By Dave Clark, CAPS, CGR, Callen Award-winning Design Specialist
September is Healthy Aging® Month, an annual observance designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older. As more and more Americans embrace a healthy, active lifestyle, they are also opting to stay in their own homes longer, even into their late 70s and 80s. Remodelers and homeowners alike are becoming more aware of modifications and design elements in the home that can help them “age in place.”
Requests for accessible design, especially in the bathroom and kitchen, is increasing. Some of my clients have been as young as their 40s, but are thinking ahead about what their needs may be down the road.
As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders, I have received training that addresses current needs as well as what will be needed in the future so people can continue living independently in their homes longer.
The main idea is that all members of the household can live in the home comfortably. One of the nicer things is that manufacturers are turning out products that do not look institutional. There are many items on the market now that are more user-friendly to people of all abilities. It’s more universal design than aging in place.
There are several bathroom and kitchen modifications that are becoming popular with homeowners. Among the wish list is easy cleaning and ease of maintenance.
Curbless and low-threshold showers: You can roll a wheelchair right in, but it also benefits anyone who has a knee or ankle injury that limits their mobility. The same thing goes for handheld showers. Many homeowners say they have no need for a handheld, but if you need to sit while showering, it’s a good thing. A big benefit also is that it makes cleaning the shower or tub easier because you can direct the water where it needs to go.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance are important in the kitchen too, and there is much conversation about granite versus quartz, with homeowners thinking quartz is easier to maintain. Granite now comes with a 15-year warranty on the sealer and with every granite counter installation, we provide the homeowner with a cleaning kit when they want to spruce it up a little. Every time they use it, they are actually resealing so the granite has the potential for a lifetime guarantee. Because of that, I advise the customer to do what they like aesthetically.
Faucets: Changing out the faucet controls to levers on faucets in both kitchen and bath make it easy to turn on and off. Also available are more options for motion-activated faucets and soap dispensers. Levers can be placed on the side of the sink, instead of the back for easier reach. Thermostatic or anti-scald controls can protect both adults and children. Drain stoppers can also be controlled with a push of the finger on the sink.
Comfort Height® toilets: It’s very common in bathroom remodels now to install a standard chair height toilet, as it is easier to sit down and stand up.
Cabinetry: Bending, stooping, even getting on your hands and knees to search for an item is vexing no matter your age. A more user-friendly change-out doesn’t mean you have to order custom cabinets. Existing cabinets can be modified so drawers or shelving extends fully, adjust for different levels, and pull out for ease of use.
Flooring: Carpeting can be difficult for wheelchair users or for people who can’t lift their feet. Hard surfaces are easier to walk-on and are more easily cleaned. Special coatings can be applied to make them less slippery. For those who find hard surfaces too cold to be comfortable, in-floor heating is an option.
Lighting: Multiple layers of light provide functionality and ambiance as well. General lighting, such as can lights, can illuminate work zones; task lights, such as undercabinet lights, direct the light to a specific area; accent lighting provides ambiance and can also be used as a night light.
For more ideas to improve your home with high-quality interior remodeling in Milwaukee, Brookfield, and surrounding areas, call Callen today at (414) 765-2585.