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Southern Home Design - Aging In Place

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Services for Real Estate Pros with Tim Barron Architect, Inc.

Southern Home Design - Aging in Place

My wife and I have spent most of this week dealing with an aging parent's emergency trip to the hospital, so aging is really on my mind. The ability to accommodate Aging in Place is one area where I believe today's southern homes are better than the old ones!

Not to say that people didn't age in place in the old southern homes-just that it wasn't easy. I remember my Great-Grandmother living in her home well into her 90's. What made this possible was that 2 of her children lived on the same block and checked in on her every day. I also remember that when my Grandmother came home from bypass surgery we had to ADD A BATHROOM so she could use it without help. The old one was too small to make it work. Luckily she wasn't in a wheelchair - not only was the bathroom too small, but the house was raised off the ground, the hallway and most doors were too narrow to get through. In times past, people simply didn't think about designing their homes so they could age in them.Tim Barron Southern Homes

Modern society has lost the ‘nuclear family'- and that's a shame. But it has also moved us to an awareness of aging and its related issues. About 50 years ago, design professionals began setting out principles that would help support people living and aging in their homes without assistance. Today this collection of design principles is known as Universal Design. It works for a wide variety of ages and abilities (from the wheelchair-bound to parents with young children), is pretty simple to incorporate in homes, adds very little cost, and -with the right attention to detail - can be very attractive. I honestly don't understand why Universal Design is not used in ALL HOMES - at least as a starting point.

When designing a home, I try to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone to live there - at any stage of life. Here are a few examples of features I incorporate in my home plans:

 •·         Think about how people move through the home and use its features. Are the doors wide enough to move furniture in and out? If one of the family is injured and needs a wheelchair, is there enough space to maneuver? Can they use the bathroom? What if they need to cook? Can you open the doors with a hand cast? Just thinking through a home at this level will do 90% of what is usually needed to allow Aging in Place.

•·         Consider how to get into the home in the first place. It's difficult to climb a bunch of steps to enter a home - whether you're ‘aging' or just carrying groceries! Depending on site constraints, I try to get at least one level entry (like the one above) into the home. Sometimes I have to fight against neighborhood regulations Wheelchair Rampto do so. This is ridiculous because a level entry can be quite attractive...especially if you consider how a homeowner might ‘modify' their home to accomplish this after the home is built!

 •·         You don't have to put all of the features in a home up front, but it's wise to design a home that can be adapted to changing conditions. For example, I don't usually put grab bars in my homes, but I call for wood blocking in areas where they may be needed later. The blocking is cheap to put in while the house is being built, but expensive to install after its finished.

 •·         Little details can make a big difference. As people age, they lose strength and injuries can result from everyday tasks - like carrying a big pot of water to the stove. Here's a simple solution - a Pot Filler! And they're marketable. Most of my young clients are asking for them!

Roll-in Handicapped ShowerAs an architect I've worked with aging and disability for my entire career, so it's natural that I have designed several homes for people disabled by disease or accidents - its kind of a subspecialty. For these clients, I provide special features that will allow them to live independently in their home. And I believe that my job isn't done until these accommodation features look good. I used to carry a large picture of this bathroom to home shows. People would comment on how beautiful it was, and then I would point out that it's a roll-in shower. I think that's how a Southern Home should be designed - attractive and accommodating!

If you are ready to design YOUR dream home, make sure you can stay in it for the rest of your life. Contact me and we can get started today!