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Senior Citizen's Guide to Baltimore

Age in Place Renovations

What does the phrase " aging in place" really mean?  The Journal of Housing for the Elderly states “that aging in place is not having to move from one's present residence in order to secure necessary support services in response to changing needs”.  The definition is a bit of a mouthful, but nonetheless, an accurate statement.  No matter the definition, the goal during any modification should be to increase comfort, accessibility and value. 

There are many considerations when planning any renovation whether it’s just an update of a bathroom or creating a first floor master suite.  Certainly, budget is a main factor when considering any renovation, but it should not be the only one.  Other considerations would be, how long you plan on staying in your home, what are your current and potentially future limitations and who else in the family will benefit from the modifications and let's not forget energy efficiency.

More and more boomers and seniors want to remain in their familiar homes.  Many clients’ first request, when remodeling a bathroom for example, is that the bathroom be more accessible, but not look institutional or clinical in any form.  As we approach our "finer" years, considerations need to be made with regards to home modifications that enhance our lifestyle and safety, as well as, creating the ability to maintain independence.  Popular age-in-place renovations include bathrooms with curb-less tiled showers, grab bars, upgraded lighting, wider doors, kitchens, even widening hallways and adding elevators or lifts in certain cases.  More recently the economic conditions has contributed to merging families, which usually results in finishing basements with bedrooms and baths and adding space over a garage or perhaps an addition.

You should consult a professional contractor and possibly a caregiver’s advice when planning your modifications.  Many companies team up with registered nurses and occupational therapists when the client’s situation requires a higher level of care, whether it is driven by short or long term needs.  Additionally, identifying a CAPS (Certified Aging in Place) contractor can be valuable since they have undergone required instruction on the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically pleasing, barrier-free living environments. You can find a CAPS contractor in your area on the National Association of Home Builders website.

Ultimately your goal should be to define the project, identify your budget with possibly a 10% overage allowance for unexpected costs and identify your contractor and team early in the planning stage.  Your team may include your contractor, a designer/architect, in some cases an occupational therapist or a registered nurse and any family members involved if it is a merge situation.  Check the local Home Builders Association for qualified professionals with the proper certifications, qualifications and insurance.  Interview your contractor and make sure you are comfortable with them, since you will be spending time together during what can be a stressful time.  I believe that most clients are excited to see the contractor get started and even more excited to see them finish and leave.  You can also check with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission to see the claim history.

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