We’re not getting younger. How silly would it be if I had a surgery and found myself a prisoner, not being able to use my own bathroom? That is EXACTLY what happened to me a year after we moved into the house we built ourselves. We had wide doors and hallways, a barrier free shower with a seat, and my recuperation was made even better by being able to wheel chair outside whenever I wanted, without help.
When stairs made doing laundry more difficult for my mother in law., she updated her home so she could live there comfortably as she grew older. We chipped in and bought a washer dryer that easily fit in her large pantry. What she didn’t predict was that a chronic foot problem would open her mind to the benefits of remodeling to age in place. As we had just completed her remodel, when she had to have surgery, she was happy to discover she could easily navigate her home with a wheelchair or walker. “Everything was in place that I didn’t know I’d need before the accident,” she says.
Nearly 90 percent of Americans over 50 say they want to stay in their homes indefinitely. An Angie’s List online poll recently found 18 percent of respondents had performed Aging In Place remodels, and 37 percent planned to do so.
Your builder can qualify to become a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist through the National Association of Home Builders. There are more than 3,700 CAPS contractors across the country. Many are remodelers or builders, but CAPS professionals are found in a range of industries.
The simple changes can include a low sink, wider doorways and lever-style handles. “Without all these things in place, I couldn’t have managed,” Lucienne Regan says. “I probably would have had to go to a nursing home.”
It’s before the need arises to consider aging in place remodeling, which involves reducing barriers in the home and using services that allow one to live independently for as long as possible. You’ve heard me say it more than once, when folks who need to start thinking about it, they’re generally in the denial phase. People often don’t consider it until something precipitates an urgent need to remodel. “Unfortunately, it’s still more of a reactive issue than a proactive issue,” says Sithong, fosters collaboration between builders and medical professionals though her firm, Home for Life.
Remodeling to age in place can include installing pull-out kitchen cabinets, a walk in shower, or a dishwasher that minimizes the need to bend. Aging-in-place remodeling often involves eliminating steps or curbs from entryways, replacing slippery floor materials or throw rugs. There are simple things that can make a difference between whether people can stay in their home or can’t. Chuck Tanner, owner of Aspen Design Renovations in Littleton, Colorado, who is CAPS certified, says removing clutter, painting to make floor or wall gradations easier to see, and adding lighting underneath cabinets or in dark hallways are inexpensive upgrades that can help accommodate vision loss.
A home with barriers can diminish one’s desire to be active. If you’re in an environment that supports what you need and want to do it makes you happy and healthy, and safe!