aging in place
Aging in place is the phrase that’s been coined to refer to the many ways homes are being modified and services are being offered to allow homeowners to live in their homes longer—and is becoming a popular concept as the Baby Boomers begin reaching retirement age.
According a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, of those making aging in place modifications to their homes, 18 percent are in the 55-to-65-year-old age bracket, while 16 percent of those having such work done 65 years or older.
The Nashville area has its own group of experts in the category. “The main benefit in making home modifications is that it promotes independence,” according to Steve Shalibo of Accessible Home Construction.” He adds that the old stereotype of institutional features such as sterile tile and bulky grab bars are not what’s called for in today’s emphasis on independence and “universal products.”
He adds that manufactures have been aggressively designing products to accommodate the needs of every age group and ability. “From a simple door knob that is a lever instead of a round knob, to a barrier-free shower that has the architecture design for high end homes, choices are more attractive and very practical,” he says.
“Universal products give homeowners an opportunity to plan ahead without sacrificing style and design even when they aren’t quite ready. It’s “future proofing, so to speak.” Shalibo continues. “If they are building they need to plan for wider doorways and hallways. They can add blocking around the shower and toilet area to support grab bars that can be added later.
“Kitchen designs with multi-level counter tops and carefully placed appliances take future independence into consideration, as do large master baths with plenty of space. All these can have a very appealing design effect,” Shalibo concludes.
Sara Ray with Beth Haley Design says, “One of the most important design challenges we face is crafting meaningful living spaces for the ever-increasing population of older adults. We believe this is best achieved with a holistic approach to interior design— this means creating environments that feel comfortable and are highly functional. It requires the blending of several schools of thought, including universal design, sustainable design, and green design.”
Shalibo says, “When the older homeowners want to stay in the home in which they have built a life, modifying can be easily achieved. Some of the first things to think about are the current needs of the individuals. How they can access the home from the outside as well as from the inside.”
Amanda Sweeney of Just Design This agrees, saying that the entrance into the home is of primary concern. Smooth thresholds entering the home and from room to room are desirable and occupational therapists work with designers and re modelers to determine options designed for safety and convenience.
Relating his own experiences, John Broderick of Broderick Builders says many of his clients address the need for a zero-step entrance by adding ramps and other means of access to the home at the side or rear of the home. “Many of our clients have very aesthetically appealing homes, and adding ramp to the front of the home is not really something they want to consider.
Broderick has rearranged interior spaces so living space is on the main level. He also emphasizes barrier-free shower entrances and wide spaces in case wheel chair access is required later.
Working with an occupational therapist is one way Skeeter Coleman of Coleman Construction determines the needs of Baby Boomers, including such details as tub height and bathroom doors that swing out instead of in. “I’m not an expert in this area,” he says, “so I work with someone who is.”
Paul Fisher with United Elevator Services LLC says, “Some design features can render entire areas of a home inaccessible to homeowners as they grow older and less mobile. As a result, residential elevators are becoming more popular and can almost be considered a standard feature in today’s higher-end homes.”
Bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchens are the rooms most in need of aging in place modifications, according to the experts.
Zero-entry showers with a bench seat and grab bars can be paired with a vanity with adequate clearance for a wheelchair and no exposed pipes,” according to Sweeney.
Ray says, “Our aging-in-home design is smart design—aging with a plan. When we design for someone to age in their home, style and beauty are never compromised.
For example, grab bars have become more streamlined, and there are lots of options to choose from that will compliment any design style. In addition, varying countertop heights allow use in seated or standing positions.
And visual acuity also changes as we age, so flooring and counter-top of contrasting colors are helpful in distinguishing where a counter-top ends and the floor begins.
The best interior designs, of course, are the perfect match of individual taste, comfort, ease-of-use and environmental balance. Haley says, “First and foremost, aging in place is good harmony for all inhabitants creating a happy and welcoming home.”
There are a number of sources for aging in place design and modifications including:
Accessible Home Construction
Beth Haley Design
Broderick Builders, Inc.
Coleman Construction, Inc.
Just Design This
Premier Design Closets
Tips for Aging In Place
According to Beth Haley of Beth Haley Design, a few basics that should be considered during any remodeling or construction of a home with universal design that work well for those aging in place include:
1. Curb-less showers
2. Hand-held showers on a sliding bar
3. Good lighting
4. Grab bars in the shower
5. Lever handles on doors
6. Varying surface colors to define space and create visually stimulating spaces
7. Minimum clearance of 36-in. around furniture/ islands/objects/hallways