You often hear it said that homeowners have “spent years building memories in their home” and “they can’t imagine leaving.” If you find yourself in that situation, creating a safe environment within your home using universal design elements is ideal. “In these cases, I meet with the homeowners to discuss possible layout changes and safety features that will ensure they can stay in their beloved home for years to come,” said Heather Brannan, a designer for Callen Construction.
If you decide aging in place is the best option for you and your family, then planning for it ahead of time is key. “We’ve all heard the saying ‘don’t wait until it’s too late’ and that saying rings true with aging in place,” Heather said. “Life can be unpredictable at times and if the need for added safety measures comes suddenly, or before you’re prepared for it, you or your loved one could potentially be living without proper safety features while completing the remodel.”
Over time, new design initiatives and innovations have made it easier to age in place. “Updated building codes that require universal design features, such as larger doorways, are minimizing the necessary changes that need to be made to safely stay in your home,” she said. “Main floor bedrooms and full bathrooms, walk-in showers, broader hallways and walk-ways, and smooth transitions of flooring are among some of the newer design initiatives made over recent years.”
According to Heather, there are a variety of affordable and worthwhile universal design features to consider adding to your home. These include handrails and grab bars, with an emphasis in walkways, stairwells, showers, and near toilet seats. “Aside from the cost of the fixtures, usually the only other potential additional cost is drywall and framing,” she said. “It is important that these fixtures are installed, either directly onto studs or onto framing, which would be added between the wall studs and would require removing and repairing drywall.”
Other worthwhile universal design features include walk-in showers, shower seats, hand-held and adjustable shower heads, non-slip flooring surfaces, and broader layouts with ample room for walkers or wheelchairs, should they be needed in the future. “These types of renovations would typically require working with a designer who would take into account the existing layout and desired design,” Heather said.
Before choosing which universal design elements to implement into your home, it is important to look into the future, analyze the big picture, and consider all parties that would be inhabiting the space. “For example, if you are planning to accommodate a walker in the near future, you may want to consider the possible need for wheelchair access down the road,” said Heather. “It’s also important for some homeowners to consider resale value of the home if the desire is to relocate within five to ten years.”
One area to pay particular attention to is evaluating tripping hazards in your home. “Flooring should transition smoothly between rooms, creating a flat surface,” said Heather. “If your current flooring does not transition smoothly, you may want to consider replacing it in certain areas or installing a continuous flooring material throughout.” This should be considered on the outside of the home as well. “Depending on the landscaping, a ramp or sloped sidewalk may be installed to replace steps,” she said.
Showers are another area of the home that should be addressed with aging in place in mind. “A popular design feature is a shower with no or low-profile curbs,” Heather said. “In addition, having a full bathroom on the main floor is also a common renovation.”
If a main floor bedroom doesn’t exist, this is another remodel that allows people to remain in their homes longer. “Often times, an underused formal dining room or secondary family room can be converted into a bedroom,” Heather said.
In terms of the lifespan of these types of features, Heather emphasized that if you do the remodel correctly the first time, you won’t have to undergo another remodel in the future. “When durable, long-lasting materials are installed and maintained correctly, they are expected to stand the test of time,” she said. “Low and no-maintenance materials are available for homeowners who desire an ease of cleaning and care. I always enjoying working with clients to help them decide which materials and fixtures are best for them and their family.”
In some instances, if safety measures cannot be met achieved to design or budget restrictions, homeowners may decide moving somewhere that has these universal design elements is best. “Some people choose condo or apartment style living for ease of maintenance,” said Heather. “It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of all options before reaching a final decision.”
At Callen, our knowledgeable designers can help you attractively modify your home to allow you to stay in the residence as you age. Call Callen today at 414-529-5509 or schedule a no-obligation consultation with the area’s best remodeling company.