On the third floor of her row house near Patterson Park, Violet Tudor has pots of bright flowers and lush house plants that she has nurtured for years. But she only gets to enjoy their beauty once a week.
Mrs. Tudor, 62, has a fragile heart, and her doctor has ordered her to avoid climbing the stairs except when absolutely necessary.
She is one of thousands of elderly Baltimoreans who are challenged by daily activities that others take for granted -- such as climbing the stairs, reaching plates in high cabinets or even going to the bathroom.
Instead of giving up their houses for nursing homes, some elderly residents have been working to find ways to make living in the homes they have less strenuous, and to help them, a coalition of community groups is developing a model home to serve as a showcase for various devices and renovations designed specifically for elderly residents.
"I'm fed up hearing that when you get old you have to go to a nursing home," said Helen Wheeler, 63, a longtime activist for the elderly who spent most of her life in Southeast Baltimore.
"Most of us have worked hard for our homes, and I want to see us remain in those homes."
The model home, a two-story brick row house at 3003 Fait Ave. in Canton, is expected to be completed this summer.
It will have a stair lift, special kitchen appliances more accessible for people using walkers or wheelchairs, and a specially designed bathroom on the first floor.
The house was donated to the Southeast Senior Housing Initiative by Styleline Inc., a Baltimore company that does home renovations.
Mrs. Tudor says the devices sound wonderful, and would certainly make life easier for her, her disabled husband and the 70-year-old friend she cares for.
But most of the renovations are expensive, and she, like many senior citizens, is living on a fixed income.
"We barely have enough money to make it from month to month," she said. "After I make the house payment, then my utilities and then food, I'm broke."
A stair lift, for example, costs about $3,000, according to Peter Notari of the Neighborhood Design Center, a Baltimore group that volunteers its design expertise.
But other items -- such as a side-by-side refrigerator or handrails for a bathroom -- are less expensive, he said.
More information on the special renovations and possible financing for them will be available when the model house opens in June.