As you’re thinking about your golden years, you may be considering whether to move to a retirement community or stay in your home. Thanks to a variety of remodeling options, staying in your home may be easier and more affordable than ever.
“Baby boomers make up about half of the home renovation market,” says Adam Markley, designer/assistant project manager of the custom homes and remodeling division of EGStoltzfus, Lancaster. “Many are opting to stay in their current homes and invest in remodeling projects that will allow them to ‘age in place.’ Many prefer to call it ‘thriving in place.’ ”
For many boomers, he says, the cost of staying in their current home with a few modifications is less expensive than moving to a senior living community.
Keith Petrisek, vice president of Dutch Quality Inc. in Lancaster and current president of the Building Industry Association of Lancaster County, says it’s hard to give a generalized price for remodeling projects, because costs vary significantly depending on the condition of the home and specific wants and needs.
“One bathroom remodel may be a few thousand dollars compared to another remodel which may be tens of thousands based on the customer’s wants, needs and existing conditions of the home,” he says. “I will say that unless you are downsizing, typically the costs involved in selling your home and buying a new home in a similar price range will usually cover the cost of whatever work is needed to be done to make the home appropriate for aging in place. Obviously this may not be the case if someone wants to make extensive renovations to a home or add more space by way of additions which is why I say typically, but to retrofit an existing home can usually be done for less than the costs associated with moving.”
If you’re thinking about remodeling, here are some suggestions from Markley and Petrisek.
Making a bathroom as safe as possible is the goal with renovations for seniors.
Tripping hazards can be eliminated by installing low-threshold shower curbs, curb-less showers or walk-in bath tubs, Petrisek says.
“(Install) shower seats and properly placed grab bars in showers to allow for assistance in getting up and down and stability to help avoid falls,” he says.
Adequate lighting is important — and not just bright light, which can bother people with vision problems or cataracts, but enough light to properly illuminate the space. And allow extra space in the bathroom layout, if possible, to provide for easy movement with a walker or wheelchair, he says.
“Use flooring materials like a natural stone tile or vinyl as these are more slip resistant versus a porcelain or ceramic tile with a glossy surface,” he says. “Be aware that bathrooms are areas where injuries from slips and falls are very likely due to the introduction of water to a space that includes many hard surfaces. You try to be mindful to include whatever you can to limit the chances of a slip and fall.”
Markley also recommends using low-maintenance materials that are easy to clean and says that renovating a bathroom offers a high return on your investment.
Kitchens are another area that provide a high return on investment, Markley says.
He suggests an open floor plan to make the space more accessible.
“Perhaps widening doors, making the entire kitchen area larger so it’s easier to move around and function in the space,” he says. “Larger islands that offer more seating. Lower counter areas make it easier for a homeowner to sit and work. Boosting kitchen lighting helps to illuminate work spaces — this can be done both naturally through larger windows and artificially through things like LED track lighting and under-cabinet lighting.”
Modifying drawers is another good idea, Petrisek says.
“The use of pantry cabinets that including pivoting or pull-out shelves is ideal,” he says. “Also, base cabinets should have more drawers than doors as they are more easily accessible. … Cabinet hardware which is easy to grasp is always a good idea. Usually this means using cabinet pulls versus cabinet knobs.”
Installing rounded-off corners on countertops can also be a good option, Petrisek says.
“One would be less likely to be injured as badly if they were to fall and bump a rounded corner versus falling into a typical 90-degree corner,” he explains. “Again, as with bathrooms, you cannot prevent all injuries from slips and falls but you do what you can to minimize the chance of that happening and the severity of the injury should it happen.”
First-floor master suite
EGStoltzfus is currently doing a lot of first-floor master suite additions, Markley says, turning homes with a second-story master bedroom into a single-story living space.
“Projects might include adding extra-wide hallways or doors and creating easy access to the master bath from the bedroom,” he says.
Petrisek also suggests that seniors consider creating an outdoor space to entertain friends and family.
“Projects might include a covered patio or deck, outdoor kitchen, group seating area or fire pit,” he says.
Bring the outside in with this type of addition, Markley suggests.
“Three-season rooms are typically used in the spring, summer and fall when the outside temps are milder,” he says. “A four-season room is designed and built to be enjoyed year-round. Integrating lots of windows into an addition adds plenty of natural light and lets the outside come in with great outdoor views.”
“Although we’re not yet seeing a lot of clients installing smart home tech in the work we do, there are lots of smart home technologies on the market today, and some can be particularly beneficial for boomers,” Markley says. “Voice-activated lighting to more easily light up a room/walkway, voice-activated technology to turn on kitchen appliances or lock doors, for example.”
Additions — whether it’s a den, home office, hobby room or extra bedroom — offer more flex space in an existing home and can eliminate the need to use stairs daily, Petrisek says.
“This includes having a bedroom and full bathroom available for use on the first floor,” he says. “If you are building an addition which would be a first-floor living quarters, you should be mindful to allow for wider hallways and corridors, 42-inch-wide hallways versus 36-inch can be helpful if you require the use of a walker or wheelchair. Also, interior doorways should be no less than 32 inches wide again to allow for easier access if using either a walker or wheelchair. It’s also a good idea to use door levers versus knobs to allow for an easier grasp.””
When considering a home remodel, meet with your potential builder to discuss your tastes, requests and needs, and discuss all options.
“By remodeling their current home, the homeowner can get exactly what they want — new floor plans/layout, materials, finishes, fixtures,” Markley says. “They work closely with the design-build team who carries out their vision.”