Our previous blog addressed the increasing prevalence of ADU’s, or Accessory Dwelling Units. ADU’s also happen to play an important role in our current topic – Aging in Place. Overall, the population is aging while also becoming less mobile. The majority of older adults express a strong desire to stay in their homes as long as possible, yet only 10% of the housing stock is able to make that a fully viable and/or comfortable decision.

Renovation Options for Aging in Place

Let’s look at a variety of home renovation options that address Aging in Place, starting again with ADU’s. They are definitely on the higher end in terms of renovation costs, but ADU’s also are capable of generating income that can dramatically offset their initial investment. In urban areas, the basement unit is by far the most prevalent ADU option. There can be expensive hurdles to overcome, but the payback is real:

  • Living areas must maintain a primary ceiling height of 7’, which might require excavation and structural underpinning.
  • Bedrooms must have direct exterior access, typically in the form of a code compliant egress window.
  • There must be at least one primary means of egress for a separate living unit.

Once in place, a compliant basement unit (and ADU’s in general) can provide a variety of options for the homeowner, all of which can facilitate Aging in Place. They can provide important additional income, or perhaps living space for a care giver or family member.

Accessible Design and Home Renovation

There is a growing awareness of the importance of considering a range of ages and abilities when undertaking residential home renovations. However, it’s important to approach the subject very much on a case-by-case basis. We’re not talking about fulfilling ADA requirements to create full accessibility, as would be required in spaces designed for public use. On the residential level, we’re talking about design interventions that address and accommodate more specific needs. For some homeowners that might include wheelchair use, but for others it might be about enhancing general mobility or making a bathroom safer and easier to use.

Renovations Designed for Future Mobility

Perhaps the number one advantage of considering accessibility as an integral part of the design process is the ability to seamlessly incorporate features that accommodate aging. The reality is that many of those features (such as elimination of thresholds) will elevate the overall design, add resale value and make for a more comfortable home at any age.

Another critical consideration is the large cost advantage of a well thought out plan versus incorporating features after the fact. Let’s consider home elevators at the higher end of that comparison. They are becoming an increasingly popular option in new home construction for an obvious reason. Ultimately, an elevator will allow people to live fully and comfortably in their home even in the face of a physical limitation. However, adding an elevator to existing construction can be an enormous undertaking and sometimes close to impossible. By contrast, Gorman Architecture was able to include a (3) floor hydraulic elevator in a new home design for a total construction add of less than $40,000. That’s not a small sum, but in terms of long-term value added it represents a true bargain. 

Good Design Solves Problems

Aging can be an uncomfortable topic to contemplate. Oddly, that is actually a compelling reason to consider Aging in Place when undertaking a major home renovation. I say that because working with an architect provides the opportunity to incorporate a myriad of accessibility features that will not announce themselves as such. It’s the difference between simply including grab bars in a shower versus designing a roomy, curbless shower with an integral bench. The latter can become a beautiful sanctuary while also being far easier and safer to use.

Gorman Architecture strives to address client issues both large and small with beautiful design solutions.