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Emily P. Smith Aging ...

Posted Jun 23 2009 6:54pm

Emily P. Smith
Aging-In-Place


Ninety percent is an astounding statistic in any capacity; just try and get ninety percent of people to agree on much of anything and you’ll be even more surprised by AARP’s independent living survey. According to Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s nation expert on independent living and aging issues, nearly ninety percent of older Americans want to stay in their current homes as they age. It sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Simply staying put where you are. But what happens when you or a loved one lose your mobility? Arthritis, osteoporosis, heart conditions, muscle cramps, diminished eye sight…all unfortunate but possible medical conditions that should be discussed not only with your doctor – but with your contractor!

Not just any contractor either, a Certified Aging in Place Specialist also known as CAPS. Never heard the term? Surprisingly, despite the overwhelming number of people who wish to stay in their home as they age, relatively few are properly preparing for the future of their home and their lifestyle. The CAPS designation is the only national training course that trains remodelers how to design and execute aging-in-place modifications. The old fashioned clinical look of flimsy white plastic shower seats and obtrusive aluminum grip bars is not at all how aging-in-place home modifications have to look. CAPS professionals are first and foremost design professionals; they know how to incorporate necessary elements seamlessly into an overall design. A visitor to a home designed this way would likely not even be able to identify the items put in place for the home’s aging residents.

The process can be started simply by making easy changes. Some of these may include:

  • Changing interior and exterior door hardware from round or oval knobs to lever handles. These make the doors easy to open for anyone with arthritis or muscle problems.
  • Similarly, change all cabinetry hardware to easy to grip levers or pulls. Not just in the kitchen but in all baths as well.
  • Install rocker switches instead of toggle switches on all lights in the home. With a little more effort these switches could all be lowered to a 42-48” height to accommodate the possibility of a wheelchair.
  • All lights should have bulbs of the maximum wattage to ensure sufficient lighting so those with sight problems can navigate safely. Additional lighting should be added to any dim areas of the home.

While the items above are excellent ways to start preparing a home for aging-in-place there are much for significant changes that make the biggest impact:

  • All faucets should be changed to levered controls or use touch-free automatic faucets at bathroom sinks for ease of use and water savings.
  • Hot water sensors should be installed on all faucets to prevent scalding.
  • The home should be equipped with a low or no-threshold entrance with an overhang.
  • The entryway and all bathrooms should be equipped with non-slip flooring. This could be as simple as a coating for an existing floor or could involve replacing what’s there.
  • All doorways on the first floor should be enlarged to accommodate a wheel chair.
  • A room on the first floor should be converted, or have the ability to be converted, to a bedroom. This means it should have a closet, proper electrical and utility connections and access to a bath.
  • The bath for the current master bedroom and the first floor bath should both be converted for aging-in-place. An amazing variety of items on the market can be used to create a homey, even upscale, look while still incorporating the following:
    • A low or no-threshold entrance to the shower
    • Seating in the shower
    • Handheld shower heads
    • Grab bars for the shower, tub and toilet
    • A raised and elongated toilet
  • Handrails should be added to all non-level areas of the home, and as many steps inside the home eliminated, or made non-essential, as possible. This may include things like moving laundry service to the main level instead of upstairs, etc.

Just because you now know what to do, doesn’t mean you will have the ability to do it all. Consulting with a CAPS professional is the best bet to ensure all the essentials are addressed and done so in a style that is fitting with your unique home and lifestyle. The National Association of Homebuilders has a place on their website where you can search for CAPS professionals in your area. People from across the country are also welcomed to contact Georgia-based AK Complete Home Renovations with any questions they may have about CAPS, aging-in-place or remodeling in general. Please visit the AK website at www.AdvancedKitchens.com, email the team or call 770-587-5722.

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