All posts by Bonnie Lewis

Case Study: Downsizing in Style for Aging in Place 

Making a lifestyle change, a recently single, 50-year-old client was relocating from the east to Fountain Hills, Arizona. She landed in a nice single-family home with a spectacular view of Four Peaks mountain and the world-famous fountain. The single-level house is perfect for her to downsize to and will be suitable to live in throughout her golden years once the master bathroom is remodeled for Aging in Place (future project).

The immediate plan was to do some updating and remodeling to achieve the contemporary look desired to make it her home. Initially, the client’s Realtor referred a contractor whom she hired and entrusted to build a contemporary fireplace to replace an existing Southwest-style beehive fireplace, prior to her relocating. Once she arrived, the contractor proudly presented her with his interpretation of contemporary, which wasn’t even close to what she had in mind. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way (time and money) that contractors are not designers! That’s when I was hired.   

As always, I took time to learn and understand what the client wanted. Above all she wanted that contemporary fireplace, but she also dreamed of a warm, comfortable, contemporary great room with an area for dining, new furniture, and a better furniture arrangement for the great room and master bedroom.

After translating the client’s objectives into design concepts, I presented my custom fireplace wall design and furniture plan drawings, along with furniture, fixtures, window treatment, fabrics, materials, and color selections for approval. Aging in Place design was transparently incorporated with lighting and in the furniture plans, to help prevent falls and provide wheelchair accessibility, should it be needed later. The client was excited to see the plans and what everything would look like, before it was constructed or installed.

Contemporary Fireplace

Contemporary Remodel Great Room Before & After:

Contemporary Remodel Master Bedroom Before & After:

The new, dramatic, contemporary focal point fireplace wall is surrounded by an inviting, large leather sectional sofa. A beautiful cascading Capiz shell chandelier tops a custom dining table made of organic materials, creating an appealing dining area. The redesigned master bedroom has the warm, glam look and feel the client loves. She is very happy with her remodeled space and pleased that it earned a Design Excellence Award from the American Society of Interior Designers.  

©2019 All rights reserved.

Downsizing Strategies to Make Your Best Move

Has your house outgrown you? Perhaps you’ve become empty nesters and no longer need all that space. Perhaps your lifestyle priorities have changed, and you want to shed or lighten the burden of home maintenance. Perhaps you want to cash out and reduce your expenses. Or, perhaps it’s only you now and you want a fresh start. No matter the reason, adults 55+ need to be very strategic in selecting the home they’re downsizing to.


4 Key Strategies to Smart Downsizing

1. Think beyond dreamy, active adult retirement years and remote locations. Find a community and house where you can live out your golden years. As we age, physical and cognitive decline naturally occurs, and there may be unanticipated medical problems. These things need to be factored into where you live and the house you live in.

Optimal location considerations:

  • Close proximity to hospitals and medical providers
  • Mobile service availability (medical, dental, x-ray, hair and nails, pet care and grooming)
  • Close proximity to friends and family (it’s tough when you’re not in the same state!)
  • Within range of transportation service (Uber, Lyft, taxi, limo, etc.)
  • Close proximity to a grocery store and pharmacy, or within range for delivery service
  • Close proximity to recreational and social activities
  • Close proximity to educational opportunities
  • Close proximity to volunteering opportunities
  • Close proximity to place of worship

2. Before you buy the downsize house, hire a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) to do an Aging in Place Home Evaluation. Why? A house is a big investment. For a nominal cost, you’ll learn whether the house has what it needs, or is a good remodel candidate, to meet your needs beyond the active adult years. 99% of U.S. homes are not ready, according to a 2017 Harvard Housing Study. Even most new construction homes are not. It’s best to find out sooner rather than later whether or not the house you’re considering is.

An Aging in Place Home Evaluation is similar to a home inspection, but there’s a completely different, extensive list of items being evaluated. Schedule an evaluation prior to making an offer on the house or during the inspection period. You’ll be advised on areas that need improvements and/or remodeling and the investment it will require. Then you’ll be able to make an educated decision as to whether that house is the best for you, long-term.   

3. Have a proactive mindset about preparing your house for successful aging rather than “I’ll do it when I need it.” Because your needs will change as you age – it’s a scientific fact of life. Waiting to prepare your home “until you need it” is too late!

Your home needs to be Aging in Place ready for fall and accident prevention to avoid injury or death, and to access and use key areas (entry; bedroom; bathroom: toilet, shower, sink; and kitchen) via a wheelchair, before you need it. Otherwise, you very well may be forced (abruptly) to move again, to assisted living at a cost of $45,000 or more per year).  

None of us want to think we will need any of that, but the reality is if you’re proactive now with Aging in Place design and remodeling, you’re far more likely to live longer, be independent, and be able to stay in your home if that’s your preference and avoid the cost of assisted living.  

And, the good news is 1) your bathroom or home doesn’t have to look like the ugly, institutional image that just popped into your head, 2) when done beautifully, it will increase the home’s market value. But it takes hiring the right design professional. One that is expert in the science of design for older adults, and whose work is also aesthetically attractive.

4. Have your downsize house prepared (designed and built or remodeled) for Aging in Place by a senior living interior designer and licensed contractor. The best and most convenient time to do it is before you move in. It’s a wise investment in your longevity and wellness.

Many people mistakenly think that adding grab bars is it, or worse, they think it’s a DYI project. Grab bars should not be installed like you’d hang a picture. Walls need to be prepared. It’s a matter of life safety. Don’t cut corners that could cut short the life of you or your loved ones, just to save a few dollars.    

The bottom line is the house you’re downsizing to should be professionally designed, built or remodeled and furnished to meet your needs for today, tomorrow and beyond. Only highly-specialized professionals are qualified to do that.

You can either be proactive and tackle aging head-on or be in denial. Your choice will either positively or negatively impact your longevity, independence and quality of life.

If you’re considering downsizing, call me. Also, if you’re in the Phoenix area, I have some fantastic Realtors that specialize in the real estate needs of older adults that I can introduce you to.

©2019 All rights reserved.

Inspiring Healthcare Remodel Design Facilitates Fitness Testing and Training for Adult and Senior Patients

Creating an on-site Fitness Testing and Training room within the North Scottsdale concierge medical practice of Lifescape was the impetus of this remodel. An existing X-ray Imaging room needed to be redesigned and converted into an inspiring space consistent with Lifescape’s beautiful, Zen-like look-and-feel and branding “Whole Health for a Whole Life.”  

Lifescape CEO and founder Susan Wilder, M.D., had the vision to offer patients, a number of whom are 55+, precise, personalized training, based on fitness test results, with an accomplished, on-staff fitness pro. The goal is to improve patients’ health, wellness and longevity. Dr. Wilder is nationally known as an innovative leader, speaker and author, a Phoenix Top Doc, and is ranked in the top 4% of physicians in the country.

Fitness is Important at Any Age, But for Adults 55+ It’s Essential!

Exercise is necessary to combat inherent muscle loss, that begins at age 30, and the gradual loss of balance that occurs as we get older, which puts us at a higher risk for falls. While falls bring laughs in comedies or cartoons, they are no joke for people 55+.  

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), every year, 1 out of 3 adults age 65 and older will fall. Up to 30% of those who fall will suffer moderate or severe injuries or death. And, falls are the leading cause of non-illness-related deaths in the U.S.  

Another benefit of exercise, as reported in Neurology, (Dec. 19, 2018) an ENLIGHTEN trial revealed that regular exercise boosts executive function (impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization) and can potentially delay the onset of dementia in adults at risk for it.

Design Matters and Design is in the Details

Once the needs, wants and intricate details of how and by whom the fitness space would be used were gleaned, I developed a design concept for the new Fitness room along with a new floor plan and electrical plan. They were designed to accommodate the equipment necessary, meet health and safety codes, and be senior-friendly. CAD (computer-aided drafting) drawings were prepared for presentation and construction.

Key considerations for the design included health, safety (slip, trip and fall prevention), the needs of older adults, user comfort, ease of maintenance, an inspiring aesthetic, and Biophilic design.

Biophilic design is based on a strong connection to nature, is evidenced-based, and has been proven to reduce stress, improve immune function, speed up healing, and improve the human experience. It has primarily only been used in healthcare environments since its origin in 1984.

With such powerful health benefits, I incorporate Biophilic design in all my projects, including commercial senior living design, residential Aging in Place remodel design and healthcare design projects.

Inspiration for my Biophilic Fitness room focal point wall design was drawn from an Asian rainforest riverbed. Natural pebbles were selected to emulate a riverbed with movement. Textured, dimensional tile with wavy vertical lines emulates rain streaming down on the pebbles. Colorful parasol-patterned, square limestone tile intermittently arranged. Some are inset and some jet out to abstractly represent raindrops.

The Fitness room remodel also involved removing some existing lead-lined walls that were required for X-ray imaging. One was removed to expose a covered window and allow in natural light. A translucent window shade was added for privacy and to block afternoon sun. A ceiling fan and an extra air-conditioning vent were installed to make the environment comfortable for exercising, especially on hot Arizona days. Uplifting wall paint and wallcovering colors were used to create a cheerful atmosphere for patients and staff. New, code-compliant flooring was installed. The flooring looks like wood, but is softer under foot, making it safer on patients’ joints when exercising, and it is slip-resistant.

Too often, the needs of older adults are not even considered when spaces they live in, patronize or are patients at, are designed. Why? Because designers with the right skill level weren’t hired.  Even worse, there is no designer and builders, contractors or vendors are relied on to make important design decisions. Professional, degreed interior designers are trained in codes, materials, lighting, furniture, and fabrics for welfare and safety purposes. Senior living and healthcare interior designers have advanced, specialized training. Because the needs of older adults are often overlooked, my mission is to make life better, easier and safer for as many 55+ adults as possible.

I meticulously weigh the impact and outcome of every decision in the planning, construction and design process. Because I understand how important it is.

It was a pleasure to use my healthcare and senior living design expertise to create an inspiring Fitness room that integrates naturally into Lifescape’s beautiful environment and contributes to helping patients improve their health, wellness and longevity.

New Studies Link Exercise and Healthy Weight to Potential Dementia Prevention and Slowing Alzheimer’s Progression

Exercise helps to prevent Alzheimer's and dementia

A new paper published in The Lancet Neurology, led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Washington, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reports that the number of people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias globally more than doubled between 1990 – 2016, from 20.2 million to 43.8 million. By, 2050 the researchers are projecting that more than 100 million could be living with dementia related diseases.

The 2016 study found dementia was more common at older ages, with the prevalence doubling every five years over age 50. It also found that 22.3 percent of healthy years lost to dementia in 2016 were due to four modifiable risk factors: being overweight, high blood sugar, consuming a lot of sugar sweetened beverages and smoking. There is a significant potential for prevention of dementia.

As reported in Neurology, (Dec. 19, 2018) an ENLIGHTEN trial revealed that regular exercise boosts executive function (impulse control, emotional control, flexible thinking, working memory, self-monitoring, planning and prioritizing, task initiation, and organization) and can potentially delay the onset of dementia in adults at risk for it.

Research from Queen’s University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro recently published in Nature Medicine show that irisin, a hormone that is boosted by exercise, plays an important role in the brain and that Alzheimer patients carry less of the hormone. Boosting levels of irisin in the brain could slow the progression of the disease.

Dementia develops over at least 20 to 30 years before it is diagnosed – these findings allow us to act now to eliminate the risk factors and potentially ward it off, for ourselves and our loved ones.

Living Options for Those with Alzheimer’s or Other Dementia

There are Memory Care communities (standalone or within senior living/assisted living communities) with excellent programs to keep residents active, engaged, comfortable and safe. They are not inexpensive at $5,000 to $12,000 per month (depending on the community and state it’s located in). Some of these communities also offer short respite stays.

When staying at home or moving in with family, it is important to take away car keys and provide other methods of transportation for the person with dementia. It may be emotionally difficult, but it’s for safety and protection. Here in Arizona there are way too many ADOT “Silver Alerts” providing a license plate number and vehicle description with a plea to help find an elderly person with dementia that never returned home! Many times, it does not end well.

Hire caregivers with dementia training, available through home care agencies, to provide assistance and/or respite for family members. Have the home designed for dementia-support by a qualified dementia design professional. Dementia-supportive design will optimize independence and quality of life, preserve dignity, and reduce dementia-related fear for your loved one.  

Because dementia-supportive design is so highly-specialized, there are relatively few designers nationally that have the essential specialized training and experience. Of the ones that do, nearly all work exclusively on the commercial side designing for Memory Care/Senior Living Communities.

I am dementia-supportive design trained and experienced. And, because God gifted me with the ability to design for both residential and commercial (which is uncommon, for a variety of reasons), 55+ TLC Interior Design is pleased to offer dementia-supportive design and Aging in Place design services for residential private homes and design for commercial Memory Care and Senior Living Communities.

Source: Neurology and