Category Archives: Aging in Place Interior Design

90% of You Want This…

No doubt a lot has changed since 2020.

The way we work.

The way we connect with family and friends.

And for many of us even what we want for ourselves and our loved ones

Which is why I’d like to share with you what a lot of what people are thinking about — where they will live in their retirement years. What’s changed since the pandemic are feelings about nursing homes and assisted living.

Now, I get this is a topic most of us don’t want to dig into or think about. It can feel uncomfortable because it’s not something we openly talk about with our friends, family or communities until something tragic has happened and a decision has to be made BUT… I want to encourage you to at least consider how and where you will live before something steals your freedom to choose and your independence is compromised.

Let’s take a moment and look at the stats…

While nearly 90% of all individuals want to stay in their home as they age, 99% of all U.S. homes are NOT ready for aging in place, according to a 2017 report from Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. This means that at a critical time, you or your loved one may not be able to stay in your home, or a hospital or medical rehab facility may not be able to release you to your home for safety reasons. That’s right, the hospital or medical rehab must ensure your home is safe in order for you to be released, and that includes having a wheelchair accessible bathroom – this is often unknown and overlooked until it’s too late. That’s how many people end up in assisted living when they really want to stay in the home they love.

We never think about things happening to us, but they do. As William Strohman, M.D. of Lifescape in Scottsdale, AZ, says:
“As a family practice physician, I see abrupt episodes occur with patients every day, and life can change in a moment.”
Things such as a fall or injury, surgery, neuropathy, mobility issues, impaired vision, stroke, heart attack, illness, diabetes complications, or dementia change your needs. If your home is not ready to accommodate those changing needs, you may only have two choices. Have it designed and remodeled or move to assisted living.

And here’s the thing… design and remodeling doesn’t happen in a day.

Now, there are a lot of great senior living communities and even smaller assisted living care homes you could move to. However, if your heart’s desire is to stay in the home you love, to and through retirement, or if you’re planning to have your parents move in with you, you need to prepare your home to have at minimum one bathroom that is wheelchair accessible and safe. 

So, while you may be feeling great about your life and your health it may make sense on the economic front to consider an update to your home to take you to and through retirement.

Updates and remodels that support aging in place don’t have to be ugly and sterile. In fact, I am nationally recognized as an innovator and leader for my design work that dispels that very myth.

Gone are the days of industrial grab bars (if you have the right designer), that are highly ineffective without proper installation. I have been ushering in beautiful, elegant, and functional designs that have a positive impact on homeowner finances while keeping them living safer in the home they love.

Did you know that your return on investment for the design and remodeling, when properly and beautifully done, will cost less than a year of assisted living rent and increase the overall value of your home?


I often think of an investment in design and remodeling as the missing link to retirement planning. Experts often talk about your 401K or your IRA accounts and other investments, but rarely do we talk about housing costs, like reserves for Aging in Place design and remodeling or assisted living and long-term care until we’re right up against it. Then we’re blindsided by the cost of living in an assisted living community or care home, memory care, or skilled nursing, which can range between $3,500 and $12,000 per month depending on level of care needed. And with COVID giving us a glimpse of what the future could look like, better to prepare for your future. Now is the perfect time, as you may already be planning post-COVID home renovations.

Plan for long healthy and happy lives, living where you choose.

If you have any questions about what’s next for you or home renovations please reply to this email. I’d be happy to hop on a call and do a virtual assessment of your home. Also, please share this newsletter with anyone that may be planning a home renovation and/or wants to stay in their home through retirement.

Living Room Renovation Inconspicuously and Beautifully Incorporates Aging in Place Design Elements and Takes 1st Place Over Traditional Designs in 2019 American Society of Interior Designers Competition

A vibrant, healthy couple in their upper 50s, who recently became empty nesters, was excited to renovate their living and formal dining areas to better fit their lifestyle. They invited me to design one large warm, enticing, beautiful space for entertaining. They were tired of the cold, commercial-like feeling of their space and wanted to retire their furniture. The couple loved their slate flooring and wanted to keep it. They also wanted nature to be incorporated in the décor.



Like many adults, they were not aware that at their age they should be proactively having their home designed for successful aging. A great time to begin is when you’re already planning renovations. Since my expertise is design for Boomers and Seniors, and that there are very few residential interior designers trained in highly specialized design for older adults, this couple was in good hands.

Aging in Place design makes homes safer, makes daily activities easier, prepares the home to accommodate changing needs throughout the aging process, and helps avoid assisted living.

It’s wise to have your home ready BEFORE YOU NEED IT so that it will prevent falls and accidents, preserve your independence and enable you to stay there and not be forced into assisted living when a health or life changing event occurs and it’s a crisis. So, even if you have no plans to renovate, don’t wait.

My Aging in Place design is transparent, which is important because no one wants to be reminded that they’re not as young as they used to be. I also employ Evidenced-Based design, which has been proven to reduce stress, improve mood and speed up healing.  The design concept I created for the clients was infused with Biophilic Design (which mimics nature). A new wheelchair accessible furniture plan and electrical plan was also designed. Elegant chandeliers and accent lighting were designed in to provide an abundance of lighting to help prevent falls, make reading or other activities easier, and create warmth and interest. The amount of lighting needed was calculated specifically for aging eyes and the size of the space.



My design included removing a built-in cabinet and the niche above it from the dining area to create a focal point wall featuring an organic planter with real birch tree poles. Another niche above a large window was closed off as an update. Window treatment was added to create warmth and drama and soften acoustics.



The new furniture plan included two separate seating areas with custom furniture I designed and had fabricated, tables and very low-profile, secured area rugs, which make the room inviting and able to seat more guests.

What makes the seating invisibly unique, is that it’s designed specifically for older adults by way of size, construction and materials. While it’s better for adults 55+, it’s good for any age. Conversely, standard furniture does not work well for older adults. It hinders them, whereas furniture designed for older adults actually helps them.

This furniture was designed and constructed for better fit, comfort and to be easier to get in and out of, which becomes routinely more difficult with aging. It’s a problem you wouldn’t think about until you’re dealing with it. Perhaps you’ve seen your parents or grandparents struggle as they try to get up and out of a sofa or chair, even a dining chair. That is not something that is isolated to them, it happens to nearly all older adults. It’s sad and dangerous.

Moreover, frustration and falls can be avoided by having the proper furniture. I’ve had many clients that either thought their sofa or chairs had just worn out or weren’t made well, because they no longer supported them. But that wasn’t the case. Their bodies had gradually changed with aging and they needed furniture that supported those changes. Once I provided them with the right furniture, they were comfortable once again and the difficulty of getting up and out was significantly reduced.

Luxurious, durable, cleanable fabrics on furniture specially designed for adults 55+ yet suitable for any age.

I’ll let you in on a secret. You or your loved ones don’t have to settle for furniture that doesn’t fit and/or is unsafe for older adults. Here’s how to access proper seating for adults 55+ (that’s also attractive): 1) live in a large senior living community that has appropriate furniture or 2) have a senior living designer, such as myself, order or design seating (sofa, chairs, dining chairs, etc.) for you.

This type of furniture is not available to the general public, so you won’t find it in furniture stores. It takes several months to order and receive or have made, so keep that in mind. Is it expensive? It’s more costly than cheap imported furniture that many stores offer or what you’ll find online, but it’s not outrageous. It’s good quality, durable and cleanable, and is well worth it!   

This couple doesn’t have an immediate physical need, but their new furniture works now and will benefit them along the way as they grow older. So, they won’t have to buy more furniture later to meet their needs and keep them safer.  

These clients now have a living space they’re proud to entertain in and enjoy winding down there after a long day at work. Transparently, the Aging in Place design elements are helping to protect and keep them safe.

In the future, should they decide to sell their home and downsize, their renovated living room will create a great first impression with prospective buyers and their MLS listing can boast “Award-Winning Design” as a selling point. Both the living room and master bedroom (a renovation project I designed a few years ago) are award winners.  

If you or someone you know is planning to renovate, remodel or downsize and move, please contact me. I’d love to help.

Would You Be Able to Come Back Home After Having a Stroke?

Stroke happens fast, leaving no time to prepare for its life-changing consequences. It happens to approximately 795,000 people each year. Stroke risk increases with age, but strokes can—and do—occur at any age. Stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. Mobility is reduced in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes are leading causes of stroke. 1 in 3 U.S. adults has at least one of these conditions or habits.

The Physical, Cognitive and Emotional Toll of Stroke

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire body. A common disability that results from stroke is complete paralysis on one side of the body, called hemiplegia. A related disability that is not as debilitating as paralysis is one-sided weakness or hemiparesis.

Stroke may cause problems with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory. Stroke survivors often have problems understanding or forming speech. A stroke can lead to emotional problems.

Stroke patients may have difficulty controlling their emotions or may express inappropriate emotions. Many stroke patients experience depression. Stroke survivors may also have numbness or strange sensations. The pain is often worse in the hands and feet and is made worse by movement and temperature changes, especially cold temperatures.”

Stroke Survivor Needs Upon Hospital or Rehabilitation Facility Discharge

With paralysis, reduced mobility and neuropathy you’ll likely be using a wheelchair or walker and need physical support for transferring. You may also need caregiver assistance with daily activities (showering, dressing, toileting, meal preparation, medications, transportation, errands, etc.). Health care provided in the home, as well as occupational and/or physical therapy may be needed, too. Stroke survivors benefit from Senior Living Design, which addresses physical, psychological and emotional needs. 

Mobility devices, caregiver support and home health care service each have requirements that 99% of homes simply aren’t ready to accommodate, according to a 2017 Harvard Housing study. And, hospitals and rehab facilities can’t release stroke patients to an “unsafe” environment.

So, unless you’ve already had your house or at minimum the master bathroom designed and remodeled for Aging in Place and wheelchair accessibility, you wouldn’t be able to go back home.

Following Are Four Housing Options After Stroke. Which Would You Choose?

1. Permanently move to an assisted living community, care home or skilled nursing facility.

Advantages: Readily available, often with immediate occupancy. Many assisted living communities offer activities and outings, provide nutritious meals, include housekeeping service for your apartment, offer different levels of care, and have nice amenities. Most have been designed by professional senior living designers, which provides psychological, emotional and physical benefits throughout the common areas. Other benefits of assisted living are that there are caregivers and staff to assist if you fall or have medical events, and it’s maintenance-free living.

Disadvantages: Community living and shared walls. Requires downsizing. Assisted living community apartments are typically 400 to 1,200 SF. It’s a bedroom or shared bedroom in care homes, which are typically licensed for 5 to 10 beds. Ownership, management, caregivers, and staff can change. Rent and care fees can increase.

Cost: $4,000 to $8,000 per month for Assisted Living and $8,000 to $12,000 per month for Skilled Nursing. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for it, if you have a policy. Most assisted living homes and communities are private pay and do not accept Medicaid, so you must have funds available to pay out-of-pocket. If you need to sell your home first to access those funds, that may take time.

There are a limited number of assisted living communities and care homes that accept Medicaid, but you must first apply and then meet the stringent qualifications (for example – have less than $2,000 in assets and meet specific health needs criteria).

2. Have your home designed and remodeled for Aging in Place by credentialed professionals while you temporarily stay in assisted living.

Advantages: Done right, your home will be wheelchair accessible, functional, safe and beautiful to accommodate you through and beyond active adult years. Because it’s a life-safety matter, be sure to hire an Aging in Place or Senior Living Designer and a qualified Licensed Contractor to accurately design, obtain permits, meet codes and construct/install.

Caution: There are a lot of designers and contractors that say they can do Aging in Place design and remodeling but have no formal training or certification. It’s technical and tricky and that’s where mistakes are made, which could result in injury or death.

Disadvantages: It generally takes 2 to 3 months for design and construction. It may require a temporary stay in assisted living or with a family member while the work is being done.

Cost: Design and remodel cost (less than a year’s rent in assisted living). Plus, 2 to 3 months at $4,000 to $8,000 per month for temporary assisted living housing during the remodel design and construction process. Long-Term Care insurance coverage often includes home modification costs, so check with your provider to see what their policy is. Reverse mortgages or home equity lines of credit can be a good way to pay for Aging in Place design and remodeling.

3. Permanently move in with a family member whose home will meet your safety and care needs. (The home should first be assessed by a Certified Aging in Place Specialist or a Home Care Agency professional to ensure that it will be safe and accessible.)

Advantages: The opportunity to live with family and not be isolated or lonely.

Disadvantages: You’ll lose some privacy and/or independence. You may have to give up your furniture, artwork and home furnishings because your family doesn’t have space for it, it’s not their style and won’t integrate well, or the cost to move the furniture would be too high. It may require moving to another city or state where your family resides.

Cost: Rent, home health care, and possibly moving expenses

4. Sell your house and buy a new one.

Advantages: You retain the privilege of owning and living in your own home. It’s tough to find aging in place ready homes for sale, but you can hire an Aging in Place designer and contractor to remodel the house to accommodate your needs. Once you find a house, you’re serious about buying, have it evaluated by a Certified Aging in Place Specialist or Senior Living Designer before purchasing it to ensure it’s a good remodel candidate. Otherwise, you could invest a lot of money only to learn that it is not suitable to meet safety and accessibility needs and a remodel won’t cure it.

Plan on 2 to 3 months for the aging in place design and remodel to be executed. That means you’ll need to live in assisted living or with a family member until that process is completed.

Disadvantages: It could be too physically, emotionally or cognitively challenging to be house hunting. It may take time to sell your current home.

Cost: New house purchase, Aging in Place design and remodel (less than a year’s rent in assisted living), plus $4,000 to $8,000 per month for temporary assisted living housing during the house hunting, remodel design and construction process. Long-Term Care insurance often includes home modification costs. Check with your provider to see what they’ll cover. A reverse purchase mortgage may be a good finance tool for you.

 Design Matters for Adults 55+ and Stroke Survivors

Because I’m trained, seasoned and award-winning in both commercial senior living design (including Memory Care) and residential Aging in Place design, I’m uniquely skilled to infuse senior living design techniques into the design of my residential clients’ homes. As a result, they benefit from evidenced-based senior living/healthcare design in a home setting, normally only available in senior living communities. I design for the unique physical, psychological and emotional needs of adults 55+, and address specific conditions or limitations. Well beyond what Aging in Place design alone provides.

For stoke survivors, that translates to a living environment that is designed for mobility device accessibility; helps prevent falls and accidents that can result in injury or death; supports independence; preserves dignity; makes daily activities easier; helps combat depression; and accommodates caregiver assistance and home health care.

I design beautiful homes (and bathrooms) that support aging in place through and beyond active adult years, as well as stroke survivors, and loved ones and caregivers. I’d like to be your designer!

Universal Design vs. Aging in Place Design vs. Senior Living Design: Understanding the Differences Empowers Best Housing Decisions

You’ve likely heard in the media in recent years the terms Universal Design and Aging in Place for homes. Although its name is more intuitive, Senior Living Design hasn’t been publicized because it’s practiced commercially in independent and assisted living and memory care communities, and on more rare occasion in assisted living care homes.

Why should you know or care about these terms? Because design matters for successful aging and knowing the difference between Universal Design, Aging in Place Design and Senior Living Design will empower you to make the best housing decisions for you and your 55+ loved ones.

Each of these three types of design share one feature – wheelchair accessibility. Beyond that they are different. Seems logical, right? If they were all the same, would they have different names? Of course not. As a seasoned designer trained in and practicing all three types, I promise you they are each different.

However, I’m continually finding architects and interior designers don’t even know the difference. To make it worse, now companies are deliberately interchanging the terms in order to sell more products, services, and training to the trades. They believe that by calling everything Universal Design consumers will find it more palatable than Aging in Place. Most do not know any better and simply follow the big companies’ lead.

The problem isn’t with the products, it’s that they are teaching consumers that Universal Design is what older adults need, which is wrong and misleading. Read the following definitions, examples and my best tips pertaining to each to understand why.

Universal Design makes buildings or homes accessible to all, regardless of age, size, or ability. It has been implemented in commercial design for more than two decades. You transparently engage with Universal Design whenever you’re in a public building. It includes wheelchair-accessibility, which eliminates access barriers. However, Universal Design also requires compromises in design to accommodate the majority of people. For example, the design needs of children are very different than those of older adults.

Implementing design for one population would render the space restrictive to the other, so a design compromise is intentionally made. The important takeaway here is that the specific design needs for older adults are not addressed with Universal Design because it needs to work for the majority, hence the name “universal.” Universal Design is best for public or commercial spaces and for homes where there are two or more generations (multi-generational) living under one roof.

Aging in Place Design makes homes safe for adults 55+ to live safely, independently and comfortably throughout the aging process. It shares the basic principles of Universal Design, but goes further, taking into account design for the unique and specific needs of older adults.

Because 99% of homes are not Aging in Place ready, according to a 2017 Harvard Housing study, homes usually require some remodeling. If your goal is to stay in your home and age successfully and be independent, it’s wise to invest in yourself and hire an Aging in Place remodel designer to proactively prepare your home – before you need it. Just like child-proofing a home – Would you wait until your toddler has an accident or take precaution in advance? Being pro-active to protect your independence at 55+ should be a priority. You’re worth it!

Senior Living Design is highly-specialized, science/evidenced-based design that supports physical safety and psychological and emotional wellness for older adults. Senior Living Design and Memory Care Design are the highest, most comprehensive levels of design for adults 55+ and require the most training. It’s a specialty with a limited number of practitioners and an even smaller number qualified in Memory Care Design.

Senior Living Design and Memory Care Design includes the basic principles of Universal Design and Aging in Place Design but go well beyond. Most independent, assisted and memory care senior living communities’ common areas have been designed and furnished by professional senior living interior designers to meet the unique needs of older adults.

However, when residents move in safety wains. Because residents or their families usually decide to “decorate” the apartment. Again, design matters. A senior living interior designer should be hired to create a safe, accessible furniture arrangement, select or purchase senior-friendly furniture, and design for other needs to prevent falls, make daily activities easier and for comfortable living. The rest of the community has been designed and furnished for safety and wellbeing, your apartment should be, too. You’re worth it!

I have found it rare for assisted living care/group homes (categorized as up to 10 beds) to be designed by a professional senior living designer, which is very unfortunate as it puts residents’ safety and wellbeing at risk. Some assisted living home owners are proud of how their homes look. However, senior living design is art and science. Pretty is nice, but without the science behind professional senior living design, there isn’t safety.

It’s important to always inquire and vet a senior living community or assisted living care home on their care, staff, food, activities, amenities, neighborhood, etc. But be sure to also find out who designed it. Google and research the design firm or individual. Are they a qualified professional senior living interior designer? It’s a matter of life safety, health and well-being, so it needs to be part of the housing decision for you and your loved ones. You deserve it!

I am an advocate for adults 55+. My expertise and passion are helping to make the rest of life the best of life for my clients through design in private homes, senior living communities, assisted living care homes, and residents’ apartments in senior living communities.

I am trained, experienced and award-winning in the specialties of Senior Living Design, Aging in Place Remodel Design, Universal Design, and Memory Care Design. I’d like to be your designer!

Bonnie Lewis is Honored with Two National NAHB Remodelers Awards

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers announced the winners of its annual Homes for Life awards, recognizing excellence in aging-in-place and universal design remodeling projects. The awards were presented at the NAHB Remodelers All-Stars Celebration in Las Vegas on Feb. 19.

The Homes for Life awards were expanded into multiple categories in 2018, resulting in four winners across five categories. Dave Myllymaki of Vancouver, Wash., won the Multi-Generational Remodel category; Bonnie Lewis, CAPS, Allied ASID, Associate IIDA of Scottsdale, Ariz. won both the Bath Remodel and Whole-House/Multi-Room Remodel categories; Jeni Finnigan, CAPS, of Unbounded Space and Amie Faust of Half Dozen Designs in Denver won the Kitchen Remodel category; and Iris Chadab, CAPS, NKBA, of Windows to the Walls Interiors, LLC of Alexandria, Va., won for the Best Overall Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) design.

“These remodelers specializing in aging-in-place help home owners’ dreams come true by implementing custom solutions to last a lifetime,” said 2018 NAHB Remodelers Chair Joanne Theunissen, of Mt. Pleasant, Mich. “The Homes for Life projects exemplify innovative home design that prioritizes safety and style for any age or ability.”

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists are remodelers, general contractors, designers, architects, health care professionals and others who have been taught the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing, barrier-free living environments to help home owners live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.

Bonnie Lewis 2018 NAHB Whole House/Multi-Room Remodel Winner for New Aging in Place In-Law Suite

Bonnie Lewis 2018 NAHB Bath Remodel Winner for Aging in Place Bathroom

ABOUT NAHB REMODELERS: NAHB Remodelers is America’s home for professional remodelers, representing nearly 50,000 members of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) who are involved in the remodeling industry. Founded in 1982, the organization provides information, education and designation programs to improve the business and construction expertise of its members and to enhance the professional image of the industry.  Its membership incorporates nearly 100 local councils in nearly every state. Learn more about remodeling at

ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 140,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB’s builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for this year.  

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.

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

Case Study: Bucket List Bathroom Transforms into Aging in Place Remodel Beauty

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.”

Is your remodeling contractor really qualified to design for aging in place and senior living?

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.

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