Aging in Place
Universal Design Concepts
"We have the answers to many of your housing questions and problems. CAPS professionals have learned techniques for designing and building attractive, barrier-free living environments."The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.
My name is Claudette Chartrand and my firm is Claudette Chartrand Interior Design. I’m a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. As a baby Boomer myself, I’ve successfully completed a number of remodels in Los Angeles for seniors who have lived in their homes for years and want to remain active and engaged in their own neighborhoods.
While retirement communities may have their perks, most of us would choose to remain in our homes and don’t want to just be around “old people”. We enjoy the diversity of our neighborhoods. According to surveys, aging in place is the overwhelming choice of Americans over 50. A crucial part of staying in our homes is educating the boomer generation to plan ahead realistically and to constantly reassess their prospects for aging in place, for both safety and convenience.
One of the potential problems for people hoping to age in place is that their homes may not be senior – friendly. It becomes a challenge because we live in PETER PAN houses, designed for people who never grow old. Many of us live in older homes that are abounding in narrow doorways, hard to reach kitchen cupboards and potentially hazardous bathroom fixtures.
AARP advises “If you’re a boomer person, think about making your home more user-friendly for when you have a hip or knee replacement or a chronic condition. We’re talking about smart, convenient, not utilitarian or institutional, but BEAUTIFUL and FUNCTIONAL. To promote this outlook, AARP has teamed up with The National Association of Home Builders to create a designation for Certified Aging in Place Specialists, or CAPS, trained in designing and modifying residences for an aging population. The popular term for this is UNIVERSAL DESIGN.
If you are thinking of remodeling your home, we would provide a consultation. Our staff would meet with you to determine your future needs and plan how to best accommodate your abilities to make your home safer and more functional. We create an interior architectural plan geared to your changing lifestyle. We select materials that provide safety and comfort, and review these with you, especially for those heart of the home areas like kitchen and baths. Easy maintenance is essential in the materials we select.
These are the trends we see in remodeling for an aging population:
• Fewer wall cabinets are key. Fortunately, design trends toward more open spaces and generous daylight have forced us to use fewer wall cabinets. With today’s accessories for drawer storage, clients are beginning to let go of wall cabinets in exchange for storage within easy reach. Appliances are now being located under counters at a more opportune height, not only for a person in a wheelchair but for persons who can’t easily bend, which may be some of us in the boomer segment.
• Doors that recess or slide away are a strong trend, allowing a larger passageway and the hardware to accommodate this has many choices.
Ventilation and Lighting
• Self-regulating ventilation and lighting becomes more important. Baseboard lighting can be used in hallways and comes on and gradually dims as you leave the space. In most cases, we increase the location and intensity of the light fixtures so that our aging eyes see more clearly.
• Light switches and dimmers are lowered to accommodate the reach of the homeowner. New energy-efficient light bulbs reduce the cost of monthly electric bills while providing more efficient lighting.
• A level entry and generally more open space with more clear floor space for easier maneuvering helps prevent tripping. Current residential codes allow for the change in level from garage to home to occur without a step.
• In the bath, we are creating more open space of wall hung sinks with space to sit and there are many more choices in toilets, including the comfort of right-height seats. Clients are responding to many additional options including heated and self-closing seats, personal hygiene, dual flush, etc. Bathrooms are typically designed to be barrier-free, often without shower enclosures and with controls and shower heads at accessible heights.
• No-threshold showers are really taking hold with designers, builders and consumers. Drains have now become a small slot at the end of the slope to the wall in order to maintain a smoother entry to the shower. Non-skid flooring materials are key in the shower.
The ability to live on one floor is frequently cited as a reason to remodel. Homeowners are asking for plans that include a master suite on the main floor. The upstairs becomes guest or other flex space. As an option, a chairlift added to a stairway provides comfortable access to the second floor.
Crucial to the need to remodel our homes is: “Where do I find the money to remodel to make my home more user-friendly?” We offer our clients viable contacts for financing, but one of the most popular ways is to tap the equity in your home OR through a reverse mortgage. It’s worth the effort and the cost if it means more people are aging where they feel most comfortable.
Home is more than just meeting our need for shelter; it’s in our memories and it’s where we can be ourselves.