Category Archives: Aging in Place Remodel Design

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

CASE STUDY: Homeowner Benefits from Aging in Place Remodel Just Months After Completion – Long Before She Thought She’d Need It

At 65 and in good health, Sue recently bought a house with the intention of it being her forever home. However, she recognized that while her master bathroom had been updated, it had not been designed for aging in place or wheelchair accessibility. It was a cramped space, the existing vanities were too tall for her, the curb-less shower nor the bench inside was accessible by wheelchair, and Sue didn’t like the bathroom’s cold aesthetic vibe. She wanted a pretty, Victorian-inspired aesthetic in her favorite colors to make her smile every day.

Years prior, Sue had taken care of her elderly mother and knew firsthand how difficult and unsafe it is for a senior or caregiver to maneuver a standard, non-Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant bathroom. Sue did not want she or her daughter to go through that.

Sue understood that remodeling her master bathroom would be necessary to make that dream a reality and that she would need an Aging in Place Remodel Designer to get it right and achieve the desired result. Contemplating retirement, Sue decided to make the investment and proceed with the design and remodel before retiring.   

Done correctly by a qualified professional, an Aging in Place ready bathroom will help keep Sue in her home and out of assisted living later, as she desires. So, 55+ TLC Interior Design was hired.

Sue’s other request was to include in the remodel design a freestanding tub she had her heart set on and had already purchased. We always advise clients against tubs for safety reasons. They are a trip, slip and fall hazard, particularly for adults 55+. Our mission is to make environments safe, easy-to-use, comfortable and beautiful for clients to thrive in. We want our clients to be safe.

Unable to convince Sue to forego adding her bathtub for safety reasons, she promised to remove or not use the tub if she begins having mobility or balance issues. So, the tub became part of the design plan along with a properly installed grab bar next to the tub to lend support when she enters and exits.

The Design Solution

The new master bathroom was designed to be fully ADA-complaint. As a result, the accessibility, functionality and overall aesthetics of the bathroom were significantly improved. It looks and feels much larger, open and less cumbersome.  

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New slip-resistant flooring provides safer, easy movement throughout the bathroom and shower. The appropriate light necessary for adults 55+ was calculated and designed in to make daily activities easier and prevent falls.

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A curb-less, door-less shower with reachable shampoo niches was constructed. A beautiful ADA-compliant shower seat, fixtures, support bars and hardware were installed to ADA code with proper wall braces and proper locations.   A word of caution – curb-less showers aren’t simple to build, and they need to meet ADA-code. We have seen many incorrectly built curb-less showers, by untrained contractors or that were DYI projects, which had to be torn out and re-constructed

because the water flowed into the middle of the bathroom instead of down the drain. Most contractors aren’t trained or experienced in constructing curb-less showers. But they don’t tell you that.

55+ TLC only partners with licensed, bonded and insured contractors that are trained and experienced in building proper functioning, code-compliant curb-less showers. We want our clients to have beautiful, problem-free living environments.

A custom-designed beautiful, wheelchair-accessible vanity and linen closet allows for easy access and storage. The new vanity height works great for Sue now and also will if she ever needs a wheelchair or walker in the future.

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Aging in Place Helps Prevent Falls, Which Are a Big Problem

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Every year, 1 out of 3  adults age 65 and older will experience a fall.
  • Up to 30% of those who fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries or death.
  • Once someone has fallen they are 2 to 3 times likely to fall again.

According to the Home Safety Council — State of Home Safety in America, 2011

  • Approximately two thirds of all injuries occurred in the tub or shower, and approximately half were precipitated by bathing or showering, slipping, or getting out of the tub or shower.
  • Approximately 80% of all bathroom injuries were caused by falls, with the highest injury rates in the oldest age groups. The most hazardous activities were bathing, showering, or getting out of the tub or shower.

55+ TLC’s Role

First and foremost, we listened to what Sue wanted. We meshed that with ADA-code and safety features to create a functional, permittable and buildable floor and electrical plan. We diligently and discerningly selected and provided the materials, fixtures and hardware that a true Aging in Place bathroom needs. We do it transparently and beautifully. All along the way, we visually and verbally communicated the design and incorporated Sue’s feedback to ensure she got the master bathroom she dreamed of.

An Award-Winning Aging in Place Master Bathroom

Sue has a beautiful, Victorian-inspired Aging-in-Place master bathroom designed to enjoy now and through her active adult years. Her new master bathroom received the 2018 Homes for Life – Bathroom national award from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers. The award recognizes Aging in Place remodel design excellence.

Return on Investment

While Sue knew she would enjoy her beautiful new master bathroom, she had no idea that just a few months after it was completed, she would need it.

Sue sprained her hip and immediately needed an ADA-compliant bathroom. The good news is that she had one ready to accommodate her needs! First, she needed to use a wheelchair, then a walker, and now she no longer needs a mobility device. The in-home physical and occupational therapists helping to rehabilitate her were impressed by the design, safety and beauty of her Aging in Place master bathroom as well.

Had Sue not had her ADA bathroom, she wouldn’t have been able to stay in her home while she recovered, which would have been inconvenient and costly.

Plus, should Sue ever decide to sell and move, she will find that her Aging in Place master bathroom will have increased the home’s value. Contrary to most home modifications for aging, which are ugly, institutional looking, and need to be removed before the home can go on the market.

The goal of 55+ TLC is to help as many people that want to stay in their homes do so safely and beautifully, and to keep those that plan for senior community living, live safely in their home until they’re ready to make the move. We also strive to increase the value and salability to sell and move faster.

Has your home been designed for Aging in Place? 99% of U.S. homes have not, according to a 2017 Harvard Housing Study. Don’t wait until it’s too late! We’d love to help you.

55+ TLC Interior Design Receives International Award

55+ TLC Interior Design and Founder Bonnie J. Lewis were honored with a 2019 CID Special Recognition Award for Use of Tile for Aging in Place at the CID Coverings Installation and Design Award Reception for Outstanding Achievements in Design and Installation of Tile & Stone.

Her firm was one of 19 winners out of more than 150 global entries. This is her 25th design excellence ward since founding the company just over 5 years ago.

Award-winning ADA Shower