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Baby boomers, you’re getting older: How to ready your home.

By June 22, 2017 No Comments

MONTEREY HERALD / REAL ESTATE
PUBLISHED JUNE 22, 2017

Just as important as getting around in one’s home is the idea of safety — providing grab bars in bathrooms, doing away with rugs that pose hazards underfoot, and adding textured floors that also cut down on the chances of slipping and falling.

Just as important as getting around in one’s home is the idea of safety — providing grab bars in bathrooms, doing away with rugs that pose hazards underfoot, and adding textured floors that also cut down on the chances of slipping and falling.

With an large and aging population in need of this, the National Association of Home Builders launched its Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program to focus on the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry: home modifications for aging-in-place.

Lewis’ design/build company, Lewis Builders, received this certification about five years ago; there are several other home designers in the Monterey Bay area with CAPS credentials as well.

Nancy Van Natta, a Soquel interior designer, also has the CAPS certification, and says that aging-in-place is something that homeowners need to think about sooner rather than later.

“Most people haven’t thought about this at all,” she says, noting that she often brings this up with clients in her initial consultation: “I ask them if this is a home they’re planning to stay in forever.”

And if the answer is yes, then making adjustments and planning in advance is definitely the most cost-effective way to go, say both Lewis and Van Natta.

“When people discover that cost of living in an assisted-living facility can be $10,000 or $20,000 a month, making modifications to their own homes becomes a no-brainer,” Lewis said. “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.”

Better yet, planning in advance makes it easier to integrate safety features into homes and make them both functional and attractive, said Van Natta.

“As a person who’s aging myself, I think about this a lot,” she said. “My husband and I recently built a home that we intend to be living in forever, and we applied these concepts.”
Some of the basics of aging-in-place design include:

• Better lighting. As we age, we need more light to see — dimly lit rooms can hide hazards that could cause a fall — and both natural and artificial lighting can work. Van Natta advocates installing more windows, but with translucent shades to cut glare; Lewis notes that good task lighting for up-close work is also essential.

• Easy access in the bathroom. Bathrooms are notoriously dangerous for elderly and disabled folks, and often just getting in the door can be challenging for people using walkers or wheelchairs. In addition to making doorways wider, Lewis recommends curbless showers, which are the best solution for people who have trouble lifting their feet, and a textured shower floor to prevent slipping.

Bench seats inside the shower are also a great idea, in combination with a hand-held shower head for washing. Grab bars, of course, are a must, both inside the shower and near the toilet, and styles are available that let them double as towel racks.
Also, consider enlarging a bathroom so a wheelchair is able to turn around, and installing a lowered vanity top for easy access to the sink and other necessities.

• Lever handles. Replacing round door knobs with lever handles makes it much easier for arthritic hands to open doors, Van Natta said; likewise, look for lever styles for bath and kitchen sink hardware.

• A stepless entryway. Doing away with steps to the front door allows easy entry for all ages, and cuts down on the chance of tripping and falling.

A designer can also help find solutions to future problems. Van Natta is currently working with a couple to create a master bedroom suite on their home’s first floor. Even though they don’t need the easier access now, they’re anticipating that they will at some point.

The whole point, said Lewis, is to make sure people can stay in their homes as they age.

“They don’t have to give up their independence, and they can maintain their dignity. And planning in advance always gives you the best outcome — the best-looking design for the least amount of money.”

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