Aging In Place Architecture is a relatively new concept, but as the baby boomers become senior citizens, it will become more and more prevalent in our society.
It is the process of making renovations to a home to allow the home to be more accessible to those with mobility issues that comes with the aging process or health related issues.
It can apply to anyone, but here I am talking about seniors who are either wheelchair-bound or need the use of other assistance devices (such as canes, grab bars, walkers, etc…)
However, in speaking with Heather Brin, a fellow member of the Long Island Chapter of the National Aging In Place Council, a licensed architect in New York, and owner of AgingInPlaceArchitecture.com, it can sometimes be a challenge to find contractors that know how to build aging in place design elements.
The reason is that many contractors, not being knowledgeable about the particular needs of aging-in-place clients, simply ignore the recommendations and architectural specifications and build a traditional home/elements with the homes, without taking into consideration the special spacial needs of their clients.
Most contractors, not having worked with aging in place design, will forgo installing basic design requirements such as a “no-threshold” shower (one where you do not need to step over the shower lip to enter the shower), grab bars, a seat in the shower, etc…
Without a knowledge of “Aging-in-place” issues many such recommendations are ignored by the average contractor or installed incorrectly…to the detriment of the homeowner (in this case, Heather’s client).
And unless you are yourself physically challenged yourself you will have no idea how difficult it is to relate to the needs for even some of the issues we are discussing.
(Note: in our talk Heather related to me that she herself had to deal with many of the issues her clients contend with due to a surgery and an extended convalescence that forced her to use a wheelchair and many of the assistance Devices she now recommends to her clients, making her uniquely qualified and ideally suited to be an Aging In Place architect).
What Should An Aging-In-Place Architect Do?
In many ways, what Heather does for her aging-in-place clients is no different than what she does for any other client. She goes to the home in question, meets with the owner, and finds out what they need.
She then makes recommendations based upon those needs, if it is drawings for a remodeled bathroom or kitchen or new house design, or perhaps a list of devices that can be purchased to assist the individual in maintaining their independence.
She then can have these items installed into the home, oversee the renovation or recommend those who are specially qualified to do the work. She is also a “green” architect, A (LEEP AP in the USGBC) and can include environmentally conscious architectural elements as well if the client wishes.
The difference between Heather and the typical architect is that she is well aware of the physical challenges that her clients are experiencing (and as a result of her own personal experience I related above) as well as her extensive education that includes knowledge of the ADAAG (ADA guidelines), etc…
She is uniquely qualified to assess what is needed to allow the senior in question to stay in their home as safely as possible based upon available space.
Who Is A Candidate To Work With An Aging-In-Place Architect?
Anyone who has any form of mobility issues, but in particular individuals who have had…
- Knee replacement
- Spinal issues
- Hip replacement
- Joint problems in the lower body
- Those with lymphodema or myopathy in their legs
- Any other mobility issue
The key is for those individuals who are wheelchair-bound or need other assistance to get in and out of bed, on and off the toilet, unable to reach high or get in the shower…these are the people that need to seek the assistance of an aging in place architect.
Types of Renovations Performed
This certainly isn’t a complete list, and I mentioned a few items above, but some of the types of renovations would include…
- Bathroom renovations in include shower seats, shower handhelds, transfer bars, specialty toiler seats, grab bars, enlarged door openings, etc…
- Kitchen remodeling to include height appropriate appliances, wheelchair accessible kitchen counters, etc…
- Transfer devices-to go from bed to wheelchair, in and out of the shower, etc…
- Wheelchair ramps
- Moving assistive devices
- Grab bars
- Intercom systems
- Faucet replacement
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