According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 90% of seniors want to stay in their homes as they age. That number is supported by the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) estimate that aging-in-place remodels represent more than 10% of the $214 billion home improvement industry and the skyrocketing number of individuals receiving the organization's Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation.
How CAPS Can Help
The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation was developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers Council in collaboration with the AARP, NAHB Home Innovation Research Labs, and NAHB 50+ Housing Council. Now numbering 5,000, CAPS graduates are trained to understand the unique needs of the older adult population and offer workable solutions in the form of modifications and remodeling projects that allow seniors to live safely and successfully at home. In addition, CAPSs learn best practices for marketing to communicate with this rapidly growing market segment.
To learn more, visit NAHB.org and search CAPS.
But what exactly is an aging-in-place remodel?
"To be certain, an aging-in-place remodel is about more than ramps and grab bars. It's about making your home safe, comfortable, and suited to your needs," says Mark Hager, cofounder of AgeInPlace.com, an aging-in-place resource.
"Often, people hear 'aging in place' and immediately think wheelchair accessible. The real issues are ones of safety related to decreases in strength, stamina, mobility, dexterity, and loss of hearing and vision. Those are the areas an aging-in-place remodel should address."
Bathrooms are at the top of the list of most requested remodels.
"Converting standard tubs and showers to walk-in models are a great way to make the bathroom safer," says Hager. "Alternatively, a larger-model walk-in shower with a low or nonexistent curb will work." Other common changes include the installation of comfort height toilets and grab bars to make standing and balance easier. "And don't be satisfied with institutional gray," says Hager. "Grab bars and rails are now available in a range of colors and finishes that, frankly, look nice in any bathroom."
Another change that can actually enhance the aesthetics of the room are knobs and handles. "Traditional doorknobs and handles can be difficult to grip and operate. Lever-style features are easier to use and can be quite attractive," says Hager.
Flooring is another consideration for both baths and kitchens. Textured surfaces increase traction and are ideal in the tub and shower area, and the overall floor. "Plus," notes Hager, "applying a nonslip coating adds another level of safety. Nonslip coatings are also helpful on exterior surfaces such as decks, sidewalks and driveways."
Hager also advises looking at accessibility throughout the house. "The transition spaces between rooms can often pose tripping hazards. Surfaces should be flush or as close to flush as possible. If an individual uses a wheelchair or walker, or is likely to use one in the future, consider reframing doorways and halls for maximum space allowance," says Hager.
You can further help seniors navigate by creating clear indicators of a transition. "Painting walls a different color than the floor can help with perception," says Hager. "Similarly, adding colored lines on the edges of steps, floor transitions, and counter edges can offer visual cues of a transition. These cues are easy to add and don't distract from the design of the home."
He adds, "For me, the sign of a good remodel is not being able to tell that it was made with limited mobility or access in mind. Fortunately there are ample suppliers and options to ensure an aging-in-place project is both functional and attractive. The key is making changes before they're required. That way, you can be more thoughtful and selective in your choices."
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