Accessible Construction and Remodeling
Moving Versus Remodeling: The Myth of Aging Out of Your Home
One of the reasons people don’t keep accessibility in mind when remodeling is the myth that we will age out of our homes. While this may have been true in the past, it’s no longer true today. Your age and natural decline in mobility do not need to determine where you live. You may decide to move to be closer to family, into a retirement community, or a continuing care community, or an assisted living facility, but you can decide when you’re ready, not dictated to you by circumstances.
Some of our clients ask if it wouldn’t simply be easier to move. It depends on what you define as “easy.”
Moving often involves selling your current home. That entails preparing it for sale, hiring a realtor to list and market it, negotiating repairs and price, and paying both realtors’ commissions. Then comes finding a new home that works for you. You may have to do some renovations to it. Finally, you have to pack up your entire life, unpack it, and settle it. If you move into a new community or a congregate setting, it takes energy and gumption to make acquaintances and build new friendships.
There can be an emotional cost to moving. If you’ve lived in your home for years, it can be hard to leave. For many this is the time to downsize, which means giving up some of your possessions. Even with help, the whole process is exhausting. All that said, we have modified homes for clients, and when they were ready, downsized their households, modified or renovated their new homes, and managed their moves into new homes that served them better than their old homes.
On the other hand, remodeling any part of your home is a large undertaking, especially if you want to remain in the home during construction. This is, however, more of a short-term stress. You know it will be over on a certain date, and when it is, you’ll have living spaces that are much easier to use. And when friends and family visit they will be able to navigate your home without any issues.
Accessibility and Design Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
Ease and safety are the principal objectives in accessible construction and remodeling, but they do not cancel out good design.
In our initial consultations, our clients often tell us that they need modifications, but they do not want their homes to look institutional. They think of public spaces that meet the specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): large, functional fixtures, fat grab bars everywhere, ugly, nonslip flooring.
We assure them that aging-in-place does not mean compromising on aesthetics or design. You can open up parts of your home to enable a wheelchair user to navigate it and create a feeling of spaciousness; you can have attractive, durable flooring that meets the standard for slip-resistance; you can incorporate grab bars and handrails that protect against falls without being obvious. This addresses another point many of our clients make: they don’t want to devalue their home. They want to age-in-place, they may sell their home in the future, and do not want to do anything that would detract from its value.
Fortunately, accessible homes are in demand, in part because features such as wider doorways, curbless showers, and levered door handles are trending and appeal to younger homebuyers as well as buyers thinking about aging-in-place or who have a family member with diminished mobility. Accessibility features are seen positively, however, you might consult a real estate broker if this is a concern.
Accessibility Isn’t Limited to Physical Access
When people think about aging-in-place and their needs as they grow older, they typically think of physical needs. They think about how they may be unsteady on their feet, may not be able to reach as high as they once did, or may no longer have good, fine motor control. However, aging can take a mental toll, too. We don’t just make it easy for you to physically navigate and use your living spaces. We also have solutions for those who are struggling with declining cognitive functions.
Living with dementia or Alzheimer’s is highly challenging. These conditions can leave a person feeling confused and uncertain even in the home they’ve spent decades living in. Their family may constantly worry about their safety and stress over their well-being. A remodeled kitchen designed for these individuals can help them feel more in control and comfortable. If you’re concerned about developing dementia or have been told you’re in its early stages, it’s time to make decisions now.
Our designs for aging with dementia focus on creating a safe space that is familiar to you. Muscle memory often takes over when our cognitive functions begin to decline. So, for example, we tend to keep these kitchen layouts the same whenever possible. When you know it’s five steps from the sink to the refrigerator, your body makes that trip on its own. You don’t have to think. If it’s suddenly twice that, it can throw off your entire rhythm. For those with dementia, it can lead to confusion because things aren’t where they should be.
In addition to looking at how your muscle memory will play a part in your accessible design, we also use tools that help those with diminished cognizance. This includes using solid colors instead of prints and patterns, using contrasting colors, bringing more light into dark spaces, and taking steps to prevent wandering. All these changes are done with your input and approval.
Client-Centered Design & Construction
Following these steps results in happy outcomes and grateful clients.
Step 1: Initial Complementary Consultation
- First, we sit down and ask questions to get a clear understanding of the situation.
- We answer questions about us.
- We review and assess the living spaces.
Step 2: Schematic Design
- We charge by the hour for several hours.
- We measure living spaces.
- We create floor plans with several options.
- We write specifications of the products we recommend.
- We meet and revise the floor plan and specifications based on feedback and budget.
Step 3: Estimate
- Based on the final design choices.
- Our estimates are a range from a lower-cost, best-case scenario, to a higher-cost scenario, anticipating possible as-built conditions and client-initiated changes.
Step 4: “Scope & Sequence” and “Job Journal”
- Scope & Sequence outlines the construction sequence and approximately how long each phase will take.
- Job Journal stays onsite. It is a written record of what was accomplished each workday and what comes next.
Step 5: Final Payment
- We do not prepare a final invoice until the project is finished to our client’s satisfaction.
Are You Ready to Transform?
Contact us for a complimentary initial consultation that focuses on your needs and identifies options and approaches to making living spaces safer and more convenient.