Many people buy a house intending to live there forever. Unfortunately, as we age, getting around the house can become a difficult task. That’s where companies like Aging in Place by Design come in. Founded by designer and certified aging-in-place specialist Susie Landsem, the company adapts homes for owners when their functions begin to decline, focusing on the intersection between design and utility.
Landsem gained a new perspective on accessibility after her daughter broke her ankle. Confronted with this temporary disability, she realized nothing in her home was set up for wheelchairs, crutches, or other mobility aids. “I just think we can do better,” Landsem says.
As for thinking about future accessibility needs, Landsem suggests “it’s never too early to start planning for aging in place.” Transformations can start small and grow from there. “It can be as easy as adding some task lighting underneath your cabinets in the kitchen…or cleaning up your clutter. Those things, they make your home safer instantly.”
Typically, Landsem will implement universal design features like pull-out racks and rocker light switches, as well as more tailored features like French doors for easy wheelchair or walker access. She also likes to add more glass and windows to maximize light.
The same lighting techniques apply to bathrooms, where Landsem installs sensor-activated under-counter lighting. She also modifies bathrooms to include walk-in, zero-threshold showers, designed to prevent tripping. Bathrooms and kitchens can also feature an open space under the sink to accommodate wheelchairs.
To prevent burnings and reduce uncomfortable stooping, Landsem recommends installing ovens at an easy-to-access height. She also suggests refrigerators with French doors, easy-access drawer freezers, and articulated or touch faucets. Countertops can also be built at two different heights for wheelchair use, or if someone gets tired and wants to sit, Landsem explains.
Aging in Place by Design does both remodels and new homes. The homes Landsem works on aren’t all high end—the company remodels rentals for ADA accessibility as well.
“I think it’s a fairly new idea,” Landsem says, “so education [is important]—telling people what it is, making them not afraid that it’s going to be big steel handrails all over their house.”
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