Remodeling homes for baby boomers represents one of the biggest trends in the home industry today. They want homes that will support their active lifestyles and homes that will accommodate the challenges boomers will face, from bad knees, to working from home, to possibly taking care of their children, grandchildren, or older parents. To meet the needs of this active generation, the building industry is reinventing building techniques that incorporate a universal design (UD).
“When incorporated into a remodeling project, universal design can eliminate or reduce the need for changes later in life. As baby boomers advance in the aging process and experience the natural changes that come along with aging, the benefits of products that make tasks simpler or safer are more recognizable,” said Jason Gettum, vice president of Gettum & Associates.
|Top to bottom: Warner kitchen. Warner-Hall kitchen. Pull-out kitchen drawers. Pot filler.|
Universal Design in the Kitchen
According to the owner of Distinctive Kitchen & Bath, Chris Alspach, more of the store’s clients are opting to stay in their homes and update their kitchens. “We are seeing more clients thinking ahead to their future lifestyles by selecting more organizational items. For instance, pull-out drawers in the cupboards allow for full extension of the drawers, keeping those with arthritis, knee issues, or back pain from crouching down or kneeling to get the particular item needed in the back of the cupboard.”“Many baby boomers seem to desire open kitchens that are flexible in their different functions, whether it is preparing dinner, eating, or entertaining. Remodelers many times knock out walls to achieve the open floor plan and functionality the homeowner’s want,” said Mike Warner, owner of Warner Remodeling Solutions, Inc.On one job, Warner said the homeowners wanted an updated look for their kitchen. The existing space was completely refurbished. While the finished product fit the desires of the whole family, it also incorporated many UD elements. In other words, the layout was one any family member could use now or in the future.“The handles on the cupboards, pantry, and faucet can be important if a family member’s hands cannot grip very well. Another example of a universal design is the large areas in the kitchen. By tearing walls out to make the rooms bigger, we can often times widen doorways. If someone comes to visit that is using a wheelchair, scooter, or crutches, the large area lends itself to easier turnarounds,” said Warner.
Universal Design in a Bathroom
The bathroom is one space in the home where safety is of the utmost importance. From the shower to the lighting, there are adaptations and products to help keep the bathroom a safe place for all.Today, numerous baby boomers opt to use flooring products that are safer in the bathroom and aesthetically pleasing. “Many of our clients are choosing to use slip-resistant luxury vinyl tiles. It is a product that looks like ceramic tile, and uses grout just like ceramic, but feels warmer and softer underfoot,” said Kent Holliden, owner of Carpet One Floor & Home.Recently, I searched the web for various universal designs. I kept thinking: I never want any of those ugly grab bars in our bathroom. They’d remind me of a hospital. Boy was I wrong. The grab bars I looked at coordinated with other fixtures and were decorative, too. One was a beautiful towel and grab bar in one. I changed my thoughts in a hurry.“There are many types of showers or tubs to fit anyone’s personality and budget,” Gettum said. He explained there are products such as no-threshold showers, walk-in showers, or walk-in tub options.
Seeking a Contractor
Contractors play a crucial role in the success of a project and the client’s eventual return on investment. It is important to choose the right contractor, universal design or otherwise. Gettum suggested checking on several factors, such as work quality and history, insurance, licenses, and certifications. “If a potential client gets more than one bid, we suggest they compare the specifications of what is included for each bid. That way a homeowner can see the differences in the total cost.”To get the most out of any project, a homeowner should investigate a contractor’s work quality before signing a contract. “I encourage clients to call references,” said Warner. “An investment, such as a home remodeling project, is too important to not take full advantage of the opportunity to call someone who has been through the process.”Universal design is truly a paradigm shift in how remodelers will approach design and its remodeling process. However, being a baby boomer myself, I can see our generation being willing to start a completely new trend in 2013. One called universal design. cg
Tonja Talley has called Center Grove home since 1993. An 11-year bi-lateral lung transplant survivor, Tonja enjoys speaking on behalf of the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization. She also volunteers for the CF Foundation, byTavi, and her church.