"Is this the house we'll retire in?" Crystal and Chris K. frequently asked one another about their home in Silver Spring, Md. The question was important because the answer would determine if they'd remodel or sell their house.
If they stayed, some home renovations would be needed in order to successfully age in place. If they eventually moved, a home renovation wouldn't be all that worthwhile. When Chris and Crystal ultimately made the decision to remain in their current home, they decided to begin the remodeling process.
To get started, Crystal met with two members of our firm and worked with them to home in on their specific needs. We came up with numerous designs from which the couple could choose, and we suggested building materials that would work best to meet their current and future needs.
Crystal and Chris focused on remodeling their master bathroom, which they wanted to be aging-friendly without looking institutional. The project required eliminating problem areas such as the undersized shower and small entrance door. Converting to a larger, curbless shower (see the photo, right) provides an elegant look that both improves accessibility and affords space for installing safety features such as hand railings and an in-shower bench. To enhance the room's comfort, the design team incorporated heated flooring, added insulation and two shower heads - one overhead and one near the bench.
The kitchen and stairways are other areas that need to be evaluated when assessing a home's aging-friendliness. Will stairs become a hindrance for accessing areas of the house? If so, could an electric stair rider or an elevator be installed? Can kitchen appliances be accessed safely and conveniently from a seated position?
Fortunately for Crystal and Chris, most of their home is fairly well suited for aging in place. Although the house was built in 1957, it has a modern feel. To enhance this, Crystal had us add a number of cosmetic updates, including a marbled floor in the hallway and foyer. (Hard flooring looks great and makes mobility easier for someone using a walker or wheelchair.)
For other ideas about how to best adapt a home for aging in place:
- Watch the slideshow "A House That Can Be a Home for Life"
- Visit the website of home plans publisher Hanley Wood to take a virtual tour of the "2014 Home for Life"
- Learn more about how Universal Design features help make a house a home for people of all ages
Bruce Case is the president of Case Design/Remodeling Inc., a remodeling company serving the Washington, D.C., area. Case has completed more than 100,000 renovation projects for more than 60,000 clients since its founding in 1961. The firm's staff includes 12 Universal Design-certified professionals.
Photos courtesy of Case Design/Remodeling
Visit aarp.org/livable to learn more about age-friendly homes and communities
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