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 contractorsarenotdesigners! 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 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.
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.
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 nominalcost, you’ll learnwhetherthe househaswhatitneeds,orisagoodremodelcandidate,tomeetyourneeds beyond theactiveadultyears. 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. Scheduleanevaluationpriortomakinganoffer onthehouseorduringtheinspectionperiod. 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 toaccessandusekeyareas (entry; bedroom; bathroom: toilet, shower, sink; and kitchen) viaawheelchair, – beforeyouneedit. 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.
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.
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.
A new paper published in TheLancetNeurology, 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.
Twenty-five years after a homeowner and her late husband built their Fountain Hills, Arizona home, renovating the master bathroom had become a bucket list item for 89-year-old Melba. She wanted a beautiful, updated bathroom.
A contractor had been out to give her an estimate. He recommended the typical basic – granite countertops and new flooring. Melba then thought she should contact an interior designer and called me. That was a wise decision since contractors are trained to build, not design. Yet, homeowners often expect contractors to do the work of a designer – everything from space planning to selecting lighting, plumbing, materials and paint colors. Then they’re unhappy and wonder why things didn’t turn out as functional or aesthetically correct as they expected. The consequences can be worse and even life-threatening if Aging in Place design and construction is not done by specialized, qualified professionals.
Before making recommendations or starting conceptual design, I dove deep to learn Melba’s wishes for her bathroom, her specific needs, and how long she planned to live there. I also interjected the concept and importance of incorporating Aging in Place Design for anyone 55+. Being mentally sharp and physically active, she had not considered that safety and accessibility features should be central to the design. After I suggested it, it didn’t take long for Melba to recall how difficult it was for her husband to maneuver their bathroom while using a walker the last few years of his life. She agreed that it would be valuable to have an Aging in Place-ready bathroom, if I could also make it beautiful.
Design Matters So Much More for Adults 55+
Despite that Melba’s master bathroom was a decent-sized 185 square feet, it didn’t feel large. It felt tight when entering and in front of the double vanity. The water closet was small and confined and the walk-in closet was small. The shower’s excessive length was essentially wasted space. As built, the master bathroom was inaccessible by a wheelchair and nearly that with a walker.
Within the existing footprint of her home, without adding on, I designed a new floor plan that is more functional, eliminated the access and space constraints, and is ADA-code compliant (wheelchair accessible). The plan included moving the shower and water closet, as well as the wardrobe closet to give Melba the larger closet she desired.
Other key considerations for the design included safety (fall prevention and night toileting), ease of daily activities, ease of maintenance, an uplifting aesthetic, and Melba’s mild vision impairment. To address these, the design incorporates: spatial solutions; visual orientation; support solutions; senior-friendly lighting, flooring, colors and finishes; ADA-compliant products; and special detailing.
For example, I custom-designed a wheelchair-accessible vanity, linen closet and wardrobe closet, each with senior-friendly features for ease of use with daily activities. The shower is also designed for wheelchair-accessibility, safety and ease of use with features that support independent or assisted showering, should a caregiver or wheelchair be needed in the future. Additional sources of light needed were calculated and precisely located throughout the bathroom to help Melba with her vision.
I meticulously weigh the impact and outcome of every decision in the planning, construction and design process. Because I understand how important it is.
Creating A Bright Future with Options
Melba is poised to live independently, better and longer following her wise decision to have her master bath professionally designed and remodeled for Aging in Place, beautifully. It will serve her well by significantly reducing the risk of harm or death in the most dangerous room of the house. It will make her daily activities easier, accommodate her needs as they change over time, and make in-home caregiving easier, if ever needed.
Melba now has options and better control as to where she will live in the future. If she needs to use a wheelchair, she has the option to continue living in her home. She also has the option to move to assisted living on her terms if, and when she chooses.
Most people either don’t have or don’t realize they could have had those options, until it’s too late. Once the option to live at home is no longer feasible, there is usually an urgent, abrupt move to assisted living or skilled nursing, which can wreak financial and/or emotional havoc on the homeowner and their family, when unplanned.
According to a 2017 Harvard Housing study, 99% of U.S. homes are not ready for aging in place. Contrary to popular belief, simply adding grab bars does not make a home aging in place-ready, as the study points out. It’s remodeling work that needs to be well-designed and executed by a degreed, professional Senior Living or Aging in Place Interior Designer or Architect and a Certified Aging in Place Contractor who is trained in precise building and installation of features and products for ADA-code compliance, before there’s an immediate need or crisis. Having no plan is planning to fail.
“As a physician, I’m probably more keyed into abruptness seeing episodes occur every day with patients and life can change in a moment,” says William J. Strohman, M.D. of Lifescape in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Hospital discharge planners frequently need to release patients to rehab, assisted living or skilled nursing because their home environment is not safe for them. Otherwise, home care service or a care manager must be hired to help prevent falls and accidents.
Return on Investment for Aging in Place Remodel
Because Melba’s Aging in Place bathroom design and remodel is aesthetically pleasing rather than sporting the typical ugly, institutional-look, it has increased the home’s market value. That will equate to more money to pay for assisted living if Melba decides to move, or more money for her estate if she lives out her life there. Not to mention increased marketability as there aren’t many single-level properties with beautiful Aging in Place-ready master bathrooms, during a period when more Boomers are aging, and the need is increasing.
Melba now has a National Award-Winning Master Bathroom, from the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), that she loves and enjoys every day. It gives her peace of mind knowing that it is safer and is helping her to maintain her independence. She also appreciates that it has expanded her options for the future.
Melba’s adult children and their spouses also enjoy it when they’re in town visiting. Melba said, “Instead of using the guest bathroom, they wait and take turns using my master bathroom shower because it’s so pretty. Everyone loves it.”
We all knew it was coming and you’ve seen the headlines. Boomers are getting older and life expectancies are growing longer. It comes as no surprise to anyone that we have an aging population challenge on our hands, which will continue to grow over the coming decades.
Whether planning your own retirement years, seeking the best possible living environment for your parents, or facing big decisions that impact the residents in a senior living community or care home you manage, I think it’s safe to say we all want to ensure seniors stay as safe, happy, healthy, and independent as possible in their later years.
However, I’ve noticed a disturbing problem that concerns me as someone who specializes in aging in place remodel design and senior living interior design. As economists, business analysts, and popular media outlets squawk about the coming “silver tsunami,” many companies are looking to cash in on what they see as a gold rush opportunity.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with paying attention to economic trends and serving the needs of a particular market segment. The more we can do to make the “second chapter in life” more secure and enjoyable for seniors, the better.
As Holocaust survivors in their 90s and not able to get out much to visit one another, Dr. Barnes wanted to find a way to enable his mother Rose and aunt Mary to live together as he knew it would bring them companionship and great joy.
Rose was recently widowed and no longer happy at the Scottsdale senior living community where she’d lived for eight years. She wanted to move. Finding another nice senior living community wouldn’t be difficult, but Mary lived in her own Scottsdale home, loved it and did not want to leave. So, Dr. Barnes wondered whether Mary’s home could be re-designed and remodeled for aging-in-place to make the home safer and accommodate the ladies (Rose has mild dementia and Mary has Alzheimer’s) and a full-time caregiver.
“I searched for the best, most credentialed, specialized interior design professional to explore the feasibility of an aging in place remodel and chose Bonnie Lewis.” Continue reading →
Best of Senior Living, Aging in Place and Universal Design
Bonnie Lewis of 55+ TLC Interior Design has been our chosen designer and project manager atMcDowell Village Senior Living for several years. Bonnie has proven to be responsive and proactive from the project management aspect and her designs are innovative and well received by our discerning clientele of elder adults and their adult children. She is passionate about her work yet always considers her clients’ wishes to create beautiful and functional end products. I don’t hesitate to recommend Bonnie for any project that requires an experienced and accomplished design and project management professional.
—Michael Bergmans, General Manager, McDowell Village
Bonnie Lewis’ commitment to providing a functional, yet high-quality décor for her senior clients is not only beneficial to her clientele, but also benefits the housing industry. When potential residents tour our community and get a glimpse of Bonnie’s work, they are amazed at how apartments can seemingly come to life, with Bonnie’s well-thought-out touches. From the paint schemes to the arrangement of furniture pieces, individuals can envision their own safer living arrangement, and start to get excited about the move-in process.
—Matthew P. Bucher, Director of Marketing at The Elizabeth Scott Community
After taking care of my mother late in life I knew first hand how hard it could be to manage aging in place with a standard bathroom. When it came time to remodel the master bath I knew I wanted it to be ADA compliant in case of possible future needs and I called Bonnie. I am very glad I did! My beautiful new bathroom does not make me think "disability" or "nursing home" — the words that come to mind instead are "feminine, elegant, and serene." It makes me happy every day.
—Sue McGee, MD
Dad loves his new suite and we are so pleased with the remodel design and the workmanship. We get compliments often on it and the design. I so appreciate all your hard work and diligence. Thank you again for your beautiful work and for all you do. You are truly a Blessing.
My mother and aunt were very happy being able to live together. They both love the remodel design additions and changes. We don't think I could have made a better selection of remodel designers for this project, you are awesome! Her last six months were comfortable and happy thanks to your innovative design work. Thank you.
—Dr. Ronald Barnes
Bonnie took on a series of projects for my elderly parents beginning with accessibility renovations to their unique desert residence, followed by interior design updates for a new independent living apartment, and culminating in a comprehensive refreshing of the interior of finishes of their home; when it became painfully clear that my father could no longer live there without fulltime assistance.
Throughout the process Bonnie was exemplary in her knowledge of the key design issues, her willingness to provide multiple options, and her adherence to schedule and budget. Bonnie is a true professional – always courteous and a pleasure to work with. I can recommend her without reservation.
—Keith Krolak - AIA, LEED AP
Bonnie designed our Master Bath for remodel. Her ideas were outstanding and elegant. She also managed the project. We were very happy with the design, construction and the entire project. Her selection of specific high-end materials and items used in the project added an upscale look to it. The contractor she suggested also did a wonderful job for us. Would I use Bonnie again? Absolutely. I highly recommend her.
—J. Bruce Bossie
Working with Bonnie on renovating our master bedroom has been an absolute pleasure. She took time to understand our goals and tastes, diligently searched for creative and cost-effective options for every piece, and recommended reputable sub-contractors. Her organizational skills and attention to every detail resulted in efficient and timely project completion and the beautiful end-result we love!
—Dr. Susan Wilder
What a great experience working with Bonnie. From the start she was very professional. She listened to our ideas and made wonderful suggestions. About half way through the project we learned just to go with Bonnie’s instincts. The overall design and the way she brought it all together with exceptional use of color far exceeded our expectations. All our friends were amazed at the outcome, too.