COASTAL GROWER / Wellness
PUBLISHED SUMMER 2017 EDITION
Aging is inevitable. Sometimes it sneaks up on you. Sometimes you can see and feel the march of time. And everyone approaches aging differently; some plan ahead, others try to let things take care of themselves.
The best approach, of course, is to look and plan ahead for the twilight years. It’s not just issues such as finances, insurance, or health care; but preparing your home to be safer and more accessible as you get older, when your body either doesn’t respond the way you would like or starts to break down. That too, unfortunately, is inevitable.
Remodeling your home to make it safer and more accessible requires advanced planning, since it involves such things as designing, building, budgets and builders’ schedules.
Builder John Lewis, although still at a relatively young age, found all this out firsthand. A triathlete, Lewis had to have four knee surgeries, which compromised his mobility for months at a time.
The surgeries and lack of mobility had Lewis not only contemplating aging and the fragility of the human body, but how he, as a builder of unique custom homes, could do something to help people going through similar circumstances.
“I discovered that it was very difficult and dangerous for me to get in and out of my shower. I started asking myself, ‘What’s this curb for, anyway?’” says Lewis. “These thoughts came to me, by the way, while I was literally hopping through my home and jumping up over the shower curb in my bathroom. I was recovering from multiple operations for sports injuries.”
Lewis started looking for answers to these problems.
“What I’ve learned is that the mostimportant thing to people who are aging is maintaining their dignity,” he says. “If you lose your independence, you lose your dignity, so there are ways to help them keep their independence as they age by making it easier for them to keep living safely and comfortably in their own homes.”
Because of his own experiences, Lewis started customizing local homes to alleviate the physical challenges of aging and/ or disability. Lewis subsequently became Monterey County’s only credentialed expert in CAPS (Certified Aging in Place Specialist).
A program of the National Association of Home Builders, the Certified Aging-in- Place Specialist (CAPS) designation program teaches the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to competing in the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry: home modifications for the aging-in-place.
“When people discover that cost of an assisted-living facility can be $10,000 or $20,000 per month, making modifications to their own homes becomes a no-brainer,” he says. “The ultimate result is that people are able to live comfortably and safely in their homes into their later years, rather than moving into costly assisted-living facilities.”
Installing curb-less showers — shower floors with no entry steps — are an important start, because the majority of in-home falls occur when a person is entering or exiting a shower.
Homeowners can also install radiant floorheating mats under shower tiles, which are comfortably textured to improve footing, even when the surface is wet.
That same heating system also pre-warms the shower bench they install, which enables the user the option of showering comfortably in a sitting position.
For additional safety and comfort, people can also take advantage of plumbing innovations that include shower water that flows at a pre-set temperature, and motionactivated faucets that can be turned on or off without using the hands.
“Lighting also is very important as people’s eyesight deteriorates over the years,” says Lewis. Low-voltage lighting in multiple locations in the shower (including soap and shampoo niches, and the shower bench) and in the bathroom (including cabinets) can alleviate those concerns.
Another common addition is grab bars in the shower and alongside the toilet (or, in some cases, the installation of the backing needed to install grab bars at a later date). These grab bars are not only functional, but they are aesthetically pleasing, blending in seamlessly with regular bathroom fixtures already in place.
Grab bars and additional lighting are also commonly incorporated into kitchens, along with features that include counter-level microwaves (as opposed to microwaves that require the user to reach above a cooktop to retrieve a hot dish).
In addition to illumination, cabinets are modified to enable users to lower shelves down to counter height to retrieve dishes, glasses, or cookware, as well as rollout trays in lower cabinets to minimize the need to bend or stoop.
“If they’re in a wheelchair, then obviously all of their doors need to be 36 inches wide,” says Lewis. “And, if they’re in great health, but want to live in the home as long as possible, they can plan to widen them later.”
But it’s not just bathrooms and kitchens that need attention. Making exterior modifications to garages, decks, or other areas, eliminating steps, installing lifts, or, if necessary, ramps in inconspicuous locations, should also be considered.
“We understand that it’s not very aesthetically pleasing to have a long ramp leading up to the front of your house, so a builder should avoid creating an institutional feel with any design,” he says. “Plus, ramps also can make older people feel like targets.”
“Aging happens to all of us, and very few of us are basically OK with it,” Lewis says. “But when people are inevitably faced with the alternative of making a change in their living situation, they’re just thrilled that they have the option of remaining safely in their homes.”
For additional information about Lewis Builders’ “Aging In Place” renovations, call 831-250-7168, visit the website at lewisbuilder. com, or stop by their convenient new location in The Barnyard, Carmel. CG