May is National Remodeling Month
Aging-in-Place: Remodeling for a Lifetime
What is “Aging-in-Place?”
According to most experts, aging-in-place is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change.
According to a recent NAHB survey, “desire for better/newer amenities” and “need to repair/replace old components” once again ranked as the top reasons owners remodel their homes. However, several other reasons to remodel are gaining ground, particularly the desire to be able to age-in-place.
The baby boom generation has many choices as this large population of potential clients for remodelers, builders, contractors, and occupational therapists considers where to live – but overwhelmingly, seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes.
What does Aging-in-Place look like?
If you are like the majority of Americans you want to continue living at home in a familiar environment throughout your maturing years. Aging-in-place means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level. It addresses the need to remodel existing homes and design new homes so that people can age in place and not have to move to assisted-living facilities as they age. Since the vast majority of homes we live in are not well designed for aging seniors, a movement in residential construction has sprung up to meet this new consumer demand.
Boomers, who are 77 million strong and make-up 28% of the U.S. population, are leading this trend. The economics of aging-in-place modifications are a no-brainer. Moving to a typical assisted-living facility can cost up to $60,000 annually. The cost to widen the bathroom door, put in safety bars, and add a roll-in shower would typically cost about $6,000 to $8,000, but doing so is a one-time expense, not a yearly drain on your finances.
Too early to think this applies to you? Consider how many folks struggle with bouts of arthritis at an early age. If you fell and broke a leg, how easy would it be to get up and downstairs in your house? Perhaps you have an aging parent or relative who may need to move in with you. Most home owners don’t think they will need traditional aging in place items like task lighting, grab bars, and other home modifications for their own use, but their family members and visitors might.
Aging-in-place means so many different things to so many different types of home owners, it’s difficult to find where to begin the process of evaluating the needs of everyone living in, or potentially living in the home. A good place to begin is universal design, which refers to products and spaces that can be used by the widest range of people.
The theory behind universal design is to have an environment (in a building, product, or service in that environment) that is designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. Universal design considers the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process and takes advantage of products, services, and environments that meet peoples' needs.
Aging-in-place Action Plan
Fortunately, there are industry standards in place to help potential remodelers make sense of the multiple challenges of aging-in-place planning. NAHB’s answer to this is CAPS, which stands for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist. It’s a construction credential that has builders, architects, remodelers, designers and even occupational therapists using universal design ideas, aging-in-place principles designed to custom-fit your home to you and your family as time goes by.
CAPS design takes your current and future circumstances into consideration by using the universal design principles to focus on elegant, aesthetically enriching, and barrier-free environments. These are changes that can actually increase the value of your home, according to most realtors.
Construction and design professionals are taking advantage of CAPS training across the nation. This designation is taught through the National Association of Home Builders in collaboration with AARP.
Aging-in-Place Planning Checklist
Universal design taken to the practical level can include the most common aging-in-place remodeling, like raised toilet seats, chair lifts, and walk-in tubs. However, improvements that make homes universally more livable (e.g., replacing lower cabinets with pull out drawers, large windows providing natural light), however, will make them appealing to everyone regardless of age.
Here are some ideas additional aging-in-place ideas to consider when planning a new or remodeling home project:
- Better outdoor lighting to get you from your car to the door.
- Attractive ramps or a zero-step entrance for the home.
- Handrails at existing steps and porches.
- Fewer or no stairs.
- Lever-handle faucets with pull-out spray.
- Raised dishwasher to avoid back strain (a good idea for front-loading washers and dryers, too).
- Rolling island that can be placed back under the counter.
- Lower, side-opening oven.
- Adjustable height sink.
- Side-by side refrigerator with slide-out shelves and a water/ice dispenser.
- Cooktop with controls on front.
- Attractive grab bars in the shower.
- Lever handles on faucets.
- Slide-bar-type hand-held shower, for sitting or standing.
- Tub and shower controls moved closer to entry point.
- Widened entry doors to at least 32.”
- Higher toilets with non-slam seats and lids.
- Improved lighting with recessed fixtures in common areas and hallways.
- Lever handles on doors and windows.
- Lower light switches and thermostats; raised outlets.
- Wider doors that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
Smart Homes = Smart Aging in Pace
The trends in home automation and interconnection are a perfect example of taking the many tools of universal design to its practical conclusion. Internet-connected thermostats, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely not only help everyone in the house live well together, but can save time, money and energy.
With so much to consider while using aging-in-place during your remodeling project, it’s hard to go it alone. The CAPS designation is a reliable way to identify professionals to modify your home or build a new one that is designed for a lifespan. CAPS graduates receive training about the technical/construction aspects and learn about the unique aspects of working with older Americans.
Visit NAHB’s aging-in-place and remodeling website for more info.
To find an NAHB Certified Aging-in-Place professional in your area, contact your local builders association at www.pabuilders.org/find-a-local.