the previous segment I said when I first noticed anything, it wasn’t that I felt like I couldn’t hear. I felt like I couldn’t understand.

Natalie Lucas (10:31): If I had a dollar for every time somebody came into my office and said, I cheer just fine. It’s just that everybody mumbles.

Debi Lynes (10:39): That damn TV.

Natalie Lucas (10:40): A very wealthy woman. For the most part, when people start losing their hearing I say for the vast majority of cases, when people start losing their hearing, they start losing high frequencies first. And that’s because high frequencies are most exposed on the cochlea to sounds coming through the ear.

Debi Lynes (10:58): Okay, stop. Here’s now I love this. My favorite part, what I do A what is a cochlea? B What is high frequency?

Natalie Lucas (11:05): Okay, so cochlea is the inner ear. Okay. You have the external ear canal, your middle ear and your inner ear and the cochlea. And the inner ear is kind of the hearing organ, if you will. And High frequency. A dog whistle high pitch. Got it. High pitch. Okay. Okay. So in our language we have low-frequency sounds that are vows and hard consonants such as A – D – B. The volume of our words comes from all of those letters. And then we have high-frequency, non-voiced consonants. We don’t use vocal chords to make any of these sounds, so we can’t make them louder or softer. [k – t – p – h – sh – a] Oh yeah. So what happens is people start losing their high frequencies first for the middle of the ear. And when that happens, you’re hearing the root volume base of the word, but you’re missing those subtle nuances. And our language, those high-frequency non-voice continents help determine and distinguish and differentiate one word from another. So you’re losing the subtle nuances [k – t – p – h – sh – a]. It makes a word a word.

Debi Lynes (12:21): So typically would we, and I think I found myself looking at for work arounds, I would listen much more for context and content rather than individual words. But I again, I was so surprised at the difference when I actually had the opportunity to have a hearing device.

Natalie Lucas (12:44): People start, well, you know, we use a lot of tools to communicate. So when you’re experiencing hearing loss and it’s untreated, you’re relying on your brain to fill in information from context. You’re more focused at looking at faces, seeing lips, reading, kind of the full picture. And when hearing loss will most often highlight itself is in complex listening environments. If you’re in a noisy restaurant with a group of friends, if you’re watching TV with a lot of sound effects and background noise and flat screen speakers.

Debi Lynes (13:14): I also found that anytime I watched a foreign film or a film accent are so bad.

Natalie Lucas (13:20): They’re so difficult for people because you’re already experiencing some hearing loss and trying to lean on filling in the blanks and then with an accent that kind of handicaps you.

Debi Lynes (13:31): So talk to me about what hearing tests looked like in today’s world.

Natalie Lucas (13:34): A hearing test. If you go and get a good hearing test, they’re gonna want to find out about you, a case history, if you will. What’s going on, what situations are you having trouble, where do you think it came from? Do you have any ringing in your ears? Should be a good discussion up front about what’s going on. The hearing test itself is a combination of what we call pure tones that’s hearing tones or beats of different frequencies or pitches from low to medium to high and then their speech testing. And that’s testing how your brain is processing speech. So here is two fold your ears ability to get speech up to the brain and the brain’s ability to process it. So then you’ll do some speech testing and then you’ll end with some bone conduction and that’s actually presenting tones or pitches to your mastoid bone. And what we’re doing there is looking for what we would call a conductive element, some type of blockage in the middle ear or earwax or something that is helping us diagnose what type of hearing loss you have.

Debi Lynes (14:40): One of the most interesting things you said when you first came in was that hearing loss was linked to a lot of medical conditions. Is it more of a is hearing loss a, is there a correlation between that and let’s say heart disease or, or how does all this work?

Natalie Lucas (15:03): Well, you know, I laugh with my patients all the time. That old song when you were a kid, leg bones connected to this. Yes, we’re all interconnected. And so a lot of conditions are interconnected. When we speak of things like heart disease or diabetes, people with heart disease and diabetes have higher rates of hearing loss. And a lot of that has to do with circulation and blood supply to the inner ear. If you start constricting and limiting the blood flow to the inner ear is going to kill off the little hairs I for up to the brain. So a lot about that. So we see, particularly with diabetes, it’s a big indicator of possible hearing loss because people are, have reduced circulation and blood flow to the inner ear.

Debi Lynes (15:52): And talk to me about hearing loss and dementia because I know that as my mom’s hearing deteriorated, it seemed as though cognitively there was a, it got, she got worse and worse cognitive.

Natalie Lucas (16:08): Without a doubt. And major studies are now proving that that.

Debi Lynes (16:12): So dad, where are your hearing aids please. Please dad, where you’re hearing it’s please.

Natalie Lucas (16:19): So what we’re learning is that when people go with untreated hearing loss, what you’re doing is you’re disengaging, you’re withdrawing from society, from conversation, from people. You’re disengaging and you’re retreating within your own head. People get tired of asking people to repeat or they’re embarrassed by it. And so we all have been in tough times in your life, you’ve all kind of learned, I think most of us have learned somewhere along the way that the best place for you to be is not always inside your head.

Debi Lynes (16:53): No, isn’t that so true?

Natalie Lucas (16:53): And so, you know what hearing aids do is keep you engaged and keep you plugged in. But hearing is also stimulation fitness, if you will, for the brain. So it keeps your brain stimulated and healthy and fit and active. And they’re proving right now that early adoption of hearing aids and consistent wear of hearing aids will, in fact, ward off dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, risk of falls. These are major studies coming out that are showing that no, just going along as is and saying, okay, I’m old. I don’t hear anymore. Well that’s not the way to go.

Debi Lynes (17:28): I found that and you and I have talked about this when we’ve just had our conversations. I found that exactly like my monovision or my contacts. If I, I just decided I needed them. It wasn’t like, Ooh, should I shouldn’t. I would have pain this, that or the other. And I remember the month I hear and tell me, is this true? Is there sort of a adaptation period where your, your body sort of recaptured?

Natalie Lucas (17:56): Absolutely. You’ve got to, you’ve takes people a really long time for the most part to lose their hearing unless there’s a traumatic event or a virus or something that takes their hearing. So you’ve spent all these years slowly diminishing your hearing and then we bring it back to you at all, all at once. That can be overwhelming for the brain saying, yeah, dishwasher big time.

Debi Lynes (18:17): My two year old [grandchild] wooh..

Natalie Lucas (18:20): It takes time to adapt. You’ve got to give it time to adapt and it’s no different than if you were to get glasses or contact lenses. Your brain needs time to adjust to a new reality.

Debi Lynes (18:28): Can we take a quick break again and come back and talk about sort of what is trending or what is on trend for hearing devices and where we are going with the future. And I’d also like to talk about how long hearing aids last. So stay with us. We’ll be right back here on aging in place.

Henrik de Gyor (18:48): For more podcast episodes, links, information and media inquiries, please visit our website at aginginplacepodcast.com as we transition through life with the comfort and ease you deserve, discover how you can create a home that will adapt to you as you journey through life and the changes it will bring. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as our host Debi Lynes and her expert guests discuss relevant topics to creating a home for all decades in life. Don’t miss our weekly episodes of Aging in Place Podcast for every stage in life.

Debi Lynes (19:25): We are back here on aging in place for any stage in life. Natalie and I are laughing and talking about hearing devices and glasses and I guess these are medical conditions. I’d like to know a little bit about what is on-trend. What you are seeing is new and improved in hearing devices and kind of where we’re going.

Natalie Lucas (19:42): Yes, you want them red and blue bold colors. Yo, I want put dazzled and styled. I want them to be accessorized fabulousness. Um.

Debi Lynes (19:55): I don’t know it, it’s an awful lot of competition with what the area needs.

Natalie Lucas (19:58): Maybe we can kind of coordinate them.

Debi Lynes (20:00): I’d be in for that. I’d be down for that.

Natalie Lucas (20:02): For the most part, the industry is all moving towards rechargeable using a lithium-ion battery and getting rid of the old hearing aid batteries. That’s problematic for a lot of people because fine motor skills and plus it’s the same old battery and lots of new technologies. So there’s hearing aids drain the batteries really fast, especially.

Debi Lynes (20:22): My dad has those with rechargeable. It drives me absolutely cuckoo because I feel like they spend more time on the recharge or then they do.

Debi Lynes (20:31): The original ones did and they’re improving on that. There are some rechargeable hearing aids out there now that have a 30-hour battery life, so you never have to worry about the first rechargeables would start dying on you every day at about dinnertime, right when you really need them. Right. So they’re improving on rechargeability moving. I think the whole industry will hopefully be there in five or so years. They’re everything is to pairing and connecting with a cell phone and Bluetooth capability, streaming, taking phone calls through your hearing aid.

Debi Lynes (21:01): You love that.

Natalie Lucas (21:02): Streaming music and books, books on tape. I have a patient who walks five miles every day and listens to her books on tape.

Debi Lynes (21:08): And I listened to my, whenever I’m out walking, I love the music through my hearing aid. It sounds great on the treadmill.

Natalie Lucas (21:14): They’re really fancy earbuds. And we’re, we’re getting more and more capable of doing more things with them beyond just hearing. There are some hearing aid manufacturers that are turning the hearing aids kind of into a Fitbit or an activity tracker or a fitness or health tracker, tracking your heartbeat, your heart rate, your steps can do all sorts of things there. I’m not sure how far that will go if that’s more of like a short term kind of testing the waters out. We’ve got so many devices that can do that. Our phones, our watches.

Debi Lynes (21:48): Are most hearing devices now. Mine go over the back of my ear and I think the microphone is back there, right? Correct. Are there different, I don’t want to say styles cause I’m not really interested in this style, but different kinds. I’ve seen some that are just go into the ear.

Natalie Lucas (22:04): Every hearing aid manufacturer is going to make a hearing aid that goes behind the ear and maybe a big one that goes behind the ear. We would call that a BTE. That’s for people who are severely or profoundly deaf, a lot of power. Then the general behind the ear one like what you have, what many many people have. Those tend to be the most comfortable to wear they can fit a variety of types of losses and because there’s more real estate, because the unit is behind your ear, you can put more features into them, but it’s also not suitable for everybody who maybe don’t have the fine motor skills to work the little wire into your ear.

Debi Lynes (22:43): Yeah I think that’s, that’s been a hard, now that it’s when she, it’s kind of like contacts like we talked about. Once you get used to putting them in and taking them out.

Natalie Lucas (22:52): You have to learn the shape of your ears. We’re all different and most people have never thought about the inside of their ears until they end up in a set of hearing aids.

Debi Lynes (22:59): And again, I always use my dad to talk about, but it has absolutely driven him nuts. Not to hearing aids per se, but getting him in and out.

Natalie Lucas (23:06): It can be hard. People who have really twisty, windy or narrow ears or prolapsed ears that can be very hard in those cases. And in cases where maybe people don’t have good motor skills or other needs, maybe they have dementia and Alzheimer’s and caregivers, we can look to a custom hearing aid and those are the kind that just fit in the ear. They can go from very, very tiny to filling up the whole ear. Um and with a custom, what we’re doing is it’s a closed fit. We’re blocking out everything, all of the natural sounds. So they tend to be better for people who have more severe or flat low loss, meaning they don’t have any good hearing to lean on.

Debi Lynes (23:47): Once you get a hearing device, do you tend to not lose any more hearing? How does or how does all that work there?

Natalie Lucas (23:54): Sensory neural hearing loss. It can be age-related presbycusis is what you call that. It can be genetic noise induced ototoxic medicines can cause it.

Debi Lynes (24:07): Like grateful dead end days.

Natalie Lucas (24:09): Exactly the Rolling Stones somebody the other day said as she thought her hearing loss stem from Bon Jovi, it can be ototoxic medicines and said sort of certain medicines that doctors prescribed to fix one thing and damage your hearing. Things like chemotherapy and radiation. So there’s so many internal and external variables. There’s no way to predict.

Debi Lynes (24:32): Is there an ear device hearing device hygiene that we need to know about or even eat ear hygiene that would be preventative or helpful?

Natalie Lucas (24:45): Not really, I’m sometimes amazed, you know, you should check on the cleanliness of your ears every once in awhile. That’s not a bad thing to do. You don’t.

Debi Lynes (24:58): There some people produce more wax than others.

Natalie Lucas (25:00): Some people produce gobs and gobs a wax. Some people produce next to no wax earwax or cerumen as a glandular production. So it varies from person to person, but you do want to kind of check-in on, you know, are your ears clean? Every once in awhile I’ll come across people who are completely impacted from the outer of their ear all the way back to their eardrum with ear wax. And that is an ear wax induced hearing loss. They may have other hearing loss, but it will block your hearing. Earwax is nature’s perfect sunblock.

Debi Lynes (25:31): So you have a pair of hearing devices now, what is the recommended way to clean them? Is it easy? Is it hard? Do you need to? And then how often do we come back and visit and see you in optimal hearing?

Natalie Lucas (25:43): I see all of my patients every four months. Some don’t want to see me that much and they’ll push it out to six.

Debi Lynes (25:48): Right and other people will come every two years because they can.

Natalie Lucas (25:51): Right and then some come every couple of weeks just to say, Hey but it is important to keep people moving forward and to have somebody else hearing. Sometimes people don’t realize new hearing aids aren’t working well because the brain hears the hearing aid turn on. It tells them they’re working. So checking on vacuuming the microphones in fact.

Debi Lynes (26:13): Vacuuming the microphones.

Natalie Lucas (26:14): I have the world’s tiniest vacuum in my office.

Debi Lynes (26:16): Yeah, I am going there tomorrow.

Natalie Lucas (26:19): But in terms of keeping them clean, you want to brush them off. Okay. Things like pollen, skin cells, dandruff, all of these things can settle in the microphones and affect the performance. I always say we’re humans, so we’ve got a lot room alone.

Debi Lynes (26:34): Walking in the rain.

Natalie Lucas (26:35): Not bad. Most hearing aids are very, very water-resistant. I jump in the pool with them. I had a gentleman just recently swim about 10 laps before he realized you can get your hearing aids and Oh, take them out. If they get them wet and put them in a bowl of dried rice, just like you would your cell phone and it’s going to pull the moisture out of them. You can a lot of times save your hearing aids even if you’ve submerged them.

Debi Lynes (27:00): What do you see age span of a hearing device?

Natalie Lucas (27:04): Manufacturers, one is to say five years and that’s because we’re in a technology boom and keeping all of those old, outdated parts. I tend to tell people five to seven years. I have patients who come see me. I saw a woman today who was in hearing aids from 2012. They’re still working for her. We needed, she needs to stay in them. So we kept her in them and we take care of him for her.

Debi Lynes (27:28): Once you have your hearing devices, do you, is it like a car? Can you like turn them in and upgrade?

Natalie Lucas (27:33): No, for the most part they’re, they’re regulated as medical devices. So they and they are, they’re living in a 98-degree body. They’re kind of as no exchange program. I have helped people put them on a cell behind the ear style cause that’ll fit everyone. I have helped people sell those before in neighborhood flyers, eBay, you’ll see sometimes you’ll see them for sale.

Debi Lynes (28:03): Slightly used.

Natalie Lucas (28:03): Slightly used. Buyer beware. Of course, you want to make sure that they are good working hearing aids. But you can.

Debi Lynes (28:12): You have been amazing and super fun to talk to before we go. It’s shameless self-promotion time. Oh I need to call this that. So if you name after want hearing website where we can track you down. Miss Natalie.

Natalie Lucas (28:29): So my name is Natalie Lucas. www.optimalhearing.com. I have offices in Hilton Head and on Bluffton and you know, my favorite part of my job is taking care of people. I’m really big on education. A lot of times people are scared before they come and go find out what’s going on. Don’t be. Come see me and um you’ll learn a lot no matter what.

Debi Lynes (28:56): Thank you so much for joining us here on aging in place. Bye-bye.

Debi Lynes (29:01): I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Tracy. Tracy is naturally curious and always creative. And when we were doing the Aging in Place Podcast, she said there are so many quick tips that I can think of offhand. My response, who knew she’s going to be with us every week, giving us a quick tip and to hint that is a practical application.

Tracy Snelling (29:29): Thanks Debbie. This next tip came from one of my friends who has a hearing disability. She’s in her twenties and she wears hearing aids. I thought this was such a great idea that I needed to share, even though I don’t have any hearing problems, I’m still doing this today. When Sarah is home, she remains barefooted or she wears socks. She removes her shoes at the door. Why? It’s not because of the dirt or the mud. It’s because of vibrations. She says she can feel the floor move. She feels the vibration of the door opening or closing. She feels the vibration of her dogs. Paul’s coming down the hall. She even feels the vibration when something is dropped, not even the room where she’s standing. Who knew? Well, Sarah did. I was raised in a barefoot at home shoes, first thing off and last thing on only because I’m a little bit country. I am now more aware of the vibrations of my own home and I’m also talented enough to pick up my ink pen with my toes when I drop it. I felt the vibration. Who knew?

Debi Lynes (30:36): Natalie Lucas, It was a lot of fun today to talk with you. At the end of every podcast, we have a takeaway and the takeaway today is this, do not neglect your hearing. It is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellness. Thank you all for joining us this week on aging in place. Have a great one.

Henrik de Gyor (30:59): Aging in Place Podcast is hosted by Debi Lynes and produced by Henrik de Gyor. If you have any comments or questions, send an email to debi@aginginplacepodcast.com we would love to hear from you. If you’re interested in advertising or sponsoring this podcast, email us at pr@aginginplacepodcast.com. Thank you for listening to Aging in Place Podcast.

2. Sean Stewart

Dr. Debi Lynes interviews Sean Stewart about technology in the home for any stage in life

(duration: 34 minutes 47 seconds)

Sean Stewart


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Amazon Echo Dot


Custom Audio Video

Dusk til dawn nightlights

Josh AI

Motion-activated nightlights


Don’t be intimidated by technology.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The point of all of this technology is to make your life easier and simplify it, not to make it more difficult, so don’t hesitate to call when it comes to technology.



Lynes on Design


Debi Lynes:                   00:03                Hi and welcome to Aging in Place for every stage in life. What if you could visit or have a home that would accommodate anyone at any age, any physical ability, at any time? How cool would that be? That’s what we’re doing here at aging in place. Why me? Because I’m a doctor of psychology and I specialize in physical spaces and health and wellness. Also, I love designing with intent at any age. Why now? Because we, the baby boomers, want to age in place gracefully and we want our families around us as much as we can. Why you the audience? Because we want you to experience what it’s like to have a home that’s safe, aesthetically pleasing, and that you can live in at any age, with any ability, at any time. I’d like to introduce you now to Aging in Place Podcast for every stage in life.

Debi Lynes:                   01:05                Hi and welcome to the next episode of Aging in Place, the podcast. We’re very excited. My friend Sean Stewart is here from Custom Audio Video. I tell you what, I am more excited to talk to you. We have been trying to demystify, if you will, a little bit of aging in place. And a lot of people think of it is as you get older you want to stay in your home, but you and I have talked about this, Sean, many times. It’s really about being able to live in your home at any age, universally, and we can all function there. And I have to admit that talking about technology is a little intimidating to me. So I’m going to ask you before we even get started to talk a little bit, Sean, about what you do and about Custom Audio Video.

Sean Stewart:               01:53                Yeah. So Custom Audio Video is here in Bluffton [South Carolina] and we cover all kinds of things technology-wise in the home. Now some things may fit more in place with what we’re trying to talk to about today, but overall we do, you know, home theaters, audio systems, stereo systems, networking, and internet throughout your home. We’ll talk more probably about automation and a lot of the smart home stuff that we do. We do lighting control. We do shade control. We can do furniture even. When it comes down to good living room furniture that fits with that home theater feel. So we do all kinds of stuff.

Debi Lynes:                   02:32                And what is your role specifically? Because you have an interesting job there.

Sean Stewart:               02:35                Yeah. My role is kind of multifaceted in a lot of ways. I oversee the showroom so if anybody wants to come through during the week and just want to see what we have, I’ll probably be the one there waiting for them. I also do a lot of this kind of stuff, being the face and the voice of the company, talking a lot about what we do, and working with architects, builders, clients, and designers trying to get the idea out there. A lot of what we do isn’t necessarily common knowledge, but it’s stuff a lot of people want to learn about what we can do, they want it. It really cool stuff.

Debi Lynes:                   03:00                Exactly. And like I said, the psychology of technology in the home can be a little intimidating. And I think that if we can just bust a little stigma and demystify this, we will be good to go for a lot of people. Let’s talk a little bit, if we can, about what an automated home looks like throughout the ages.

Sean Stewart:               03:28                Yeah. So first I want to distinguish that there’s a big difference between a smart home and home automation. I’ll explain why. Smart home: the way to think of it more is a lot of different kind of subsystems. You can have smart lighting in your home. You can have multi-room audio. You can have shades that go up and down. You can have front door locks. You can have thermostat control, for instance. So these are all kinds of individual subsystems, almost individual silos, if you will. Home automation is bringing them all together into one system. So instead of having to go on your phone or your iPad and go, I want to turn on my lights. I want to change the thermostat. I need to unlock the front door.

Sean Stewart:               04:12                With home automation, when I come home with one command, whether it’s just knowing that I’m home or a button that I hit, I am going to open the shade, turn the lights, change the thermostat, and unlock the door. Do all those things. So that home automation is taking the smart home and making it even easier and more convenient.

Debi Lynes:                   04:30                Okay. So let’s start at the very beginning. I am a potential client and again, I’ve got grandchildren and I’ve got aging adults in my home. How do we even begin? Where do I start? So I come to you and say, Sean, help. Here’s what I’ve got. Here are my needs. Here is my home. What helps you? What do you need?

Sean Stewart:               04:48                Yeah, so from our standpoint, we’ve got some designers that are trained on all these systems to create a system and really figure out your needs, to help you understand what’s out there and kind of match what you want. The awesome thing about all this is that it’s very scalable. So if you want something very simple, or you want something that covers the home in a lot of different ways? It’s available.

Debi Lynes:                   05:14                So when cost is no object, you’ve got it, and when cost is an object, you’ve got that too. Can you create a master plan? And we can build on that too.

Sean Stewart:               05:22                You can. Now though, of course there are going to be some pieces that over time maybe change a little bit. There are going to be cornerstone pieces that you want to put into place and the little things you can add here or there as convenience or time…

Debi Lynes:                   05:37                You’re so good. Cornerstone piece. Let’s start at the very beginning. So I walk in and I want to create an automated home. I want Clementine, my one year old, and my dad to be able to function… Not equally, but you know what I’m saying. What would you recommend as a first step? It’s a blank slate for you. So we’re going to kind of do a wishlist or master plan, if you will. We’re building a home. We’ve got no walls or windows yet. Where do I want to start for universal design?

Sean Stewart:               05:58                Well, if you’re starting that early, we always recommend starting with a good pre-wire. Essentially, you are wiring the home for the future. You know, things used to be co-ax everywhere, but thankfully we’ve moved to ethernet cat[egory] five or cat[egory] six [cables]. That can do a lot of different things.

Debi Lynes:                   06:33                So what do I do? Do I sit down with my architect? My builder? You? Do we come as a team and decide what that’s going to look like for us?

Sean Stewart:               06:40                Yeah. So from our standpoint, we always say as early as we can get involved as possible, that’s the best. We have a lot of jobs that we start, and then there’s a big period where maybe we’re not doing work, but we’ve answered questions that don’t have to be redone when we get there. So we can sit down with the plans and say: Hey, this is where you want TVs. This is where you want shades. This is where you want lighting control. This is what we need to do to get all that done.

Debi Lynes:                   07:05                Do I have to have done research? Do I have to be an expert? Or am I really relying on you to help guide me as to what I need and can afford?

Sean Stewart:               07:13                No, you don’t have to do any research. Of course we welcome it if people are interested, but we also have customers that go, you know what, I don’t really want to worry about it. I’ve got my own thing. This is what you are for. I happily say that nobody on our team is a salesman.

Debi Lynes:                   07:29                That’s a really good thing.

Sean Stewart:               07:32                They’re there to figure out what you need, what you really want, and help get to that point.

Debi Lynes:                   07:37                So let’s talk about the different silos and the basic component pieces. What would you call a basic component piece for home automation?

Sean Stewart:               07:45                Lighting control for instance. You know, making it simple. We call it the critical path. Where are you going to go from the time you come home? For instance, whether you always come through the front door and you go to the living space or you come from your garage and you go to living space. What lights need to come on to make it very convenient for you to get in?

Debi Lynes:                   08:06                It’s really interesting that you say that, because we were talking on previous episodes about the entry of a house is probably one of the most important things you can do for universal design in aging in place. Making sure that you have safe access. And that’s really what you’re saying. So lighting would be the first… what did you call it? Critical path.

Sean Stewart:               08:26                Yeah, the critical path. Where are you going to walk pretty much very time you come in your home. Whether it’s coming in the garage and going to the kitchen and that’s kind of where the hub is. I know that’s how it pretty much works in my house. I come in, I go into the main living space.

Debi Lynes:                   08:38                So what do you have? Do you have something on your phone? Do you have a panel? What does all that look like?

Sean Stewart:               08:44                Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways to do it. The most common way is using your phone and setting up what’s called a geo-fence. So essentially when your phone recognizes you’re within a certain area of your home, it’s going to activate a system that is going to trigger certain things. In this case, turning on maybe your porch light and your entryway light and your kitchen lights so that when you come home, maybe you’ve got some groceries. You don’t have to worry about finding the switch it’s already on for you.I

Debi Lynes:                   09:09                I mean, what a great age to live in. Okay, so that’s amazing. So now I’ve entered my home, my lights are on and is it going to go ahead and take me through the critical path all the way back to my bathroom, my bedroom?

Sean Stewart:               09:23                That really comes down to how in depth do you want to go. Can you control every single light system in your house? Absolutely. But not everyone wants to put that kind of cost into it. Right, because you really need to control your guest bedrooms?

Debi Lynes:                   09:40                Teenage bedrooms. That would be fun. Yeah, I see exactly what you’re saying. So what I hear you say is lighting the critical path is probably the first thing we want to look at, a silo that we really want to take into consideration. But, again, you can build as much or as little as you want to do. I absolutely love that. We’re taking a quick break. We’ve got about a minute to go. We’re going to come back cause I want to spend a little more time in this next segment talking about some of the other silos that we have for aging in place and technology. Again, we’re with Sean Stewart, Custom Audio Video, stay with us.

Debi Lynes:                   10:14                Hi, I’m Dr. Debi Lynes. Design elements are psychologically and physically supportive and conducive to health and wellness. To learn more about what Lynes on Design can do for you, for more information on certified aging in place and facilitative and supportive design, Look for us at lynesondesign.com. That’s L Y N E S on design dot com.

Debi Lynes:                   10:31                We are back here on the Aging in Place Podcast. We are here with Sean Stewart and we are learning about technology as it affects your home at any stage in life, at any age. And Sean is a wonderful source for us to be talking to. So thank you so much. Actually, during the break, it was kind of fun because we were talking about whether it’s an adolescent or a kid or someone who’s broken their leg or an aging parent, many times you’re at home alone. And, it’s interesting to me because I don’t think of cameras and looking in as something that you do or part of technology.

Sean Stewart:               11:20                Yeah. You know, there’s a lot of technology kind of evolved I think around this aging in place idea, but I think there’s also just a lot of other technology that we have, that can be re-purposed for what we’re trying to do. So for instance, you mentioned cameras, surveillance. Of course you can do surveillance outside the house. You can do looking at your driveway to make sure that motion’s coming in or out, or just making sure that there is no motion if you don’t want people around your house. But then for what we’re talking about today, there’s also the monitoring side of it.

Debi Lynes:                   11:55                So what does that even mean?

Sean Stewart:               11:57                One way to look at it would be, you know, we’re here on Hilton Head Island [South Carolina] right now. Let’s say this is where my mom is or my grandmother is, but I live in Atlanta [Georgia].

Sean Stewart:               12:07                I can’t always keep an eye on her and make sure that she’s fine, but I want to make sure that if something happens, I know at least as quick as possible. So with some programming, for instance, you can have a camera that looks over a common space in the home and it has a way to detect motion. If it doesn’t detect motion for a certain amount of time, you can set an alarm to alert me for instance, and go, you know what? I need to check on mom because there’s no motion. And that way it’s kind of, you know, you don’t have to worry about it because there’s something watching that’s taking care and you don’t have to have that constant worry. Do I need to check on her now? Do I need to check on her now? Because I mean, of course, you should call your mom anytime, but you don’t have to worry about it because that’s where technology comes in to help.

Debi Lynes:                   12:52                And all of this again can be tied in and pulled into our…

Sean Stewart:               12:57                Yeah, home automation.

Debi Lynes:                   12:59                I’m going to get this by the end of this. This is my project to be able to get the lingo right. All right, so we talked a little bit about, I love this, critical path lighting. Now we’re talking about surveillance. That’s another kind of cool word and cameras. Take me through some of the other things that come to mind for you.

Sean Stewart:               13:19                So, surveillance is an iffy word too, because a lot of people think of surveillance as like bad. Monitoring overall and camera monitoring is one way to do it as well. But there’s all kinds of sensors that you can put throughout your home that help keep you safe, keep your home safe.

Debi Lynes:                   13:37                What does that mean and what does that look like?

Sean Stewart:               13:39                Well, of course, you know, you’ve got smoke detectors. We’ve had smoke detectors for a long time. So there are ways to tie your smoke detectors or CO [carbon monoxide] detectors into your home automation.

Debi Lynes:                   13:54                You hesitated to see if I could fill that in that home automation piece. Smoke detectors and CO [carbon monoxide] detectors I didn’t even think about as part of what you would do. Wow.

Sean Stewart:               14:04                I mean there’s, there’s that. So think about this. For instance, something happens. Fire happens. It sets off the alarm, you can detect it, but then also you can have programming set to where maybe whenever it’s going off, you start flashing your outdoor lights. One, that can help emergency personnel find your home easier. Those few seconds can be the difference between a really bad day and an absolutely awful day. But then it can also, if you’ve got these locks on your door can unlock your door to make it easier for them to get into the home. So, you know, there’s the technology overall. I think a lot of people sometimes can think of it as a scary thing, but it 100% is intended to make our lives better and easier. Now, we can have some issues. Maybe our personal contact gets limited because of technology, but overall life’s definitely better and it’s easier in a lot of ways because of all the different things we can put in our homes to improve our homes.

Debi Lynes:                   15:01                Is there a learning curve to technology or are you finding that things are becoming more streamlined and overall not so intimidating to manage?

Sean Stewart:               15:14                There’s definitely some sort of learning curve, but it’s easier and easier. And that’s where that home automation system comes in a control system because what it does is take that learning curve that may be four or five different apps and brings it into one and you really only have to worry about one.

Debi Lynes:                   15:34                So what does that look like? What is it? Is it an iPad? Is it a phone? Is it a panel on my wall. What am I looking at? What am I seeing?

Sean Stewart:               15:44                All of the above. Honestly. So for instance, one of the ones that we use most often is Control4. So Control4 is the company. It’s a control system. Now it can be very, very simple and control my TV and my Blu-ray player and that’s all I want it to control.

Sean Stewart:               16:01                Or I can start throwing things in like lighting, shades, security, all these different things. You can access it from an app on your phone. You can access it from an iPad. They have specified wall panels that make it very simple. So we always recommend, for instance, if you’re doing a Control4 system, have one or two wall panels in the home. They’re never going to move. They don’t do anything other than the Control4 system. So nobody’s going to take the iPad and hide it somewhere. It will be very easy to get to. It’s right there with all the buttons. Very simple to find, very easy to customize and make it… I mean, it’s really what we’re talking about. Taking all of this technology and making it accessible and custom for whoever needs it.

Debi Lynes:                   16:46                Talk to me about unlocking and locking doors. I didn’t realize that that was even an option either.

Sean Stewart:               16:50                Yeah. So there’s a lot of options for door locks.

Debi Lynes:                   16:55                Because I think that as we get older, again, I’m talking about young kids or aging adults, I would think that locking a door or unlocking it would be something that would be easy to forget.

Sean Stewart:               17:06                Yeah, one of these things with control systems, they take security very seriously, so it’s a whole lot easier to lock the door than it is to unlock the door. And that’s what we really want. Right. If anything, I want my door to be accidentally locked rather than left open all night. So you can have a program, for instance, that our guys can help with that when it’s time to go to bed, you can… we haven’t been talked about voice assistants. You can use your voice or you can hit a button on the iPad and lights go off or dim to a certain way. So it’s not completely dark. Your shades are closed, the AC changes and your doors all lock.

Debi Lynes:                   17:44                I think Sean’s just trying to see if we’re all paying attention. I want to, because you just said, Oh wait, we haven’t even talked about voice assistants. So what are ways to actually, what’s the right word.. activate the system? You said voice system. Because what I’m thinking of is my dad, it would be so much easier for him to be able to voice activate than to probably maneuver on an iPad.

Sean Stewart:               18:10                We see it left and right nowadays, you know where we’re heading into the holiday season now and we’re going to see even more of it. Google Assistant and Alexa. So those are two big ones we use. And we also have another one called Josh AI that we partner with as a voice assistant, a home automation, a voice automation.

Debi Lynes:                   18:30                How does that work?

Sean Stewart:               18:30                It’s pretty complicated in some ways, but it’s very simple in other ways.

Debi Lynes:                   18:35                Like a “Hey Google” kind of thing.

Sean Stewart:               18:36                Yeah, I mean that’s with everything we’re talking about, it’s as simple or as a complex, I don’t want to say complex as much as comprehensive maybe as you want it to be. Some people want that voice assistant to do nothing other than play music when I want my music played; or you can control your lights, control your shades, and control your TV with your voice.

Debi Lynes:                   19:00                Let’s talk about shades for a minute because I know that when I think of window coverings and window treatments, I think of them as kind of multifaceted. Number one they can insulate, they can keep out sun, they can keep cool in and warm out. So that’s a really important thing. Number two, they’re oftentimes very cumbersome and they’re very hard for young people or older people to navigate and negotiate. So I never really thought of them in the same sentence as home automation.

Sean Stewart:               19:28                Yeah. I mean definitely. One you mentioned, your window treatments, and what that brings to your home and the value of your home. But then not having to worry about whether you want some more light in here. You want to shade up?

Debi Lynes:                   19:41                Exactly. Or I’m facing West and it’s five o’clock in the afternoon. Whoa!

Sean Stewart:               19:45                Absolutely. Yeah. You can control that a lots of different ways. Or to take it out of your worry you can automate it. You can program it to a solar clock that as we’re starting to head towards sunset start lowering the shade incrementally so that it’s blocking the sun from coming in and not looking out at the bright sun.

Debi Lynes:                   20:05                Wait. You can set it to a solar clock? So what does that mean?

Sean Stewart:               20:09                So let’s say, you know, you’re looking over the [lowcountry] marsh and the sunsets, you know, at this time of year [around winter soulstice], it’s terrible. It’s about 5:30 pm. Well, the sun is going to start beaming in that window about three o’clock. So about two hours before sunset you can start with programming to lower of the shade in increments, however you want it so that it blocks the sun. So you can keep that view without having to worry about the increased heating costs or the sun just beaming in and kind of making everything uncomfortable.

Debi Lynes:                   20:38                Or the glare on my TV, just saying. Because again, trying to tie all of this stuff together, it’s amazing how when you’re talking about it, Sean, I’m getting an overall visual of how the pieces play together, where I thought it would be really, tough to understand.

Sean Stewart:               20:59                Yeah, I mean that’s my ultimate goal is to try to make this as easy as possible. That’s what our designers are there for, is to figure out all these different pieces that you want to put together in your puzzle and then make that puzzle super easy.

Debi Lynes:                   21:11                What’s the super, we’ve only got 30 seconds or about 30 seconds in this segment, so I have to ask… The super coolest, newest sort of, Whoa, thing. I wish I had a good one.

Sean Stewart:               21:23                Can I think about it for a little bit?

Debi Lynes:                   21:27                We’ll have to think about that one for a few minutes. Well, let me go onto another question and we’ll come back to that super coolest grooviest thing ever. I want to talk when we come back about watches because that was kind of an interesting thing. I also want to talk about, sound systems. We haven’t talked about surround sound. We haven’t talked about it from a design point of view. I don’t want to trip over a speaker. All of those things. I think again, the more we talk, the more questions I have. So stay with us. We’ll all be back here on Aging in Place.

Henrik de Gyor:             22:04                Hi, I’m Henrik, the producer of Aging in Place Podcast. If you’d like more information and transcripts of this podcast, visit AginginPlacepodcast.com and now back to Debi Lynes with the next segment of Aging in Place Podcast. For every stage in life.

Debi Lynes:                  22:23                We are talking to Sean Stewart from Custom Audio Video. We’re talking about technology and home automation and demystifying it and learning a lot about it. And again, it’s a great topic because the more you know, the more you realize, you don’t know and the more there is to know. One of the things I [am] really, really, really curious about is you checked your watch. I’d like to know about some of the ancillary pieces that sort of tie in to home automation. You found a great Forbes article on technology and aging and I find a lot of what that’s going to be interesting too.

Sean Stewart:               22:58                There’s so much with technology and we’ve talked a lot about kind of the protective side of things. How do I make sure that my house is secure? How do I make sure that I’m not tripping over things because the lights are off? How do I monitor where my mom is to make sure she’s fine if I’m out of town, but there’s also just using technology to increase the interactivity, the engagement and enjoyability of life.

Debi Lynes:                   23:22                Which makes a lot of sense because I know as we get older there’s a lot of isolation and I see it even with my dad, he spent a lot more time on the television or listening to music as a way to stay socially connected. What about that? I know there were new TVs. I mean, you’re fantastic TVs that look like you’re right where you are. So talk to us a little bit about those.

Sean Stewart:               23:46                Yeah. Well, one of the great things I think in today’s world with technology is video conferencing, right? Whether it’s FaceTiming or Google Duo or, I mean, even Control4 that we talked about has an intercom ability to go from a wall panel in your home to an iPhone somewhere. Yeah. So it’s, there’s tons of options to interact with people.

Debi Lynes:                   24:08                So, let’s take that from an isolation or socialization point of view. I can have grandchildren in California and I can have a grandparent here and that is a great way to not be isolated. Absolutely. That makes so much sense to me.

Sean Stewart:               24:22                Yeah. So there’s all kinds of ways that you can, you can talk to each other, you can see each other. I was talking to somebody the other day whose grandkids just moved a couple of States away. And the thing that they hate the most was they seem to age so much faster when you don’t see them every day. You know?

Debi Lynes:                   24:39                It makes a lot of sense.

Sean Stewart:               24:40                When you can video with them, it kind of takes that away and then it brings that grandparent – grandchild relationship to a new level.

Debi Lynes:                   24:48                Well let’s talk about really important things cause I know all the guys who are listening are like, “yeah, yeah, yeah, this is great. But could you tell me about TVs and what’s hip and cool and some audio surround systems and what about music?” We got to talk about that.

Sean Stewart:               25:00                Yeah, I mean that’s, that’s right in our wheelhouse of what we do with Customer Audio Video. I mean at Audio Video, we love great TVs, we love great sound systems. And I think you probably talked to one of your other guests about creating spaces in your home that are enjoyable to be in. And that’s what we do as well. We want to create great experiences with your spaces.

Debi Lynes:                   25:19                So what does that look like? What would that feel like? How do I even begin to put that together from a design point of view?

Sean Stewart:               25:26                Yeah, so there’s all kinds of ways to do that and it really like, I don’t want to keep repeating myself on it, but this, it really depends on how much… what kind of scope do you want to go with?

Debi Lynes:                   25:36                Exactly. Well, let’s do this. The cost is no object. Let’s have a wishlist.

Sean Stewart:               25:40                Well, I mean my cost is no object, dedicated theater room somewhere in the house. So you know, great big projector with a great screen. Incredible sound system.

Debi Lynes:                   25:51                Well, let me say this and you and I have talked about this before with sound. I found that the older that I get and I have hearing aids, the older I get, the more sound is really important to my quality of life. And actually when we’ve talked before, that’s a huge thing with people now. The sound systems being able to have that kind of quality. And you said the sound capabilities are…wow!

Sean Stewart:               26:14                Yeah. We get a lot of people who go, “you know, don’t worry too much about sound. My hearing’s going out anyways” and I get the logic behind it, but it’s actually the opposite. When your ears start getting a little iffy, better sound helps because better sound…. I was like to say if you take kind of the spectrum of what a speaker can do and if the sound waves that can hit or this versus this small versus large, a bigger, a bigger range.

Debi Lynes:                   26:43                It’s a podcast that we have to say small versus large.

Sean Stewart:               26:47                So a larger range that is, that the speaker can do, the more difference you can hear in sounds. So you’re watching TV. I think a lot of people have to deal with this. You’re watching TV and there’s a lot of stuff going on and somebody talking, I can’t hear what they’re saying. A lot of that is because all those sounds are coming from one speaker that has a small range. So it’s very hard to differentiate where maybe a good surround sound system is going to take some of those background noises of the cars going by and separate them in other speakers. And then the vocals are going to be dedicated to that center channel with a better quality. That’s going to let you differentiate a lot.

Debi Lynes:                   27:26                So let me ask you a question about just soundproofing a room. Are there ways to do that? If I already had the room intact and I’m going to try to… I’ve got the room, I’m just going to I guess renovate it. What do I do about sound? How do I deal with making the sound… Making the room a better place to absorb sound.

Sean Stewart:               27:48                Yeah. So soundproofing is pretty difficult. So you want to start soundproofing as early as possible in the build process because a real soundproof room is going to essentially be disconnected from all the other systems in your home. But once you start realizing that, okay, well how do I sound easier, right? How do I not bother my neighbors? That kind of thing. And there’s a lot of ways to improve the acoustics of a room.

Debi Lynes:                   28:17                That’s what I’m trying to ask.

Sean Stewart:               28:18                We’ve talked a lot in the past about essentially removing the room from the equation. Right? And, and if you’ve got a room that’s drywall or it’s wood paneling or it’s designed for it, it’s got, you know, good acoustic walls, you want to still remove it from the equation when it comes to what kind of sound quality am I getting? And there’s ways to do that. There’s a technology in receivers for instance, that can our guys can run some tests in the room and it essentially detects the room and it removes it from the equation. It’s a little more complicated with that. A lot of computer programming and algorithms.

Debi Lynes:                   28:58                I’m just mesmerized sitting here listening to it. Are there things like canvases can artwork absorb silence? Are there other ways that we can absorb sounds that are a little more just natural?

Sean Stewart:               29:11                Absolutely. We have some pieces on the wall, for instance that look like a great picture. In fact, they are pictures that somebody on our team took when they were on vacation and you can get them printed on this sound absorbing material. So it looks like nothing more than just a beautiful picture on the wall, but it really improves the quality of the room because if you get a room that’s full of drywall, hardwood floors, you know a lot of reflective surfaces sounds going to bounce everywhere, which is not great for the best sound systems. So it absorbs the sound, stops it from going everywhere and really improves the sound quality.

Debi Lynes:                   29:45                One of the things that we’ve talked about in in some of the podcasts and on one episode specifically is the out of doors and how important it can be to health and wellness to be part of nature. Can we take the same technology outdoors now for outdoor living?

Sean Stewart:               30:03                Absolutely.

Debi Lynes:                   30:04                So what does that look like?

Sean Stewart:               30:06                All kinds of ways. Yeah. The most common ones that we see around here are sound systems outside, right? I’ve got a nice space outside. Looking in the Marsh. I’ve got a beautiful wooded backyard and I want to kind of enjoy nature but also love music. I love that ability. Lots of different options for sound systems that you can put out there draped on wall speakers or in ceiling speakers or even some speakers that you put throughout your landscaping that hide. I mean, if you look around it’d be really hard to find them. We like to call it the Disneyland effect, right? When you walk around Disney World, you’re like, I hear music, but I have no idea where it’s coming from.

Debi Lynes:                   30:43                Well, and I, and I’ll tell you, I really appreciate you coming today, Sean. I’ve learned a lot. I think our goal today was sort of an overarching broad spectrum taste of what technology can do for the aging in place home. And what we’d love to do is have you back and sort of get into some of these silos. I love your word, get a little more specific.

Sean Stewart:               31:06                Do you have any more questions? We always say, you know, call, click or come in our showrooms here in Bluffton, South Carolina in Sheridan park. We’re always welcoming people to come in and see and experience what we’ve got. You can check us out customaudiovideo.com or if you could give us a call at 843-815-5130.

Debi Lynes:                   31:26                So thank you so much for joining us here on the Aging in Place Podcast. Thank you all for joining us. Also stay tuned for the next episode.

Erin Lentz:            31:33                For podcasts, links, information and media inquiries. Please visit our website at aginginplacepodcast.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as our host Debbie Lynes and her expert guests discuss relevant topics for creating a home for all decades in life. Don’t miss our weekly podcast on aging in place for every stage in life. Transition through life where you are with the comfort and ease you deserve. Discover how you can start creating a home that will adapt to you as you journey through life and the changes it will bring.

Debi Lynes:                   32:07                I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Tracy. Tracy is naturally curious and always creative and when we were doing the Aging in Place Podcast, she said there are so many quick tips that I can think of offhand. My response, “who knew”. She’s going to be with us every week, giving us a quick tip and to hint that is a practical application.

Tracy Snelling:              32:35                Thanks Debbie. Light it up like a Vegas strip stub, bruised knees, countertop, hit to the hip. I’ll usually happen in the night. You know those water pills are keeping the blood pressure down or the little one needs that last sip of water all seem to happen after 8:00 PM or when the sun goes down for safety nightlights are a must. There are ones that are motion-activated, ones that simply come on when it’s dark and some that just stay on 24 hours a day. Whichever ones you choose, you will be glad you did. Light your path. Buy four or five or more. Walk the direction you need to take installing them and every outlet, if it will prevent you from a fall or even an ouchie, even your little ones may just get that last drink by himself if he wasn’t afraid of the dark, so light it up like Vegas. Your toes will thank you and that’s your “who knew”.

Debi Lynes:                   33:28                Sean Stewart, you’re a wonderful guest and I tell you what, I learned so much about custom audio, video and all the opportunities that are available. As always, it’s fun to have our takeaway. What did we learn from this segment? I can be very clear. Here’s what we learned: Don’t be intimidated by technology. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. What we learned today is the point of all of this technology is to make your life easier and simplify it, not to make it more difficult, so don’t hesitate to call when it comes to technology. Thank you all for joining us here on Aging in Place Podcast. Have a wonderful week.

Henrik de Gyor:             34:17                Aging in Place Podcast is hosted by Debi Lynes, marketing by Erin Lentz and produced by Henrik de Gyor. If you have any comments or questions, send an email to debi@aginginplacepodcast.com. We would love to hear from you. If you’re interested in advertising or sponsoring this podcast, email us at PR@aginginplacepodcast.com. Thank you for listening to Aging in Place Podcast.


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1. Geoff Roehll

Dr. Debi Lynes interviews Geoff Roehll about designing the outdoors for any stage in life

(duration: 35 minutes 31 seconds)

Geoff Roehll


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Lynes on Design



By nature, anything in the out of doors is therapeutic and is a conduit to health and wellness.

What biophilia means simply is bringing the outside inside.


Debi Lynes:                   00:03                Hi and welcome to aging in place for every stage in life. What if you could visit or have a home that would accommodate anyone at any age, any physical ability at any time? How cool would that be? That’s what we’re doing here at aging in place. Why me? Because I’m a doctor of psychology and I specialize in physical spaces and health and wellness. Also, I love designing with intent at any age. Why now? Because we the baby boomers want to age in place gracefully and we want our families around us as much as we can and why you the audience? Because we want you to experience what it’s like to have a home that’s safe, aesthetically pleasing and that you can live in at any age with any ability at any time. I’d like to introduce you now to aging in place podcast for every stage in life.

Debi Lynes:                   01:05                We are here today on this episode of aging in place at any stage in life with Geoff Roehll from Hitchcock Designs. Geoff, I really appreciate you joining us today. One of the things I feel really strongly about is bringing the out of doors inside and the out of doors as a source of health and wellness. What I would love to do, Geoff, is talk a little bit to you about what you do about the importance of landscape design and landscape architecture really in the whole scheme of living. And then we’ll kind of get to more specifics.

Geoff Roehll:                01:41                Sure. As a landscape architect for the past 30 years, I’ve kind of focused my career on exactly that type of environment where the outdoor environment can provide an opportunity for folks and the markets that I serve are primarily in the senior living arena. So we’re trying to make better places to live and also in the hospital environments where we’re trying to create a place where not only family and staff, but patients can have potentially a better outcome.

Debi Lynes:                   02:13                Why is the outdoors so important?

Geoff Roehll:                02:16                You know, it’s interesting, I think intuitively all the way back to Zen gardens and the way that, the Japanese have treated the outdoor environment is, a source of relaxation. Inherently, they felt that they felt better outside. And I think people do that when they walked outside or they walked into a greenhouse, they took a breath of fresh air and they just inherently felt better. There’s a concept called biophilia design or the biophilia hypothesis, which basically says that humans are innately attracted to the natural environment. So they like being surrounded by natural light. They liked being surrounded by winds and other calming elements. They liked being surrounded in nature and flowers and the color and the wildlife. They’re inherently attracted to that. It wasn’t until more recently back in 1985 that there was research done to see if we can prove this hypothesis, that being exposed to the natural environment can be positive.

Geoff Roehll:                03:19                And so one of the things that was done at Texas A&M was the primary research to this, where they monitored and measured people’s recovery rates, when they’re exposed to the natural environment and when they’re not. And they found evidence that the ones that recovered, with a natural view of a natural environment, use less pain medication and they have less post recovery surgery time. So, and this wasn’t designers doing the research, these are researchers doing the research. I’m not a researcher. What we do is we apply the research to the landscape. Since then, several other studies have been conducted and one specifically that was done for senior living communities and it was done at an Alzheimer’s wing and they monitored, about 25 residents over a five year period of time that we’re all suffering from dementia. One of the things that they recorded was the type of medications that they were using, their behaviors, what kind of aggressive behaviors they had, what their blood pressure was, what their indications were, and then how they felt.

Geoff Roehll:                04:31                They monitored those behaviors and medications. One of the things they measured was their weight and weight loss is a key indicator of failing health with dementia. And so, they monitored that over five years and then they restricted and, restricted access to the outdoor environment for certain ones. So some only had as little as five minutes in the garden and others had up to a half hour in the garden. And what they discovered over that five year period when they looked at the behaviors and the physiological attributes, the ones that had a longer period of time in the garden had marked improvement over the ones that didn’t. And so it was the first time that there was really credible evidence that exposure to the natural environment could have a positive influence on whether it’s a residence wellbeing or whether it’s a patient’s outcome.

Debi Lynes:                   05:24                So let me ask you this. We’ve kind of generalized that. How do I bring it back to the home environment?

Geoff Roehll:                05:30                It’s one of the things that we promote all the time. We take the same philosophies that we have for a healing garden, whether it be in a senior living environment or a hospital, why not apply that to a college campus and create a respite garden? Where is there more stress? In colleges. You know, why not an office buildings? You know, you used to think about the old atrium gardens that were in older buildings. Why not create a space designated for the users of that office building, that it is a respite and it is a retreat. One of the other elements that we’ve been applying it to in hospitals and senior living environments is for the caretakers. Why not have a garden setting for a caretaker and because talk about stress, it’s the number one element within senior living environments is keeping and retaining key staff people.

Geoff Roehll:                06:30                If you can create an environment that gives them an opportunity where they can get a respite and get away from the stress, that stressful environment that makes their quality of life better as an employee; then we’re doing good as well. We recently completed at a local high school an honor garden that has all of the same elements that we talk about within a healing garden, but within a high school setting. And so now at lunch breaks and in good weather, you’re utilizing that space for socialization for some outdoor classes, art displays. So It is that tie of creating an outdoor environment where you’re attracting people from an institution into an outdoor environment.

Debi Lynes:                   07:12                I think it’s really interesting when we start talking about doing things like honor gardens, what did that actually look like physically?

Geoff Roehll:                07:19                Well, it was a space. They had a courtyard. The interesting part of the reason it’s called an honor garden is they had the unfortunate circumstance where they had several students who, while they were students, pass away, whether it be through illness or car wrecks, and some of the parents and families and friends of the students who passed away wanted to create a Memorial on the campus of the high school for those students. And it got to be a little, consuming about where these were going. Does a popular student get a bigger one and a less popular student get not so big of one. So they wanted to bring some kind of political correctness to how they represent, who gets memorialized and not. And so they created, instead a Memorial garden. We were the ones who said, why don’t we honor the life of the student as opposed to memorializing the death.

Geoff Roehll:                08:14                And so we wanted to create an honor and to honor the life of the student who passed. We chose a courtyard space that was defined by the building itself. It happened to be adjacent to the cafeteria. And so it was convenient that the space is probably less than an acre, probably about a quarter of an acre in size. It has a variety of seating areas in it, because one of the elements within the landscape that we like is to provide choices on a day. Like today in Chicago, you wouldn’t want to sit outside, but if it was 70 degrees, you would want to be sitting in the sun. But if it was 90 degrees, you would want to find a shady spot.

Debi Lynes:                   08:55                You want for any kind of outside living for there to be choices.

Geoff Roehll:                09:00                Absolutely. Choices are important, whether it’s the physical environment, how the temperature feels, and also socially in some of our healthcare settings we want a doctor and a patient to go outside and they might be in a more private conversation. They want a section within the garden that they can have that private conversation. We also in our senior living environments like to incorporate areas for socialization. So we’ll have areas within that garden that enable and has the flexibility for those chairs and tables and furnishings to offer more of a social representation.

Debi Lynes:                   09:41                One of the things we talk about all the time about aging in place is that it really isn’t about getting older. It’s about anyone, at any time, at any stage in life, with any physical ability. I tell you what I think we’d like to do is we’re going to take a quick break. We’ve really given a wonderful overview of what landscape architecture is and what you specifically do and why you’re really qualified and a great candidate to talk to us today about aging in place on the podcast. When we come back. I’d love to talk a little bit about if I live in an apartment, if I live with my grandchildren, if I only have a deck, if I don’t have anything but the inside of a window sill, what are some things that I can do to age in place gracefully? Stay with us. We’ll be right back. Again, we’re with Geoff Roehll, Landscape Architect.

Debi Lynes:                   10:33                Hi, I’m Dr. Debi Lynes. Design elements are psychologically and physically supportive and conducive to health and wellness. To learn more about what Lynes on Design can do for you, for more information, on certified aging in place and facilitative and supportive design. Look for us at lynesondesign.com. That’s L Y N E S on design dot com.

Debi Lynes:                   10:58                We are back here on aging in place. We are talking with Geoff Roehll who is a landscape architect and that brings us to some questions. We had been talking really more broad-spectrum about some of the things that you do with healing spaces with senior living facilities and hospitals and really how to generalize that to a population. Whether I have a one-year-old or a 91-year-old, how we pull all of this together. One of the things I really want to talk about is elements of landscaping that can really entice someone and why biophilia is so important. Why landscaping is so important, why bring in the outside in is so important.

Geoff Roehll:                11:41                Yeah, that’s a great question Debi. And I think the idea of engaging the senses is what this is all about. Whenever we create these environments, whether they’re for young kids or for people engaging the senses is what really matters.

Debi Lynes:                   11:57                Let me ask you what that really means. Talk to me about what that specifically means and why engaging the senses is so important.

Geoff Roehll:                12:04                Yeah. I’m not sure if we’ve fully understand why it’s important, although we know that the outcomes of people who are engaged with those senses feel better. I’m not sure if anybody really has done the research as to why or what physiological things occur in the brain that makes someone feel better. We know that one of the elements that we like to engage is when somebody goes outdoors, there’s a change in temperature. So there’s a sensory thing that is either positive or negative. It can be really humid and hot out or it could be a little bit more comfortable out, but when somebody might fit that fresh breeze that they were hot inside and they hit that fresh breeze and it did two things, made them feel better physically, but, it was also very calming and soothing. We look at all of the senses. And another one that I just mentioned with the wind is sound.

Geoff Roehll:                13:02                What does that wind and what plants does it hit? It creates that rustling noise that is calming or is it the waves in the background? We all sat on the beach. Why do you feel good when you go to the beach? There’s all these senses that are engaged that are positive. We’re creating these positive distractions. Other senses that we look at are color, sight and whether it’s something that is visually stimulating. When we look at our plant palette we are looking at plants that are complementary to one another. Some might have very coarse textures and some have very fine textures. Sometimes we’ll put a green backdrop with something very vibrant in the foreground to create that sensory contrast combined, with the things that you hear, and the things that you can feel. Then also the things that you can smell.

Geoff Roehll:                14:02                Smell is another sense that we like to entice in the environment that some people find very, very refreshing and some people in certain health conditions can find kind of nauseating. I think smell is an important sense that, gets overlooked sometimes in the garden setting and in particular an area that we pay close attention to the smells are in our cancer gardens. Cancer gardens are designed specifically with the cancer patient front and center because that’s who the ultimate person that we’re designing that space for. You could also design it for staff and families, but when you’re dealing specifically with the cancer patient, because of the type of treatments that they’re going in, they become very photosensitive. So sunlight is a real issue where glare can be very painful. So creating an environment that has the choice of finding deep shade really matters.

Geoff Roehll:                15:03                A lot of times, you’ll see the cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy go in these gardens settings with the dark, heavy sunglasses on. It’s because the glare can be very painful for them. Similarly, the smell. The smell of a fresh lilac in the springtime to you and I in a very healthy condition, maybe is very, very appealing, but somebody going through chemotherapy, it can make them nauseous. And so we have to balance that when we’re thinking about design within a garden setting, what elements are going to make someone feel comfortable? And if you’re healthy, it’s different than if you’re healing. Understanding what those elements are that we’re including in the garden. Plants that don’t have quite as much odor to them as others. There’s specific pallets that we can choose from that those plants are a difference that still offer the color and the other sensory components.

Debi Lynes:                   15:58                So we’ve talked about temperature. We’ve talked about wind. We’re talking about all the different senses. Talk to me about natural light, different kinds of light. What about a nature experience or an outdoor experience in the evening as well as in the day?

Geoff Roehll:                16:16                Yeah, I think that’s an important component. You know, especially in Chicago, where I live, where it gets dark and about four o’clock in the afternoon, we just did a cancer garden where the infusion rooms overlook the natural environment and they wanted to do something to make it more attractive at nighttime because some of those patients are coming after work. They’re not getting there until 3:00, 3:30 or 4:00 o’clock. It’s starting to turn dark and the garden is in the dark. So what elements of the landscape that we can add that are sensory, that can be viewed from the indoors out. And that’s where lighting has really become popular. The use of LED lighting technologies that have changing colors. We can introduce those elements within the landscape. And let’s say you have an evergreen backdrop, we can incorporate colored light as part of the sensory experience from somebody in an infusion room is going to get the same benefits that you and I might get in our backyard. Or you know, a children’s environment where you’re trying to create a very playful setting you can do with somebody in an infusion room.

Debi Lynes:                   17:30                It’s really interesting to me. One of the things I’m thinking about as we’re talking is how to take some of these things and again, integrate them into just the home environment. And when we’re talking about behavioral health centers, we’re talking about hospitals, we’re talking about, you know, five-year-olds, 30 year olds, 80 year olds. It seems like nature and the natural environment is a great way to connect people. And I often times think, and I think you and I have talked about this before, I love to… I don’t have a lot of time or a lot of space, but I love raising my herbs. I love how they smell. I love how they taste. I love what I can do with them. Do you find that there is a connection between the outdoors, how people relate, how you can sort of bring people together just organically?

Geoff Roehll:                18:16                Well, I think the use of plants is a great therapeutic element. Matter of fact, there’s an entire profession called horticulture therapy where these therapists utilize plants to help heal. At Rogers Memorial hospital, they have a courtyard within an adolescent wing where they’re treating young kids with mental disorders, behavioral disorders, and they’re working with these patients for anywhere from 30 to 90 days. And they use horticulture therapy as one of their treatment protocols in an outdoor setting. So they developed a garden that has a greenhouse component to it and they’re working with kids with plants so they can sew the seeds, they see the certain seed germinate now they have to take care of the plant. So every day they have to go down and water it. So they have a responsibility. They have to then watch it grow and understand the different cycles. It’s going to bloom and then it’s maybe producing fruit. Some of them are producing herbs that they make other elements out of, but it’s an amazing transformation of having a garden setting to do those therapies in. They get much greater benefit and impact when they’re conducting the therapies in that garden setting than when they don’t.

Debi Lynes:                   19:37                Yeah. Well, let’s think about this. Let’s think about young children and let’s think about older adults and those in between. I think that the idea of being able to plant a seed, watch it grow, look at the life cycle of it. Talk about giving you a sense of purpose and being needed in a time where it may be tough to find purpose.

Geoff Roehll:                20:00                Absolutely. And then doing that in an outdoor setting where you’re not in an institution where people are telling you what to do, you’re in a natural environment where you’re surrounded by birds chirping and the wind blowing into the evergreen tree and the smell of the evergreen tree. You’re engaging the senses differently. If you’re in your therapist’s office and it smells funny and the door’s locked and you’re confined by four walls, your behaviors are different than if you’re outdoors and you hear a bird chirp, or if there’s a water feature gurgling in the background that makes you calm down. And it’s that calming environment that I think that they’re getting effective treatment from.

Debi Lynes:                   20:44                Geoff one of the things I would love to do, we’re to take a quick break, is come back and share a beautiful story that you shared with me about a woman who was moving from her home to an apartment and how you and your group creatively brought the outside in for her and made the transition much easier. Stay with us. We’ll be back on the aging in place podcast.

Henrik de Gyor:             21:08                Hi, I’m Henrik, the producer of aging in place podcast. If you’d like more information and transcripts of this podcast, visit aginginplacepodcast.com . And now back to Debi Lynes with the next segment of aging in place podcast for every stage in life.

Debi Lynes:                   21:27                We are back here on the aging in place podcast. We’re here with Geoff Roehll and we’ve been talking about biophilia. We’ve been talking about landscaping. We’ve been talking about using our senses. We’ve been talking about interconnectedness. We’ve been talking about how bringing the outside in can create a feeling of health and wellness. Now I’d like to talk about a story that you told me that just resonated with all of us here in the room. We’d like to share with the audience about a woman that was moving to an apartment from a home she’d lived in all of her life.

Geoff Roehll:                22:01                Right. This was a wonderful opportunity where a lady who was aging in place in her home, her spouse had passed away recently. Her family had moved away and so her kids no longer lived in the area. It was getting unsafe for her and so she needed to find a safer living environment. She chose a facility, that was much like an apartment. It was independent living within a retirement community. However, she was a naturalist. She loved the outdoor environment and she loved her backyard and she had multiple fruit trees in our backyard along with some other terrific vegetation. Well, the sales representatives who sold her the apartment, said that they would love to move her into the new apartment, but they also wanted to see if we could take a look at her fruit trees to see if we could move them as well. Quite honestly, she was worried about what would happen to her fruit trees.

Debi Lynes:                   23:01                Oh, I love that. I get that.

Geoff Roehll:                23:04                And so we took the extra step and went to her house. She was in the process of transitioning to the apartment, so she was getting ready to move out and we looked at the plants that she had in her backyard and we agreed that several of the fruit trees could be very easily relocated. And so we decided to move about a half a dozen of these fruit trees. But we asked the sales person where the room was. Fortunately, she had a room on the first floor and we were able to go into her room and look out her window while we have the contractor placed the fruit trees and we put them in an area that when she moved into her room there were her fruit trees, you know, right there that she could continue to nurture and take forward. And that made her transition to this next level of her life, so much easier to accept. She knew that her fruit trees were going to be well taken care of because she could do that.

Debi Lynes:                   24:00                Well, talk to me if you will, about people of different disabilities or abilities, if I can use it that way. You know, I’ve oftentimes wondered if you’re in a wheelchair or if I’m not quite as mobile as I was. The thought of bending over to do gardening, even if it’s just a tiny plot is really challenging. Are there sort of tips or rules or techniques that we can use that really make a planting and having a garden more accessible or easier?

Geoff Roehll:                24:32                That’s a great comment because most gardening is done on the ground and it’s difficult for older adults or some people with different levels of ability to reach. And so raising the plants, so they’re the elevation where they need to be is desirable. You can do that in many ways. We’ve designed numerous raised benches that allow for someone in a wheelchair to access the plants, like a kitchen table, but you’ve got to have a location for their feet to go. And that can be expensive. It could be an expensive detail. But what we found really effective that could be done at home, or it could be done in an institution, is the use of round circular planters, freestanding planters, similar to the clay pots. And so by using these clay pots, they might be 24 inches tall and they might be 30 inches tall and they might be 36 inches tall. But the fact that they’re round means that they can be accessed by somebody, a wheelchair, and all sides of it. So you can maintain the vegetables or you can maintain the herbs or you can maintain the flowers. We do cutting gardens in these raised beds, they’re easy for staff to maintain, but more importantly is it gives the residents the right elevation to work with these plants.

Debi Lynes:                   25:49                I never even thought about that. What about square planters? Are there advantages or disadvantages to those? You said that you really like round. Why is that?

Geoff Roehll:                25:59                I like round. I think square is fine as long as it’s outside corners. I mentioned before the idea of having a planter that has an inside corner, which means you have an intersection of two walls and if you’re in a wheelchair you can imagine to try to get to the corner of that inside corner. You can’t because your feet are in the way. We tried to design those planters, if they’re a rectangular planter, that’s fine. If it’s a rectangular planter that is T-shaped, you can see how all of a sudden you have two inside corners that really aren’t accessible. So we would put 45 degree angles in those corners so that somebody in a wheelchair has the ability get all the way around that planter. The height of the planter, we like the idea of that it can vary. We had one designed by one of our guys who was six foot two and notice that everybody working on it was less than five feet tall.

Geoff Roehll:                26:58                And so their ergonomics matter when you’re trying to design these environments, especially with the older adults or with kids. You know with kids, you’ve got a very similar challenge. You know, you got to make the planters a little bit lower. That’s why we like those freestanding planters. They’re inexpensive. You can get them in the right height. Even done, instead of a horizontal garden, we’ve done a vertical garden where we take a planted area, we put a grid across the front that’s very similar to a channeling fence. Plastic up against that and then it’s back filled with top soil and it gives somebody with different levels of ability and different height challenges, the ability to plant within a vertical surface and then watch it grow.

Debi Lynes:                   27:46                Are there times where it’s not just about the plant, but it’s also about the wildlife that surrounds the plant that’s important?

Geoff Roehll:                27:55                Yeah. I think when we say natural environment, people think automatically of plants, but I think it’s a variety of things, the flora and the fauna. We introduce plants that attract butterflies, for example. It’s a great element. It adds to that positive distraction that we talked about earlier of creating those elements of landscape. It just so happens that the plants that are providing that visual sensory experience are also attracted to butterflies. So butterflies bring in butterflies into a garden are desirable. Bringing birds into a garden setting. So providing fruit trees that, you know, like a service berry where the robins might want to come in and nibble on the service berries is something that we see is a desirable element within these garden settings.

Debi Lynes:                   28:45                It makes so much sense to me. If I were to ask you basically, what are a couple of things that you would recommend to anyone who’s starting out creating a natural environment? Are there ways to begin? Are there places to… where do I start I guess is what I’m asking you?

Geoff Roehll:                29:04                Yeah. I think one of the things I mentioned earlier is that the idea of, the orientation of your home starting way back from the apartment that you’re going to be renting. Is that the South face or is it the West face? Is the balcony facing the right view? All of those elements. So when you purchase your home or you’re moving into that apartment, be conscious of thinking about the orientation. If there’s a choice between a unit on the East side and the West side, think about what it’s going to be like on your patio in the hot afternoon sun or where the winter breeze is going to be coming from or that summer breeze. Do the windows move? In other words, do you have fixed windows or do you have the ability to open your window to get natural ventilation? Are there skylights?

Geoff Roehll:                29:53                I think another element within that that people respond well to is when there’s a room with a skylight. So I think even stepping back further is the actual environment that you’re moving into and then also being conscious of what the views are from when you’re in the room. Let’s say that you’re not as mobile as you were in the past or there might be stairs going out to the environment, the view of what you’re looking at from indoors to out matters. And so when, if you buy a new fruit tree, do what we did and go inside and look at the view and then think about where the placement of that plant is going to be, whether it’s a fruit tree or a lilac or some sort of flower garden to get the best value out of its location.

Debi Lynes:                   30:38                Let me ask you this, we’re almost out of time and I would be remiss in not asking you, is there somewhere or a resource or some places that we could go if we’re interested, both in biophilia, in landscaping, in creating a beautiful environment out of doors as we age?

Geoff Roehll:                30:58                Yeah, there’s a terrific resource that I utilize a lot. It’s called the therapeutic landscapes network. And just Google therapeutic landscapes network and you’ll find their a website and it’s chockfull of wonderful information, whether it’s books that have been written on biophilia, books written on research, the actual research papers that have been published it includes a list of, in your area who are landscape architects, who design therapeutic environments. It includes a lot of the research that we discussed today. It’s a great place that people can go to. A lot of the information with links that take you so you can at least try to find the path of information that you’re looking for. It’s a great place to start.

Debi Lynes:                   31:43                One of my takeaways today is by nature, anything in the out of doors is therapeutic and is a conduit to health and wellness. I really appreciate you joining us today. We appreciate everyone for joining us today here on aging in place podcast. Goeff Roehll, Thank you so much.

Geoff Roehll:                32:01                My name is Goeff Roehll, and I’m a landscape architect with Hitchcock Design Group. You can reach me at GROEHLL@hitchcockdesigngroup.com. Thank you, everybody.

Erin Lentz:                    32:14                For podcasts, links, information and media inquiries. Please visit our website at aginginplacepodcasts.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as our host Debi Lynes and her expert guests discuss relevant topics for creating a home for all decades in life. Don’t miss our weekly podcast on aging in place for every stage in life. Transition through life where you are with the comfort and ease deserve. Discover how you can start creating a home that will adapt to you as you journey through life and the changes it will bring.

Debi Lynes:                   32:46                I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, Tracy. Tracy is naturally curious and always creative and when we were doing the aging in place podcast, she said there are so many quick tips that I can think of offhand. My response, “who knew”. She’s going to be with us every week, giving us a quick tip and a hint that is a practical application.

Tracy Snelling:              33:15                Thanks, Debi! Cut the rug out. Area rugs, throw rugs, kitchen rugs are all dangerous when it comes to aging in place. From a toddler learning to walk to your seniors having walkers or canes. Rugs can be hazardous as pretty as they look, safety needs to come first. Tripping and falling can be a grueling ordeal for any age and falling can lead the hospitals, rehabs, and even more health issues. If you feel you cannot do without that floral design on your floor, please make sure you take precautions. First, look for a rug with no fringe or any thickness on the edge. Secondly, on the market are several products. Rug tape, when applied properly, will do the trick. Make sure you play it all the way around your rug to adhere all the edges to the floor, not just the middle. Tripping on the rug happens at the edge. Remember that, and that’s your “Who Knew!”

Debi Lynes:                   34:18                Goeff Roehll was with us this week and he’s a landscape architect. Here’s my takeaway. The word biophilia. What biophilia means simply is bringing the outside inside and what does that look like? It can look like raising an herb smelling the herb eating them. You’re bringing the outside inside. It can mean deck gardening. It can mean doing vertical gardening. It can mean having a painting of a scene. All of these things promote health and wellness and are so important as we age in place at any stage in life.

Henrik de Gyor:             35:01                Aging in Place Podcast is hosted by Debi Lynes, marketing by Erin Lentz and produced by Henrik de Gyor. If you have any comments or questions, send an email to debi@aginginplacepodcast.com we would love to hear from you.

If you’re interested in advertising or sponsoring this podcast, email us at pr@aginginplacepodcast.com.

Thank you for listening to Aging in Place.


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