A model house made safe for seniors is a pleasure to show off, says volunteer Anne Bantell.
She is talking about Our Idea House, a rowhouse in Canton at 3003 Fait Ave., which opened to visitors last year. The house was renovated to showcase products and adaptations which can make a home safer and more comfortable for seniors as well as for the handicapped. Ideas gained from visits to the house will help many who need to adapt their own older homes.
The model home project was created by the South East Senior Housing Initiative (SESHI), a coalition of non-profit groups in East Baltimore which formed in 1990 for the purpose of educating and counseling seniors about their own homes and help them find suitable housing to keep them in the area.
Jo Fisher, SESHI's project director, who jokes she is a staff of one, says Our Idea House is a joint venture with Brian Latronico of Styleline, Inc. ''Brian heard our members on a radio talk show speaking about our purpose and he not only lent us the house, which he owns, but he did the work to adapt it," she says. "Many companies and people in Baltimore, Maryland and around the country responded with donations.''
Anne Bantell is spry at age 71, and says she is impressed with the home's many adaptations, which include a bathtub with a removeable seat in the first-floor bathroom. The home is wheelchair accessible, with a stair lift for second-floor bedrooms and electrical outlets placed higher than usual and on/off switches placed lower for easier accessibility. The kitchen sink has a retractable door that allows a chair or stool to be placed directly in front of it with space for legs.
''And these are just a few of the installations which will give the elderly ideas for fixing their own homes,'' says Mrs. Bantell, who also volunteers at the John Boothe Center and the St. Elizabeth
Catholic Church where she helps cook in the kitchens when meetings are held.
She and her husband Leonard have two grown sons and two grandchildren, Emily, 5, and Adam, 8.
''My husband is retired from the B&O Railroad. I retired from Kresge's after 24 years and we've lived on the Broening Highway for 45 years,'' she says. ''I collect dolls. Having come from a family of 13, I didn't have many toys, but now I have dolls,'' she says.
SESHI's committee of 15 members -- from organizations which helped found it -- are Gayle Adams from Francis Scott Key Medical Center; Deborah Buffalin from Banner Neighborhoods Community Corporation; David Casey and Charles Duff, Jubilee Housing; Dorothy Dobbyn, Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development; Janet Emerick, Church Home and Hospital; Sister Barbara Ann English, Julie Community Center; Robert Giloth, South East Community Organization; June Goldfield, John Booth Senior Center; Lee Hudson, Messiah Lutheran Church; Carolyn Krysiak, Southeast Development, Inc.; Dan Lipstein, Baltimore City Commission on Aging and Retirement Education; Hannelies Penner, Hatton Senior Center; D. Christopher Ryer, Baltimore City Department of Planning and Betty Weinstein, Joseph Senior Center.
Our Idea House is open to the public from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. every Thursday and by appointment at other times by calling Jo Fisher Tuesday through Thursday at (410) 327-6193 between 8:30 a.m and 4:30 p.m.
Also call if you are interested in becoming a tour guide, counselor or if you would like to help at SESHI headquarters, located at 10 S. Wolfe St.