Making Your Home Accessible to Aging In Place

The oldest of the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) reached the age of 65 last year in 2011 and by 2030 the number of Americans over the age of 65 will soar to 72.1 million, 1 out of every 5 Americans!  Given those numbers there is no question why we get so many calls here at Foster Remodeling on how to remodel an existing home to make it more comfortable and accessible for the homeowners as they age.  In fact, according to a recent AARP survey, 73% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “What I’d really like to do is stay in my current residence for as long as possible”.  Most homes, especially in Northern Virginia, weren’t designed with long-term accessibility in mind, but there are several projects that can make you and your family more at ease with you staying in your home as long as possible.

Kitchens are great way to update a home’s accessibility and a valuable remodel that many can enjoy over the years.  In the same AARP study, 75% of Boomers didn’t feel their current kitchen layout met their living needs; there are a few ways to update your kitchen.  For this generation transitioning from a 42” bar height table or overhang to a 28” or 30” height is more accessible should one need a walker or wheel chair in the future.  Also, because kitchen space is frequently used by Boomers and other generations alike a standard-height table or island for social gathering is ideal.  Creating wider walkways or paths throughout the kitchen and adjacent rooms provides easier mobility.  Storage options should be easily reachable and/or pull out, older cabinets without rollouts or few drawers can be taxing for those with back problems.  Keep hardware in mind as well, for those suffering from arthritis or hand-mobility/gripping issues small knobs can be difficult, but larger pulls can be much easier to manipulate.

Another room where updates should be provided is the bathroom.  Maneuverability should be a priority in a bathroom, providing a 60” turnaround (minimum size needed for a wheel-chair to turn) if the space allows or an acceptable T-turn space should be planned for.  Creating a shower with zero-threshold allows for easy entry and exit into and out of the shower space with no tripping hazards.  If a bathtub is a requirement, grab bars with adequate bracing behind them should be installed to ease entry and exit.  Benches are also a high-demand item which can be built-in or installed as a fold-down to accommodate those who have problems standing.  When thinking about faucets and shower valves, lever handles are much easier to manipulate and installing a separate handheld shower provides ease of use.  Toilets have come a long way, and many companies have “comfort height” or ADA approved height versions which typically have a seat height of 17”-19” above the floor, a much easier location to lower to and rise from.  Keep in mind that many of these features can be integrated into the overall design so it needn’t feel institutional or hospital-like.  Many of our clients are surprised at how gorgeous their “universally designed” bathrooms are when the project is complete.

There are several small areas around the house that one should also think about when remodeling.  With flooring, low or zero-thresholds between surfaces is important because of tripping hazards.  Typically we recommended hardwood, laminate or tile flooring since it is a smooth surface that is easy to get around on and dust is less likely to collect on hard surfaces compared to carpeting for those with respiratory problems to consider.  If you really feel more comfortable with carpet, consider a low pile height.  Hardware on doors should be levers, as knobs again, can be difficult to manipulate.  At the entry point of the home, creating a clear accessible path to a no step covered door is ideal, also providing a 36” wide opening of the door to accommodate walkers or a wheelchair.  If possible, we’ve had many clients relocate their master bedroom to the first floor or add an addition to accommodate a first floor primary suite for themselves or aging parents.

As many of our clients or their parent’s age, we know what your concerns are and can help you plan for them.  In a Genworth 2010 study of Cost of Care, they found the average cost of a 1 bedroom single occupancy assisted living facility was $38,220, multiply that by 5, 10, 15 years and you are looking at a large investment.  For many families whether they are keeping parents in their own house or joining them into their own homes, we can guide you to make smart choices to keep you or your family as independent as long as possible.  We know how important your home is to you, so whether you or a loved one is looking to remodel or update to accommodate your lifestyle give us a call.

How Much Unused Space Is In Your Basement?

How Much Unused Space Is In Your Basement? Is the basement the most neglected space in your home? When it exists as one wide-open space at the bottom of a long stairway, it often serves as the catch-all place for junk and storage. It does not have nice furniture or wall decorations. Sometimes it doesn’t even have a finished ceiling. This is where the large appliances live – the washer and dryer, or maybe the extra refrigerator and freezer. It’s where you put Aunt Mary’s old couch or let the kids finger paint on a rainy day.

Is your basement a hidden gold mine of space? Imagine it with more walls. Maybe it’s time for you to do some custom remodeling. Divide the basement into two or three more rooms. There would still be plenty of room for storage and appliances, but the wide-open space can probably be used much more efficiently. Maybe it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but never seem to get to.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.


Who needs their own bedroom? Has your family expanded since you bought the house? Maybe your children are sharing a room. Things might be a little more peaceful if they had their own rooms. Teenagers would definitely agree with that.


Has someone in your home been dubbed a “bathroom hog”? This might be one way to solve the problem. Improve the one you have with a remodel to add a shower or tub. If there is no bathroom downstairs, adding one is probably easier than you think. Click here for Inspiration!


Do the kids have a safe place to play where they can be a little noisy? Give them their own haven with soft floors and cozy furniture. Make a playroom big enough for the train set, the Barbie dolls and the Wii.

Storage Room

Are things piled up in the basement? Use shelving to make the most of all that space. Line the walls with storage units or rows of shelves to store paint cans, small appliances and sports gear. Anything that is in boxes or piled up in a corner can be neatly stowed away until it is needed.


Do you need a comfortable place for another TV or are you ready for a new entertainment center? Put sound proofing in the walls and move Aunt Mary’s couch in here. Add a small fridge and a bar with a sink for cold drinks and refreshments during the game or a movie. This can become a room for rest, relaxation and enjoyment.

Computer Room

Do you have a computer room? This might be a good place to put one. Maybe your office upstairs is too noisy or distracting. Move it downstairs to the basement and convert the room upstairs into something else, like a bedroom. Consider installing wireless networking to make it compatible with your laptop.