Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

WARNING:

The (Home) Surgeon General has declared this article healthful for those of you who enjoy an upright position and a realistic view of your world, but dangerous to those of you with your head in the sand.

(This article was written by Cindi Landreth, company VP and designer,  for our Spring 2013 newsletter.)

Rick and I have noticed the number of calls we are getting about whether to move or improve has increased.  For so many reasons, people are tending to stay put in their existing homes for longer periods of time.  Many of these calls are from people that have experienced the aging of a loved one, or are watching their own bodies become less able.  They are wondering if they should invest in their existing home so they can stay there for as long as possible or, instead, should they begin thinking about what needs to be done to it before they sell it.

A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio are, obviously, in the business of improving homes.  Our goal is to create the structures you need to support the life you want (or need) to live.  And whereas that is very much about designing your home to best suit how you live your life now, it is also about how you can live there longer.

I recently attended a half day workshop put on by our local Northwest Regional Council; Aging and Disabilities Resources (NWRC) and I want to give a shout out to them – they do wonderful and important work.  They are very helpful with informing you of all the different types of housing options and the pros and cons of each (i.e. staying put (‘aging in place’); move in with a family member or friend; subsidized housing; moving into a mobile home; long term care; etc.).  From their website:

“The goal of community-based care is to help seniors and adults with disabilities live in their homes and communities for as long as possible, postponing or eliminating the need for residential or institutional care (such as nursing homes.) Community-based care is overwhelmingly preferred by consumers and caregivers of all ages.”

Minolta DSCThe Northwest Regional Council is very helpful with all the tips and tools you or a loved one might need as time slips on….and life happens.  I am not here to tell you all of them but to focus on the area I know most about – aging in place.  And that seems to be the big question at hand for many – ‘should I age in the place I live now or move into a different home?’  And ‘is this question really something I should be asking myself now?’

As Shelly Zylstra (NWRC) said, “Most of us dream to die comfortably, at home, with all our junk, in our sleep.”  In reality, that will be a very small percentage of us.  The most common cause of illness that leads to death is frailty; loss of function and the lack of ability to pilot our own ship.

This brings me to a line in a poem I heard on NPR about a person out walking at night carrying a flashlight.  The line went something like this:

“The coyote, raccoon and crow were all dead still,  looking … their eyes were captured by the man who was walking the moon on a leash.”

Wow!  That is some kind of control …  ‘Walking the moon on a leash’….some kind of command on life!

But we all know that while technology can certainly feign the image of having a good, strong hand of control on life … it just ain’t so.  As John Lennon said in his song ‘Beautiful Boy’:

“Before you cross the street take my hand.  Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Life happens.  The challenging and the blessed experiences.  All the way to the end.

As we get older, what we call home becomes really quite important for so many reasons.  We want the familiar around us – perhaps because our memory is slipping or because our memories are so strong.  Perhaps just the thought of moving makes us want to roll over and die – no matter how much help is offered.

Many of the people I met at the workshop voiced almost a desperate need for a sense of control – that as they age they begin to lose ‘controls’ – controls they have perhaps spent their lives taking for granted: the loss of hearing, the ability to drive, physical agility and strength, mental acuity, visual impairment, memory loss, endurance, hygiene matters, good looks… even the ability to make decisions can become difficult for some.

Even if we aren’t a ‘control freak’, we do tend to freak out a bit when we start to lose the senses that have kept us safe and alive … lose the ability to provide for own needs … lose the ability to be a part of the life that is happening around us.  And since most of us will go through the aging process, this message is likely for you.

MAKE A PLAN!  Consider creating a home that will support your needs when you don’t have the ability, or will, to make the decisions later – when you need it.   So, when ‘life happens’, your home is all ready to support you.  If what you want is true independence, perhaps make some changes now and some changes later.  Waiting is not in anyone’s best interest.  That might mean getting your home ready for sale now or taking the first steps in getting it ready for staying there for the long haul….or somewhere in between. Know that you’re not alone if you’re feeling like you’d like to ‘stay put until they haul me out in a pine box’.  We hear this from so many clients.

To help you find your way forward, A-1 Builders and Adaptations Design Studio offers you the following services:

      1. Move or Improve Questionnaire for you to use when considering such a question.
      2. Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluations (a wellness exam for your home!)… Read more about the logic of periodic wellness exams for your home. And here is an example of one of the resulting reports.
      3. Maintaining your home and the systems in it, so that they remain functional and healthy.  Some folks are stellar at maintaining their homes, others less so.  For that which you don’t have time, the skills, or the capability, we can help you with these.  Here are two helpful resources regarding home maintenance:
        1. http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=16948523 for a great list and discussion of what should be done to maintain one’s home.
        2. Consider buying maintenance scheduling software at  http://prohomemanager.com/  They offer a 15 day free trial that is available online and it looks comprehensive, thoughtful and well researched.
Shower with grab bars

Falling while bathing or showering is all too common, so consider multiple grab bars… no matter what your age!

Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to your property where a tenant could live, guests could stay and/or, eventually, perhaps a caregiver or parent(s) could live.  An ADU, like any building project, will have code requirements that we can help you be aware of, and some design ideas that will fit your property and budget.

Add a detached bedroom to your property, perhaps a  master suite detached from the main home – a bedroom and bathroom, but no kitchen.  This is great for guests and caregivers.

Modify at least one floor of the house to be accessible and complete – containing everything you would need: kitchen & dining, bathroom, laundry, bedroom, outdoor living space, natural light, security, etc.  This is a great plan even for an active, able-bodied person that might need to live on crutches for a while due an injury endured while enjoying the great outdoors.

Remodel your home to encourage a successful housemate experience!  There are some key ingredients to consider – the biggest one is probably privacy.  We can help you think through this idea.

Purchase a home where your goals are more affordably accomplished.  Sometimes the cost to do a remodel is just too high for the benefit it offers.  Working with a realtor, we can help establish the investment-to-value ratio when trying to decide where you’re going to age in place.

Communicate your wishes and plans with your children – along with the plan on how and when the plan will be implemented!  It is surprising how much stress is relieved when everyone knows what to do when life happens – it allows the focus to be put on care and healing rather than a ‘to do’ list and a whole lot of questions that are sure to be taxing to even the healthy.

Get your home a health check-up – and get those nagging questions taken care of!  (Again, this is what we call a Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation (PRCE).)  How long has it been since someone knowledgeable as been in your crawlspace or attic?  Or walked around the house with an eye for signs of siding or caulking failure, water damage, deck and railing safety, roof and gutter function, inadequate or unhealthy fresh air …..?  We can create a checklist of what we see and you then choose what gets done and what gets left for later – for whatever reason.

That last one – that’s a no brainer.  We are property preservation specialists. We like to keep our eye on the long life cycle of products and homes – to keep homes in good, healthy, working condition for as long as possible.  We get health check-ups for our bodies – let’s get one scheduled for our home!  No matter what your plan, whether to move or improve, a Pre-Remodel Condition Evaluation is an excellent starting place.  Know what your situation is now and build from there.

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Some suggested websites for additional information:

      1. Aging In Place  http://www.ageinplace.org
      2. Center for Universal Design, North Carolina University  www.design.ncsu.edu/cud

 

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