Case Study: Honored to Design an Aging in Place Remodel to Bring Together Two Holocaust Survivors

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.”





Following our initial conversation, my first step was assessing the home and talking with Mary and her caregiver to determine what their needs and wants were. Then I met with Rose to determine her needs and wants. Both Mary and Rose were so excited at the prospect of being able to live together. I discussed my recommendations with Dr. Barnes and formed a project plan.

I promptly went to work and designed a new, ADA- and fire code-compliant floor plan for the 1,500 square foot first-floor within the existing footprint of the home. In addition to creating a wheelchair-accessible master bedroom, bathroom with a curb-less shower and other ADA amenities, and a large wardrobe closet, I also added a wheelchair-accessible powder room and I custom designed attractive, wheelchair-accessible vanities that were built and installed. My plan also included raising the sunken floor, new slip-resistant flooring throughout, a stair-lift and other strategic senior- and dementia-friendly design elements, fixtures and colors.

Although Mary, Rose and their caregiver liked the new first-floor design plan because it would be safer, Mary’s one concern was that her home wouldn’t be beautiful. That’s a valid concern, since most providers of aging in place remodeling or modifications are just focused on safety products like grab bars, ramps or very basic retrofitting of bathrooms, and not aesthetics. However, as a trained senior living designer, I understand that a whole lot more than grab bars or ramps are required for successful, comfortable aging. That’s why I take a comprehensive, wholistic approach and design for physical, emotional and psychological wellness. Art, science and evidenced-based design are integral to my award-winning designs. I assured Mary that I would make her home beautiful and safer.

A senior referral placement specialist was called in to help find the perfect place for Mary and her caregiver to temporarily live while the remodel construction was underway. A professional organizer inventoried and packed the household items in preparation for the work.

In addition to designing the new floor plan, I selected and purchased the materials and fixtures and I oversaw construction to ensure the design execution was to plan specifications. I made the project stress-free and easier for Dr. Barnes by providing project and budget management, and an experienced licensed contractor that I partner with.

The design and remodel objectives were for Mary’s home to include a first-floor master suite, be updated, beautiful, and above all, be safe. The 1980’s home needed a lot of work to achieve these objectives. For example, the first-floor bathroom was small, tight, and difficult to maneuver, thus making it dangerous, as well as restrictive and hard for the caregiver to assist with showering. The home also had a sunken living room, slippery flooring throughout and stairs to the second-floor bedrooms, and insufficient lighting. Each, an accident or fall waiting to happen.

Dr. Barnes said “My mother and aunt both love the remodel. They are happy and comfortable thanks to your innovative design. We don’t think I could have made a better selection of remodel designers for this project, you are awesome!” The caregiver said “This is Heaven! The shower is so much easier and safer to use. And, it’s so beautiful!”

I feel honored to have been able to use my God-given talent and specialized design skills to enable Rose and Mary to safely live together.