Remodeling Your Home for Family Members

In 2010, an estimated 524 million people were aged 65 or older—8 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, this number is expected to nearly triple to about 1.5 billion, representing 16 percent of the world’s population.
Q: Are more of your clients interested in universal design or aging in place?
MOSAIC: So many people in their 40s and 50s have contacted us about that lately. They have parents who are in their 70s and 80s. Although their parents currently live on their own, they may require future assistance.
Q: What kind of changes need to be made in a house?
MOSAIC: You want to avoid stairs wherever possible. Gentle ramps into the house, wider doorways and showers with benches are popular features. We install curbless showers so people can roll into the shower. The bath floor becomes a shower pan and slants toward the shower drain.
Q: What types of construction materials work well for aging in place?
MOSAIC: Hardwoods are easier to roll across than carpet. A thin carpet works better without plush padding. Less slippery tile is more important for the shower floor.
Q: How about bathroom cabinets?
MOSAIC: There’s a  whole line of cabinets that are made in slightly different sizes, which are easier to get to from a wheelchair. None of the people we have done this work for currently use a chair. We have made the bathroom accessible, but not the kitchen. Someone else is usually the primary cook.
Q: Is a deck better than a patio?
MOSAIC: It is a lot easier to walk or roll across a deck.
Q: Is it easier to make these accommodations in some types of homes?
MOSAIC: It is easier in a more modern home, a newer home. It is very difficult to retrofit older homes with these kinds of features because there are usually lots of stairs, narrow hallways and all kinds of very tight spaces, where a wheelchair could never go.
Our job really is to help our clients figure out what is in their best interest to do. We share the pros and cons with them. It can be a lot more difficult and expensive to make these changes in some houses than with others. They might be better served by buying another house. Although it’s not in our best interest, it’s in their best interest, and we let them know our recommendation.
Q: What are some options when you have stairs?
MOSAIC: Chair lifts along the stairs aren’t as expensive as adding an elevator. When installing an elevator, we usually look for closets that align or other spaces from which we can borrow space.
Q: When researching universal design, where do you start?
MOSAIC: I think probably looking up “universal design” and the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Rules for Public Buildings is a good guide to what can be done to a residence to make it easier for someone to navigate with a wheelchair or walker.