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Aging in place – beautifully

Overview

Published: 06/03/2012

Before the Reno

Baby boomers are certainly no longer babies, but as the years go by, many face new physical challenges that can mean
a change in lifestyle, often forcing them to leave the home they love and move into a facility that can provide for their needs.

 

 It’s no surprise that most homeowners would prefer to stay right where they are, which has led to a surge in a new
segment of the remodelling industry commonly called ‘aging in place’, the goal of which is to make average homes as livable and obstacle-free as possible.

 

Remodelling expert Bruce Graf is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS), allowing him to identify trouble spots in a house and redesign them to be more accessible to everyone.

 

“Standard homes are built for those without physical limitations,” says Graf. “Homeowners who find themselves, or a loved
one, with special needs often just live with their situation by avoiding certain rooms, having family or friends come help, or, sadly, leave their homes.

 

“Although some homeowners are fortunate enough to make needed modifications to their home, it often appears that a
hospital did the design work. The modifications may be functional, but the house isn’t very marketable in the future because of unattractive changes. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

 

Graf has completed many of these types of renovations, which generally include bathrooms, kitchens, hallways, doorways
and lighting. Common changes and features include:

 

•  Large, curbless showers. These are a  great feature; with nothing to step over, they’re wheelchair-ready. Safety bars can
be added as a functional feature, but made to look like a designer element to hold the soap and shampoo.

 

•  Wider doors are often a must. Older bathrooms and some closets have 24-in. doors, which can be restrictive for larger people, those on crutches or walkers, and of course, those in wheel-chairs. Sometimes hallways must be widened as well,
which often makes the home appear more open and comfortable in general.

 

•  Taller cabinets are beginning to be the norm, not only in the bathroom, but in the kitchen as well. It’s easier and more comfortable for people of all ages to brush their teeth or create meals if they don’t have to bend over a lower
countertop. Cabinets are designed for easier access, particularly for wheelchairs, including a higher skirt on the bottom, along with a deeper toe-kick.

 

 Vision problems can make it difficult to see throughout a house. Changes can be simple (additional lighting, for example) to the more creative, such as changing flooring to create a contrast in sound, feel and colour. If a home has light-coloured cabinets and counter-tops, use darker dishes; if the home has light hallways, change the flooring to a darker, contrasting colour to give a better feel for the width of the hall.

 

These types of renovations are not just for aging homeowners. Designing or retrofitting for wheelchairs used to just mean
wider doors and ramps; aesthetics were not always top of mind, meaning bathrooms resembled those found in hospitals: very cold and drab.

 

“The way the design industry has emerged, many people are now able to stay in their home and you don’t even notice that
spaces are wheelchair-friendly.

It’s there, but very subtle. We are able to design or recreate a space for anyone with limited mobility without it looking
like it was an afterthought.”  

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