Beyond Accessibility: How to Incorporate Aging in Place Design for Your Home

Written by Ron Mifflin

aging in place design st louisBarely a blip on the public’s radar a decade ago, aging in place design is now a hot industry. The concept, which allows people to safely stay in their own homes as they age, is a popular one with boomers and seniors determined to stay put rather than enter a nursing home or move into assisted living.

Remodeling for aging in place is like designing for a growing family. The dynamics of the house are changed to match or anticipate present and future needs. Common features in today’s kitchen and bathroom remodeling projects that can be considered aging in place focused include:

  • Pull-out cabinet shelves
  • Under cabinet lighting
  • Walk-in, curbless showers
  • Built-in shower seats and benches
  • Lever handles in place of knobs

One of the greatest benefits of incorporating aging in place design elements into your next remodel is the reassurance it gives you of being able to call your house your home for a lifetime.

Universal Design

Like many other design build firms, we prefer to use the term “universal design” which we believe more aptly describes the approach as one that benefits everyone who lives in the home. Many people we talk to are aware of universal design, but most calls we get still come from those who have an immediate need for it. Typical requests are for bathroom reconfigurations, though in-law suites run a close second. Today’s kitchen remodels automatically include many universal design elements.

There’s a great deal of personal satisfaction in designing and remodeling a home so that all the people who live there can fully enjoy it. One project we did was for a military couple who spent a lot of time in the Philippines; the wife was wheelchair-bound. They had a larger home with a good-sized bathroom, but it didn’t really work for her. Being in a wheelchair, the doorway was too small and getting in and out of the tub/shower was incredibly challenging. She also couldn’t use the vanities.

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We bumped the back of the house out five feet to accommodate a larger, curbless shower. We put handheld faucets at the right heights and built a more accessible closet. Roll-up vanities were installed, as was a drop-in tub which the wife used with her husband’s assistance. Because of their commitment to each other and in making the home accessible for both of them, working with this family was a real joy.

When I first became CAPS designated, we did a job in Missouri for a family where the wife had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It was an older home, which required some structural work to make the needed changes. We didn’t do a whole lot of alterations, but the couple asked for a transition-free shower and we made the doorway wider. What sticks with me about doing this project is how emotional an experience it was for everyone involved. Helping someone maintain their dignity when going through one of life’s greatest challenges was extremely gratifying.

J.T. McDermott Remodeling Giving Back to the Community

We believe that giving back to the community is central to our way of life and business. We have been involved in a number of charity projects that feature universal design. The work is referred to us by people who know we’ve done this type of philanthropic work in the past. Together with other people in the industry, we work as a unit to bring a more comfortable and accessible home to those who need and deserve it.

aging in place design st louis

  • During a home consultation with a client who wanted to install an egress window, we learned that her son, while serving in Afghanistan, had lost his legs while trying to help a friend who got hit by an improvised explosive device. When the son returned home, there was no place in the house for him to have some solitude. We wanted to do more than build an egress window. Our owner, Josh McDermott, spearheaded the effort to get suppliers and trade partners to come together to remodel the basement to give him such a refuge. We remodeled the basement, adding an ADA bathroom with roll-up vanity and curbless shower.
  • A local business owner was in a horrific accident, which resulted in severe injuries to her legs. We installed a chairlift on her outside deck so she could more easily enter her home.
  • For another project, the homeowner had gone in for a standard back procedure but unfortunately ended up paralyzed. We did a chairlift for the family, locating it in the driveway to provide easy access. We also widened the front doorway.

Hire an Aging-In-Place Specialist

If you’re looking for home remodels and improvements that you, or a loved one, can get started on that will allow you to stay in your home, talk to an aging-in-place specialist, preferably one who is CAPS certified. We can help you explore the newest ideas and most innovative solutions available for your next remodel. To learn more about how universal design can prepare your home for aging in place without compromising on beauty or function, schedule a consultation with us today.

Ron is the resident numbers cruncher, helping clients meet their budget and get the remodel they’ve dreamed of. He considers himself the “man behind the curtain” who’s always looking out for the best interests of the client.

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