Remodeling Strategies for Aging Homeowners
By Paul Kocharhook, CAPS professional and president of Pathway Design & Construction
There’s no place like home. This is especially true for people who have spent many years in one house – raising families and creating a rich history of memories within its walls and with the surrounding neighborhood. As we age, however, we often face mobility and health issues. What was once a comfortable and safe haven becomes a place of hazards, barriers, and challenges. But moving out of your home into an unfamiliar place to solve the problem doesn’t have to be the answer. The great news is, there are a lot of smart options for remodeling your existing home that can allow you or your loved ones to stay in the same place for years to come.
The concept I’m going to talk about is called Aging in Place (AIP). It means, simply, the ability to live in your own home safely, independently, and comfortably as you age. As a home remodeler, I have helped many clients incorporate the right modifications into their homes to age in place. It is always exciting to see the difference it makes in their lives, allowing them to age gracefully and comfortably in a place they know and love.
At my remodeling company, Pathway, when we work with clients who would like to explore Aging in Place options, we start by enlisting the services of an Occupational Therapist or OT. OTs are licensed health professionals who understand the health and disability issues people face over a lifetime and how to match the abilities of an individual with needed supports. According to the AARP website, an OT may do the following:
- Assess an individual’s abilities, challenges and needs (this is often done by asking questions, such as: Do you have medical conditions that impact your daily life? What activities are painful or difficult for you to do?).
- Perform a home evaluation and recommend changes to increase safety and ease of use.
- Identify furnishings, equipment, and techniques that can help with regular or needed activities.
- Suggest and demonstrate techniques that can make essential activities possible and easier.
Developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), along with the AARP and others, the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) training program certifies building industry professionals to apply Aging in Place modifications to home building and remodeling designs.
At Pathway, I am the CAPS professional. In other situations, the remodeler may bring in a CAPS professional from the outside as well as an OT. After the OT does their work, the CAPS applies the information supplied by the OT to propose potential modifications to the home’s layout, features, and fixtures to enhance function and safety. Because budget is also often an issue, the CAPS can recommend a range of options from most to least critical.
Safety is the primary driver behind added AIP modifications. Since more than one-third of all injuries to older adults occur in the bathroom, a lot of attention is paid to modifications to that room. Accessibility is also an important aspect of AIP design. This may involve making room for wheelchairs or walkers, removing barriers to mobility, or making things easier to operate or reach. Modifications can include:
- Increased lighting
- Accessible light switches at both ends of stairs or hallways
- Lever-style door handles that are easy to reach and operate
- Additional railings and grab bars
- Handheld flexible showerheads
- Non-slip/skid flooring for both traction and cushion
- Slip-resistant shower and tubs
- Curbless (walk-in) showers for easy access
- Wider doorways to allow for wheelchairs
- Step-free entrance and/or wheelchair ramps
How to Get Started
The first step is getting the OT assessment. To learn more about OTs, visit aota.org. To find an OT in your area, check with your physician, health insurance provider or local hospital. OTs are generally paid a flat fee per visit and their services may be covered by health insurance.
The second step is to find a CAPS professional that can work with a remodeler to land on the modifications that are right for you and your home. To find a CAPS professional in your area, visit the NAHB CAPS directory.
Applying aging in place concepts to a family home is a wonderful idea that can bring great peace of mind. With thoughtful modifications that increase safety, accessibility, and functionality you or your loved ones can enjoy the gift of aging gracefully and comfortably for years to come.
Pathway is a full‑service remodeling company focused on the creation of highly livable and functional spaces through smart design and eco‑friendly, healthy, and energy efficient products and practices. A Pathway remodel is also built to last. Through thoughtful building practices and the use of highly durable products, we help ensure our clients enjoy their remodel for years to come. We specialize in flexible design approaches, such as Better Living Design and Aging in Place that focus on solutions that accommodate a homeowner’s changing needs through all stages of their lives.