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A Focus on Lifelong Interiors

“Sam leads a full life outside of his house. He goes to school, plays sports, has friends, gets around.

It is at home that he’s most handicapped!”

Writer Beverly Beckham
Boston Sunday Globe Nov 2011

The last of the baby boomers are reaching retirement age. They will soon represent 25% of our population.

  •        They are healthy, active, engaged and looking forward to a long life.

  •        They are planning their optimum living environments for old age.

  •        Over 60% choose to remain in their homes.

  •        Many are living in multi-generational households.

  •        Most homes are not designed for accessibility or barrier free mobility.

  •        Timely planning and remodeling will result in lifelong interiors.




Two years ago an 81-year-old relative fell in her condo laundry room and fractured her pelvis. From that day on, she not only had to face the painful repair of her bones, time in the hospital and rehab center, but also the realization that her “home” was not equipped for her once she was ready to return to it.  The doorways to her bedroom and bathroom were too narrow for a walker or wheelchair; the carpeting was too plush for easy mobility; the bathroom was not user-friendly with its high-sided tub; the space leading to the vanity, the toilet, and the tub was as narrow as the doorway. Even with tub grab bars installed years before, an adjustable shower head, and room for a portable shower seat, the space was comfortable only for an able-bodied person.


A couple in their 50s purchased a 40 year-old house they plan to modernize in phases over 10-15 years so that when they reach their mid 70s it will be completely accessible to enjoy until they choose to leave. This way they will not be forced to move out when they are in need of home healthcare, or when they may need to use a walker or wheelchair or require 24/7 assistance or hospice. There will be ample level floor space for mobility, for caregivers and for themselves to maintain a maximum level of independence. They have determined that the cost of the remodeling will be equivalent to the cost of living for two years in an assisted living facility or 1.5 years in a memory care facility.

Their vision for their home is that it comfortably accommodates not only themselves, but visiting children, grand children, parents and friends. They included changes needed in structure, interior space planning and in furnishings, fixtures and finishes and established a phased project approach. In essence, they have laid out a master plan of all revisions needed to create a home for lifelong living.


Phase 1: Getting Around the Property
The first revision was landscaping the property immediately adjacent to the house to provide a natural graded access to the first floor entrances from the south (back) patio. This step enhanced not only mobility but the well-sited views from inside to outside. The lower level was already easily accessible from the property on the west side.

Phase 2 (First Year): Reinforcing Structure
The second floor bathroom remodeling was designed as a two-year project. In the first year, the 1st floor north facing load bearing walls were reinforced to heighten the living room sliders and to support a future second floor dormer. The 43 year-old metal frame slider doors were replaced with taller energy efficient, UV lights, exterior clad with interior wood screened units and asphalt shingles were replaced over new closed cell spray insulation added to the ceilings and walls,



Phase 2 (Second Year): Getting Room-to-Room
In the second year of Phase 2, a dormer was constructed to double the floor space in both 2nd floor bathrooms and master dressing closet and upgrade the laundry room. Both baths can comfortably accommodate family members of all ages and ability, even wheelchair bound with room for caregivers. Heating, ventilation and lighting systems are energy efficient, ceiling and wall insulation was added to new dormer and sprayed into ceiling joists from the exterior in the remaining south facing roof prior shingling. Indoor air quality, rail support systems, therapeutic plumbing fixtures and adjustable low voltage lighting contribute to the health, safety and welfare of all family members.


Phase 3: Getting Into the House
The 43 year-old metal frame slider doors and all awning windows on the south facing side of the house will be replaced with taller energy efficient, UV lights, exterior clad with interior wood screened units. Roofing will be replaced over new closed cell spray insulation added to the ceilings and walls. Low maintenance cement board siding and trim will replace wood clapboard and between-framing wood blocking will be placed at all slider locations for future hand bars. The lot is too shaded for solar panels to contribute substantially to fuel savings.

Phase 4: Getting Into the House
The kitchen and open porch on the west facing side of the house will be enclosed and remodeled to accommodate multi-generational food prep, cleaning and storage areas, mudroom, comfortable stairway and accessible path of travel to the garage. The two levels will be bridged by a lift to transport rider and baggage between garage and kitchen. This high traffic space for people and pets will also continue to provide direct access to the side grill patio.

Phase 5: Getting Floor-to-Floor
The final phase is to provide for mobility from floor-to-floor. An elevator that holds one seated and one standing person with a 3-story vertical lift will be just the right solution.

There are already numerous entrances leading into the house from the property; an on-grade entrance on the west side into the lower level, three slider doors on the south side after a stroll up the east side lawn and onto the patio and the west entrance from garage to first floor kitchen. Only the front entrance will be accessible only by stairs.


“As we age our needs change and you certainly addressed it. Your bathrooms are fabulous. Aging in place will be great!

Seminar Attendee

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