Aging-in-Place Home Gets a Technological Lift

Aging-in-Place Home Gets a Technological Lift

by Anita Shaw

To that end, the LifeWise Home, located here, was created to offer builders, remodelers, consumers and the aging profession an education about products and design techniques that facilitate aging in place.

Built by the NAHB Research Center as part of its Marketable, Affordable, Durable and Entry-level Homes (MADE) project in the National Research Home Park, it garnered collaboration and support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing program, the National Housing Endowment and the National Center for Seniors' Housing Research (NCSHR) through the U.S. Administration on Aging. A number of manufacturers also made product donations.
"It was designed to be a house that you would move into at a younger age [where you could stay in through the senior years]," explains Deborah Boeglin, principal, Diversified Designers, Inc. and LifeWise Project Kitchen Designer.

Technological features including a security system that provides front door surveillance video on the television, computer controlled lighting throughout the home and a voice recognition system help make it more senior-friendly. Safety features such as hand rails, non-slip flooring and lit pathways add to its accessible appeal.

In the kitchen, accessibility and safety were key design issues. Stainless steel appliances, provided by Whirlpool Corp., also offered minimal upkeep combined with maximum function.

A raised-height dishwasher is useful for seniors, "so that they're not doing all of that bending to get to it," Boeglin explains.
The side-by-side refrigerator was chosen, according to Chad Garner, project manager for the LifeWise and MADE homes, "because you can store things lower in both the refrigerator and the freezer."

The cooktop features controls on the front panel. "It's easier to see the controls, and people don't have to reach across if they get shaky," comments Charlotte Wade, senior research analyst, director, NCSHR.

The kitchen cabinets, which were furnished by Aristokraft Cabinetry, feature the Eastland door style and a dark cocoa glaze finish, which gives the room a furniture aesthetic. "I also used different mouldings and glass doors to add to the furniture feel," Boeglin notes.

On the sink side of the room, the cabinets were installed at a lower height. "Between the countertop and the bottom of the wall cabinet, I left a 15-inch space, as opposed to the traditional 18-inch space," Boeglin reports, "to make the upper cabinets easier to reach.
A 32-inch work surface that's open from both sides and an open area for wheelchair accessibility is also featured beneath the sink.

Amenities include roll-tray cabinets to the left of the dishwasher, a base wastebasket cabinet and a Lazy Susan in the corner cabinet.
Contrasting colors were used between the countertops and the backsplash for clearer delineation. A light-colored stripe around the edge of the countertop adds definition for the sight-impaired.

An open design was also the order for the master bathroom, which is located on the first floor.

The bath cabinets are 30 inches in height, and feature an open area beneath the sink for wheelchair accessibility. The sink sports levered faucets for easy operation.

A Cielo jetted soaking tub from Whirlpool Corp., grab bars and levered handles are a part of this area's design.

The really accessible feature in the bathroom is the roll-in shower from Comfort Designs Bathware. "I was looking for a roll-in shower that you don't have to recess into the floor," Garner states. "This is actually a one-piece fiberglass system. It has all of the grab bars in it, the fold-up seat is mounted to it, and it just sets right in." A light is also featured in the shower, as well as an adjustable-height, hand-held shower head.

The toilet from TOTO USA is a remote-controlled washlet that washes the user front to back, and then dries. "It has a little wand that will spray you down and blow you dry," explains Wade.

To finish off the master bath, a home intercom system and telephone was installed. "You can basically control the whole house automation system from right in the bathroom," reports Garner.