Assisted Living Space Gets a Universal Boost

Wausau, WI— For a generation that rocked out to “Born to be Wild,” thoughts about retirement have always seemed to be somewhere far off in the future. But aging is inevitable, and the teenagers of yesteryear are suddenly looking at a major decisions regarding future housing options – including, in some cases, assisted living communities. With this in mind, Chairs and Cares is hoping to present an aging population – as well as those who are physically challenged – with a personal and comfortable alternative designed for maximum accessibility and ease of use.

Helping Hands

Located on the campus of the Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, WI, the Chairs and Cares model accessible home is two stories tall and measures 4,600 square feet. According to Wayne Geurink, president of Chairs and Cares Model Accessible Home, the vision for the showhouse came from meetings of a spinal chord injury support group.

“At every meeting, people continually commented about how nice it would be if there was a place to experience the products related to accessibility,” he says.

The house, which features donated bath products from Lasco Bathware, was designed to operate as a showcase home for people with disabilities and inabilities, while offering contractors, kitchen and design professionals, students and the community information regarding the different technological alternatives and modifications available to help aging and disabled individuals live independently.

“We had an 18-member advisory board consisting of people with disabilities and medical professionals, along with people from occupations related to building design and building codes,” explains Geurink.

The home is operated by Midstate Independent Living Consultants, a national disabilities resource organization member. The organizations participating in this project include Northcentral Technical College, MILC, Aging and Disability Resource Center and Projected Tomorrows.

Universal Chef

According to Geurink, the kitchen was designed in a U-shape to allow space for wheelchair users to turn around. In the 162-sq.-ft. area, the custom cherry wood cabinets are all height-adjustable with loop-style pull handles, and feature roll-out and drop-down shelves. All of the corner cabinets include drawers, so less bending and reaching is required. Additionally, an 8-½" toe kick area, outfitted with a vacuum system for quick cleanup is located under the base cabinets.

The space includes Corian height-adjustable countertops with rounded or beveled corners and a dark contrasting edge color to aid those who are visually impaired. A 15" separation is featured between the countertop and the upper cabinets for freedom of movement.

To create additional storage, a slide-open pantry unit is located adjacent to the refrigerator, with shelf access from both sides. A kitchen cart is also located in the area to act as a small island on rollers.

The kitchen sink is a height-adjustable, shallow, double-bowl model featuring roll-under, motion-activated elements. The sink has lever faucet control on the side that prevents any need for heavy lifting while washing, rinsing or filling pots and kettles.

A KitchenAid dishwasher sits beside the sink and has a dual-sided adjustable side-swing door with front controls. The electric cooktop features front controls and staggered burners, which allows seated users to reach the rear burner areas. A mirror is placed above the stove to provide seated users a view of cooking food. The Frigidaire wall oven has a side-swing door with the ability to swing open from either side, and controls located in the front. A Sharp Insight Pro microwave drawer also features a side-swing door, as well as voice identification.

To create a well-lit atmosphere in the kitchen, undercabinet fluorescent lights, recessed incandescent ceiling canister lights and incandescent lights in the ceiling fan are featured.

To aid those with sight or hearing difficulty, additional lighting and sound is located on the appliances to show when the machine is operating and what it is doing.

Relaxation Station

In the master suite, a ceiling track lift system goes from the bedroom and closet to the bathroom and then branches to the toilet, tub, shower and vanity.

A height-adjustable vanity with roll-under basin and tilted mirrors, a towel warmer, a medicine cabinet at eye level and cabinets with pull handle hardware add ease of use.

The Kohler toilet is height adjustable with an auto-flush system and swing-down grab bars.

The hydro massage jet, gated walk-in whirlpool tub features slip-resistant surfaces, an adjustable-height Delta shower with extendable hose, scald-guard water control and a removable transfer bench. A four-piece, modular roll-in shower, part of the FreedomLine from Lasco Bathware, features a 36"-wide entrance and 5'-turning radius inside, a slip-resistant floor, a Presalit Care fold-down seat with grab bars and a Presalit Care height-adjustable shower head with extendable hose.

For more about this project, click here.