Mature Living Special Section: Aging in place: Staying in your own home

Published on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 by Bonnie Rabatin Certified Aging In Place Designer

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Low-step shower stalls, handheld shower heads and safety bars add stability and ease of use for those with limited mobility.

My grandpa used to say, “I remember when bread cost a nickel,” and I couldn’t believe he was in his right mind.

When I found myself saying something similar to my daughter about the cost of gas, I realized I was following my grandpa on the path of nostalgia.

As a baby boomer, I never thought the day would come when someone would consider me older or that aches and pains would be my new reality. Somehow age sneaks up on us, even when we still feel young.

And when you’re still feeling young is exactly the time to think about modifying your home so you can age in place. “Aging in place” is the new catch phrase among baby boomer homeowners. Instead of selling your home and moving into a retirement home or assisted living facility, you can modify your home with universal design to make it more user-friendly as you age.

Universal design is a concept that improves accessibility for all, including young, old and mobility impaired. It is design that adapts to people, rather than people adapting to their space.

While there are several obvious benefits to homeowners, the end result can also mean raising your home value and resale desirability without compromising on style and functionality.

Universally designed spaces will have lasting value because they meet the needs of individuals over their entire life span.

Perhaps the simplest way to look at the aging in place movement is by looking to the future. Whether you’re building, buying or remodeling, you might want to consider a few simple options that could make your life easier down the road:

• Create a main floor entrance without steps or with the space to build a ramp.

• Have your bedroom and full bath on the main floor.

• Install wider interior and entry doorways – 34-inch minimum width for strollers and wheelchairs.

• Replace doorknobs with lever handles.

• Add a raised toilet seat or higher toilet for easier access with limited mobility.

• Replace bathtub with shower that doesn’t require a step down.

• Add grab bars around toilets, tubs and showers for stability.

• Add handheld shower heads for easy washing.

• Install front-loading washers and dryers that can be raised if needed.

• Install electrical outlets and switches that can be reached from a seated position.

• Install sinks with open spaces below that allow use while sitting.

• Install kitchen counters at varying heights for use while sitting or standing.

Designing rooms that suit the needs of all users throughout their lives is the purpose of universal design.

As a designer at DreamMaker Bath and Kitchen, I look for ways to improve the quality of life for a homeowner as well as create a quality product that fits into a homeowner’s budget.

In doing this I find that all my clients appreciate the added functionality and the attention to detail that results.

DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen is located at 3311 Northwest Avenue in Bellingham and can be reached by calling 360/738-8525.