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Home building with retirement in mind
Old 01-27-2008, 04:41 PM   #1
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Home building with retirement in mind

We're planning to build a home in the next two years. We're trying
to think of features that would be important to folks as they get older
and less able to bend over, lift etc. The biggest feature of course
will be having all bedrooms on the main level along with laundry and
other areas used on a daily basis. We plan to have a basement for
storage and to add value for possible resale in the future.
Whether you built, bought or just made improvements to your
present home, we'd be interested in hearing about the experience of
others in making their homes suitable for the golden years. It would
be cheaper to do this right on the initial build rather than to redo it
later. We're not really thinking about wheelchair accessibility as that
situation would certainly be a reason to sell and choose a different
type of home (like a retirement community). We're more interested in
the little features that make every day life easier when the old body
parts just don't move like they used to.
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Old 01-27-2008, 05:02 PM   #2
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Great idea to plan for possible future needs when doing it will be much less expensive.

In addition to having everything on one level as you are planning, we did a few other things when building our home (thinking age 78 FIL might end up moving in with us - 10 years later and he's still going strong and living independently). While we didn't spec the place for wheelchair access, we did specify all hallway widths at 48" and all internal doors at 36" except for closets. The added cost wasn't too bad for the hallways and almost insignificant for the wider doors.

One no cost thing you can do is make sure you know the location of all the wall studs in the bath and shower areas in the event you want to install hand grips in the future. Take photos of the walls after they are framed and keep for future reference.
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Old 01-27-2008, 05:11 PM   #3
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You might talk to folks who've gone through the refit of an older house and try to build those features in now. Wider doors and hallways. Bathrooms with space for accessable fixtures and access to tub. Places for grab bars. Door knobs are levers instead of requiring grip and turn. Accessible counters and cabinets in kitchen. Living space on a single level and easy access from inside to outside. If you build them in you may be able to make it still look like home and not so institutional.

With the ageing og America, I suspect this kind of retrofit is going to be a booming industry.
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Old 01-27-2008, 06:18 PM   #4
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Some houses have the laundry area near or in the master bedroom closets or dressing area. I have often thought that this might be helpful for an older person, who might have difficulty lifting and carrying heavy laundry baskets through the house.
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Old 01-27-2008, 06:21 PM   #5
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Make sure the bathroom has a walk in shower with grab bars and maybe a seat .
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Old 01-27-2008, 11:18 PM   #6
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The place I built and moved into just over a year ago has the following features to assist in older age:
- bungalow villa with master suite and laundry on main floor (do not have to go to basement for anything if one doesn't want to)
- large walk-in shower with seat
- levers on all doors
- cabinet hardware that has a loop (just hook a finger into to open rather than grasp)
- 6 steps to front door and from garage to house have space to install ramps in the future
- low maintenance yard (though that can be contracted out in the future anyway)

I agree with other posters that 36" inch doorways should be used (though I did not think of that).
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:16 AM   #7
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Something that came to mind for me is to have those cabinet slideouts in the
kitchen. Even at age 50, I hate crawling on the kitchen floor trying to reach
a pan or bowl that's WAY back in the furthest reaches of the cabinet.
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Old 01-28-2008, 09:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
.................. One no cost thing you can do is make sure you know the location of all the wall studs in the bath and shower areas in the event you want to install hand grips in the future. Take photos of the walls after they are framed and keep for future reference.
This is a good suggestion. To take it one step further, one can install 2 x 6 boards horizontally the between studs in key locations and just drywall over. If you decide to add grab rails later, you are not constrained to the spacing of the studs. Cost would be almost nothing.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:04 AM   #9
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Good suggestions so far.

Central vacuum might be one you should consider. If you have hardwood and or tile, they make floor vacuum units that you can activate with your foot so that you won't have to bend over with a dustpan. Of course, if you plan to have maid service this won't matter.

Another would possibly be lower light switches. I've seen a lot of custom construction in Florida for retirees in wheelchairs that opt for this. Basically, the switches are about a foot lower than average. Standard height ranges depending on your area, but a good estimate is 50". A foot lower than that seems to be about the height I remember the lowered switches being.

Of course wider doorways and hallways are pretty standard options that you could choose.

You might also want to consider adding more than the standard amount of electrical outlets. The last thing you want do when you're 85 is have to look behind furniture, etc. for an outlet.

Having front loading washer and dryer is much, much easier on those in wheelchairs.

Lastly, have telephone jacks installed in every room. You may not need it right now but having a phone in each room could help in an emergency fall situation.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:14 AM   #10
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Take a look at this guide to universal home design, it may give you some good ideas:

http://www.tcaging.org/downloads/homedesign.pdf

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Old 01-28-2008, 10:16 AM   #11
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Basically pull up the included amenities of a home in one of the retiree places like Sun City.

The Dell Webb homes generally feature fewer, smaller bedrooms...often only one decent sized master and one smaller guest bed, or a little backyard bungalow with a guest bedroom in it. No room for the kids to come home and roost. Large kitchens, dining room and family room for entertaining the family and friends. Fairly maintenance free exteriors often using stucco/tile roofs/low maintenance bark/gravel landscaping.

Switches, thermostats, counters and appliances are at a lower level to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, and the bathrooms are set up for easy access. Homes are equipped with visible flashing "need help" lights and electronic systems to easily call for emergency help.

Check out and see if you have a local retirement community like the Del Webbs and go look and see what decades of fine tuning a retirement home looks like.
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Old 01-28-2008, 10:17 AM   #12
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You might also want to consider adding more than the standard amount of electrical outlets. The last thing you want do when you're 85 is have to look behind furniture, etc. for an outlet.
I understand the folks at Clapper make a built-in whole house unit. You might want to check that out.
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Old 01-28-2008, 01:27 PM   #13
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A lot of collaborative work went into Dilbert's Ultimate House. I know it sounds like a joke but the green & passive features might be useful to your area. And I really like the idea of the Christmas-tree closet and the kid's hose-down bathroom.

Dilbert Ultimate House

Orient the house on the lot to take advantage of prevailing winds & sunshine. For example a south-facing roof is best for solar water heating and photovoltaic panels.

Insulate the heck out of the place with either structural insulated panels (SIPs) or some other green alternative. It'll save on noise abatement and utility costs.

Wheelchair doorways and step-in tubs.

Consider lower kitchen counters for wheelchairs (but this could be a retrofit).

Tile or wood floors that give you a choice of installing rugs (or not).

Subfloor radiant heating if your climate calls for it.

A low-maintenance yard.

Can you build a basement or a two-room suite that could be converted someday to a walkout apartment with a separate entrance? This would make it easier for a caregiver to live with you.
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Old 01-28-2008, 02:51 PM   #14
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I second the motion for taking extra care to insulate your home properly and maximally.

I have been remodeling a 100+ year old farm house in the country for over 30 years. People thought I was out of my mind thirty years ago when I put so much insulation in the floors, walls, and ceilings. I was most surprised by the savings in heating costs that resulted when I insulated the (unheated) basement ceiling.

Now more than thirty years later, the cost of heating has skyrocketed beyond what anyone in the 1970s was thinking about, even during the Carter years "energy crisis." But my oil man tells me I use less than half the amount of oil than similar sized houses that are new construction do.

I also planted trees to serve as windbreaks in the winter (evergreens) and shade in the summer (deciduous).

Having a background in electrical, I completed the rewiring for the house and made sure there are many outlets in each room.

While remodeling we widened doorways where we could.

We also took care to install good locks and security storm/screen doors.

We just had "gutter covers" installed to keep leaves from clogging the eavestroughs and to eliminate having to climb a ladder to remove the annual sprouting forest of new maple seedlings. I wish our garden would grow that well!
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Old 01-28-2008, 03:17 PM   #15
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Some additional suggestions
Have builder pour slabs/foundation to minimize the number of steps into garage and house.

If you are not concerned about wheel chairs you may consider using wall oven in kitchen and a raised dishwasher. These will reduce bending over.

If you are tall in kitchen you might consider raising the countertop height to reduce bending over. Also do not buy extra deep sink.

If it snows where you live make certain that the driveway and walkways get sun exposure to melt snow and ice.
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Old 01-28-2008, 04:30 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hankster View Post
Something that came to mind for me is to have those cabinet slideouts in the
kitchen. Even at age 50, I hate crawling on the kitchen floor trying to reach
a pan or bowl that's WAY back in the furthest reaches of the cabinet.
YES, YES, YES!!!! I love this idea. It's hard enough even now to get things from the back of my lower cupboards, and when I am 75 it probably wouldn't be worth the effort.

Besides, everyone likes those slideouts! They're so convenient.

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We just had "gutter covers" installed to keep leaves from clogging the eavestroughs and to eliminate having to climb a ladder to remove the annual sprouting forest of new maple seedlings. I wish our garden would grow that well!
I have these and they are great. I can't imagine ever having a home without them.
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Old 01-28-2008, 06:43 PM   #17
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YES, YES, YES!!!!
I'll have what she's having...?

I put those slide outs in all my kitchen cabinets. Way better than digging around in the back of shelves or fishing around under the sink. They're really pretty darn easy to put in. Slide off the basket, set it in the cabinet where the basket wont interfere with anything, drive 4 screws into the shelf below (must be a fixed shelf, those ones sitting on pegs wont work), slide the basket back in.

I saw some other ones that have you install a couple of rails on the back of a high open cabinet, then the slide out baskets snap into the rails. Those looked pretty easy too once you had the rails in.
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Old 01-28-2008, 07:18 PM   #18
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Quote:
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I'll have what she's having...?
So, you mean sore knees, or a creaky back?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cute fuzzy bunny View Post
I put those slide outs in all my kitchen cabinets. Way better than digging around in the back of shelves or fishing around under the sink. They're really pretty darn easy to put in. Slide off the basket, set it in the cabinet where the basket wont interfere with anything, drive 4 screws into the shelf below (must be a fixed shelf, those ones sitting on pegs wont work), slide the basket back in.

I saw some other ones that have you install a couple of rails on the back of a high open cabinet, then the slide out baskets snap into the rails. Those looked pretty easy too once you had the rails in.
That doesn't sound too hard! Since I'll be ER'ing and moving in 22 months, no point in doing that in this house. But when I get to my new ER house, I'll try it. Thanks.
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Old 01-28-2008, 07:23 PM   #19
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So, you mean sore knees, or a creaky back?
Not gonna touch it. Nope. Not gonna do it.



Quote:
That doesn't sound too hard! Since I'll be ER'ing and moving in 22 months, no point in doing that in this house. But when I get to my new ER house, I'll try it. Thanks.
Its not hard. If you use an electric screwdriver or a drill with a screwdriver bit in it, you dont even have to drill any holes.

Dont just look in the kitchen aisles, look in the bedroom closet organizer section. They had some nice (admittedly lighter duty) slide out shelving and basket contraptions for a lot less money. For boxes of cereal, bags of chips and that sort of thing, they'd do fine.
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Old 01-28-2008, 08:24 PM   #20
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Thanks all. Great information! The energy issues are HUGE! I saw my parents retire
in 1970 on a modest pension. Dad was in his late 40s and retired from police work.
We all know what the cost of living and inflation (especially energy prices) did later in
the 70s. Within a few years, Dad was back in the workforce. Anything we can do to
increase energy efficiency now can be crucial later in retirement.
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