For many people, their beloved homes now present dangers or challenges because of the owner’s mobility or sensory limitations. Many of these problems can be solved with careful planning and attention to Universal Design principles. We’re committed to making that happen, particularly for seniors.
Maybe you know someone facing these kinds of challenges.
Find out more about how these can be addressed by thoughtful remodeling design for seniors and others with accessibility issues.
Given the large Boomer population and their parents in southwestern PA, we believe home design for the needs of seniors is very important. That’s why our architectural designer, Junko Higashibeppu, took course work from NAHB to become a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist. It’s one of 3 certifications she’s earned from NAHB and is part of our commitment to build our credentials as pro remodelers in today’s world.
Aging In Place remodeling design for seniors
It’s a given that most senior citizens would like to stay in their familiar home and neighborhood as long as possible. But what does Aging-In-Place (AIP) mean?
According to AgingInPlace.com:“(It) refers to living where you have lived for years, typically not in a health care environment, using products, services, and conveniences which allow you to remain home as circumstances change. In other words, you continue to live in the home of your choice, safely and independently as you get older.”
Read more about remodeling for aging-in-place.
Two of our Aging-In-Place examples
Example 1. One design was for a senior who wanted to live near her daughter. We remodeled a little country church into a charming home for her and incorporated a lot of AIP and Universal Design Principles to give her many years to come in this custom ‘whole-house’ remodeling project. It’s won three awards.
Read more about the remodeling and transformation of the church and the accessibility features we included in this new home for this 80+ year old woman. It also includes “lite green’ features for energy efficiency.
After extensive conversations and planning with the couple, the new floor plan and remodeling design includes a 1,400 sq. ft. addition which puts all of their needs on one floor—master bedroom and bath, kitchen, dining and living rooms.
Doorways and spaces also anticipate a future need for a walker or wheelchair. They also will have a new more accessible garage and driveway.
A personal experience with a father
Our marketing consultant, Randy Strothman, lost his 89-year old father on Christmas eve 2011. At the end of this blog post he shares his experience of learning about the needs of people with disabilities and of addressing those of parents in their late years.
Design for veterans—The Wounded Warrior Home Project
Last Fall, as part of The Wounded Warrior Home Project, the Army and a team of experts unveiled two single-family ‘concept homes’ at Fort Belvior in Virginia—with both homes “radically redesigned to better meet the needs of these deserving soldiers’ ‘new normal’.”
The challenge was “to visualize and design the ideal home for soldiers injured in the field.
The effort included floor plans and amenities “that would not only meet or exceed ADA standards, but also be versatile enough to accommodate varied physical and psychological needs.”
One fascinating piece of the story is that renowned designer, Michael Graves—himself paralyzed from the mid-chest down since 2003 as a result of a spinal virus and working from a wheelchair—embraced this project as lead architect.
He personally attended every meeting with the clients and did all of the sketching, which is rare for the head of a large firm. Deeply committed to the project, he said:
“The goal is to help individuals with life-altering injuries become as independent as possible,” adding that maintaining the soldier’s dignity is a top priority.
Randy’s experience with his father’s decline
Dad’s decline in mobility started more than a decade ago, in his late 70s, with problem knees, a knee replacement that didn’t work so well, and then a broken hip. First it was a cane, then a walker.
As a son who learned so much from him about building and fixing things, it was heartbreaking to see him finally give away his life’s tool collection.
During this time, mom and dad first continued to live in our 1956-built ranch home in the North Hills. They loved the woods out back. Feeding the birds and deer daily was spiritual. Their neighbors were wonderful. But there were steps and a high maintenance yard.
Initially we added additional railings for the steps; then grab bars in his bathroom; then a Life Alert system. That helped, but the steps would always be there. And the house wasn’t designed for two seniors in their 80s with increasing accessibility and health issues, but rather for raising three energetic kids.
In their case and at this stage of their life—in their late 80s—the best solution was to buy an apartment in a retirement community. The apartment was beautiful, sunny and thoughtfully designed with so many AIP features— one-floor living, grab bars, easy-step-in showers, a built in emergency system that brings help immediately and much more.
And the community offers a beautiful campus tailored to senior’s needs, from covered walkways to dining and exercise facilities, plus many amenities and activities. When you start losing sleep over your parents declining health and accessibility and safety issues, finding a place like this community takes a lot of worry out of your week.
With Dad’s prostate cancer diagnosis in May 2011, things quickly got worse, leading to very slow and cautious use of the walker… then an electric scooter… and eventually no mobility and skilled nursing when his legs gave out because of spinal deterioration from the cancer.
Dad made us much more aware of the health, safety and accessibility issues for seniors.
And he felt so strongly about the poor handicapped accessibility at the country club that he helped to found, he made a donation in his last days to enable a wheelchair lift to be installed.