A recent article by Matthew Daneman for USA TODAY profiles Fairport, New York residents, Paul Nunes and his wife Dr. Elizabeth Waller. In this aging-in-place story, the couple talks about moving from their beloved, big old home to a renovated one about a mile away. They decided to rehab a smaller house in order to accommodate Waller because she can no longer walk on stairs due to her lupus.
The house that Nunes and Waller bought 25 years ago is filled with family memories-including the pencil lines on one wall tracking his daughters’ growth. But their 110-year-old house does not have an easy way for Waller (age 57), to get around with her condition and worsening arthritis.
According to Daneman, the couple bought a smaller house nearby and they are having it rehabilitated to become what Nunes calls “age-friendly”-from adding wider doorways to a bathroom shower that does not have any lip or edge to step over. The couple’s plan aptly coincides with current aging-in-place trends-like making changes to a home in order to accommodate an aging resident.
Daneman notes that the aging-in-place idea is getting increased attention as the country’s 76 million Baby Boomers continue to grow older. Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president for livable communities at the AARP, explains, “They are now entering that age where they’re dealing with their aging parents and with their own aging.” An AARP survey earlier this year also found that 33 percent of adults ages 45 and up have made changes to their current home so that they could stay there longer.
In addition, a National Association of Home Builders survey done in Fall 2009 found that design features such as step-free entrances, levered door handles instead of knobs, electrical outlets higher from the floor, and enough clearance in kitchens and washrooms for wheelchairs, were becoming commonplace in new home construction and remodeling jobs.
“We want this to become the way homes are in America,” Ginzler says, “and with products such as grab bars in showers being designed to look less institutional and more decorative, the stigma around many of these products is going away.”
According to Mike Leary, founder of the firm, Access Lifts & Ramps, demand for remodeling and construction work to accommodate older residents has grown, as has competition. “And demand is expected to continue to grow,” he adds.
Ginzler explains that, “The cost of aging-in-place steps can run from inexpensive (such as replacing doorknobs with door levers or using high-enough wattage light bulbs around stairs to eliminate shadows) to thousands of dollars. For example, Leary states that a stair lift can run from $3,000 to $4,000, while porch lifts might cost $6,000 to $8,000.
Of the remodeling costs to their new home, Nunes says he is spending an estimated $30,000 to $40,000 on accommodating his wife’s (and eventually his own) physical needs. When completed late this year, all of the main living space (the master bedroom, bathroom, laundry, kitchen, dining room, and study) will be on the ground floor.
When the couple finally moves into the newly renovated residence, they will sell their current house-something Nunes says he is dreading. “It’s hard-the house becomes a family member when you live there that long. It’s the witness to your life.”
P.S. From our family to yours-Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!