Sun, Feb 22, 2009 - Page 9 News List

Let old age come: She’s all set

Cynthia Leibrock, a leading proponent of Aging in Place, shows how homes should be built so owners can continue to live in them despite age-related problems

By Joyce Walder  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , LIVERMORE, COLORADO

And check out the wall between the bathroom and the den.

“This is a movable wall, so whenever I get so decrepit I need a caretaker, they can take me off the Murphy bed and wheel you onto a gurney or in a wheelchair,” Leibrock says, in a mildly disconcerting midsentence pronoun switcheroo. “These doors allow wheelchair access.”

The reporter sees a wheelchair in the corner of the bathroom. Shall we put the key in the ignition and fire that baby up?

“Just don’t hit my wood wall or I’ll kill you,” Leibrock says.

Why, you might wonder, would anyone — especially someone who was twice ranked No. 1 in age 30 and older tennis doubles in Utah — be so hung up on wheelchair access?

Leibrock, whose father was a mineralogist and whose mother was a nurse at the Craig Hospital in Denver, a leading rehabilitation center, has a ready answer.

“I have a brother who has schizophrenia, and he was inappropriately housed in institutions and nursing homes when I was younger, and I saw how much suffering that caused,” she says.

“The honest truth is the gross things, the aesthetics of rehab hospitals repulsed me,” she says. “I wanted to stay as far away from it as possible.”

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