Staying in Place………………. by Alex Guthrie

Ruben and Mary Alice were in a conundrum, deciding what to do with their house of 30 years. In need of numerous repairs and updating, plus it was inefficient and would need total upgrades in windows, air conditioning and electrical.  They had plans drawn to enlarge and modernize the home where they raised their children and grandchildren.  But still the decision to go forward was a tough one. Would it be worth the investment?  Should they move?  What about building a new house?

As we are living longer, and in most cases healthier more active lives, we see ourselves as more independent in our later years. The need to leave a house and neighborhood we feel comfortable in is less appealing.  But father time will catch us all sooner or later, so planning for later is a good idea.

As our body’s age, simple things that we used to take for granted become physically challenging and in some cases next to impossible.  Stairs can become our enemies.  Too low or too high cabinets make removing and replacing things difficult.  And if a walker or wheelchair is required, narrow doorways become unusable.  In the bathroom, arguably the most dangerous room in the house, slippery floors, cold hard surfaces, and tubs and showers that require us to climb in and out of while wet, cause many injuries.


One client, whose husband was unable to speak and was confined to a wheelchair, told me how he would fight the caretaker every time they were headed to the shower.  Having dealt with wheelchair bound clients before; I knew he was probably trying to tell them he was cold. Wheelchair bound people may experience a loss of circulation in their bodies making the world a very cold place.  Based on previous very successful experiences with two other clients, I recommended they install a separate heating system to service the rooms used frequently by her husband.

Another client was having a hard time getting items out of her kitchen cabinets because of the pain she experienced bending over to search the back of shelves. Converting the shelves to slide out to expose the entire contents meant she wouldn’t need to sit on the floor anymore to find her favorite frying pan.

Installing a pop up shelf sturdy enough to handle the weight of her KitchenAid mixer helped another older client continue to do what she and her grandkids loved – bake.

The Double Drawer

Building a small shallow drawer inside a larger deeper drawer is a great way to maximize a limited space by allowing you to store things you use every day in one organized drawer. Think about opening a drawer; in the top is the silverware, slide back the top drawer and the place settings are stored underneath.

Raising the height of a dishwasher 12” off the floor, lowering the adjoining countertop and opening some lower cabinet areas will enable a person in a wheelchair to function more easily in the kitchen

Widening doorways and hallways, lowering switches, raising outlets, and installing hard surface flooring allows a wheelchair bound person to thrive in a normal house.

Showers with rollover thresholds and well placed grab bars are beneficial for older folks and care providers that may be assisting them.

Handheld shower fixtures and well lit showers are added safety as well as convenience.

What did Ruben and Mary Alice decide?  After considering everything and when put to a vote with their children, they decided to stay and upgrade.  A well planned house or remodel can become a benefit for now and later years — for young and old alike.





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